This story was the result of a challenge from my good friend Darth Ishtar. The elements she gave me to work with were these:
1. The Professor
2. Lucy's bedroom, post-LTWATW
3. "Sometimes escapes are the worst favor that life can do for us."
Hope you enjoy it!
It was a ritual he kept: each and every night he would stay up late with a cup of tea, and a book, beside a fire (in summer and winter). He was a very old man, and of course, old people often don't need as much sleep as younger people. Mrs. Macready was used to it as well, though it still seemed to put her out to go to sleep before the Master of the house.
But tonight Mrs. Macready was rather put out about something else entirely, and had decided it was high time she tell the Professor about it. Lucy Pevensie, the youngest of the four evacuated children, was awake late yet again. When the children had originally come to the house she had, very sensibly, put the two girls in a room together and the two boys in a room together. Children of that age didn't need a room of their own, and in fact, in her opinion, were quite more likely to cause a nuisance if given a room of their own. However, a few weeks ago, the Professor had asked her to provide each child with just that.
She hadn't questioned his reasoning (no self-respecting housekeeper would nose about her Master's business like that) but had let him know that it would mean the four of them would have to move to a different wing to accommodate close, individual rooms. He had nodded and left it to her to arrange.
Ivy had not been too happy about preparing the new rooms and cleaning and closing the old ones, but Betty had simply been glad enough that the children would be able to transport their own belongings.
A few nights after the move is when the trouble started. Mrs. Macready had been making one last round of the house before turning in herself when she noticed Lucy's light was still on down the hall. She sighed to herself, thinking the girl had fallen asleep, leaving it on. Entering, without a knock, she was about to turn it off when she realized the girl was still awake.
"For heaven's sake child, what are you still doing up at this time?" Now, Mrs. Macready had not been unaware that the children were slightly afraid of her when they first arrived. She did nothing to change their opinion—so much the better if it kept them from disrupting the Professor too much. She had noticed lately, though, that all four of them had lost that, and it was no more evident than in the girl's reaction.
Lucy calmly closed the drawing book she had open on her lap and looked steadily up at Mrs. Macready's figure in the doorway. "I do apologize," she said in a perfectly polite tone, "I simply have been having trouble sleeping. If you don't mind, I shall go down to the kitchen and prepare myself a cup of warm milk."
With that, she had risen from her bed, moved around Mrs. Macready and out into the hallway before the housekeeper could form a reply. That night Mrs. Macready had simply gone to bed, but frequent repeats of the same had brought her finally to the Professor's study, to tell him of it.
"I am sorry sir, for bothering you with this, but it has gone far enough," she concluded her tale to him.
Having laid aside his book and tea when she entered, he now rose from his chair and thanked the woman solemnly. "I shall attend to this matter at once," he said, "Please do not worry over it another moment tonight."
Mrs. Macready nodded, vaguely ashamed that she had not been able to resolve the issue herself, and went off to bed.
The Professor, instead of going straight away to Lucy's room, detoured to the kitchen to bring her a cup of warm milk. Then continuing on to her room, he knocked politely.
"Come in," the young voice called softly, and he did just that. The child was a little surprised at who her guest was tonight. (Mrs. Macready was often the one at the door, but it wasn't all that uncommon for one of her siblings to come in as well; in fact she had thought for sure that Edmund would come in tonight, given how the day had gone.)
"Good evening, Professor." she greeted him with a smile—his unexpected appearance wasn't at all unwelcome.
"Good evening to you as well, my dear. What is it that occupies you this night?" he asked as he set the cup and saucer on the table beside her bed.
She blushed and immediately looked down at the drawing book in her hands. She breathed for a moment and then handed it to him answering, "Remembering."
He took the book from her and, to his surprise, he found not what he was expecting. He knew that Lucy herself most keenly missed Narnia. He knew even that the four of them had spent many years in Narnia as kings and queens. So when she said "remembering" he had thought he might find drawings of the mystical land.
But instead he found an image of a man and a woman, a pencil sketch, but finely detailed. The man looked a great deal like Edmund, but with Peter's build and Susan's eyes. The woman shared Lucy's hair and nose, but had Peter's mouth. "These are your-" he said finally.
"Parents," Lucy finished for him with a nod. She held her hand out and he returned the book to her. She flipped to another one and handed it back to him. This one showed the man—her father—in uniform, hugging his wife on a train platform. The Professor turned the page himself and found one of just her mother this time, sleeves rolled up, arms elbow deep in suds at a sink, head thrown back, eyes closed, mouth in a partial smile, half open.
"She's singing," Lucy explained, "she always sang—always sings when she does the dishes. But I can't remember the song." Tears glistened in her eyes. "I've forgotten," she whispered and then fell silent.
The silence remained in place as the Professor continued to look at the drawings. The earlier ones, he noticed, had fewer details, more marks showing where things had been erased and redrawn over and over again.
Lucy finally broke the silence, "I couldn't remember what they looked like at first. We forgot, you see. We forgot about the war, about Father and Mother, about this place. We forgot even, that there had been another world we belonged in before Narnia. And then we came back, children again, and started to remember. But their faces wouldn't come to my mind." The tears were now running down her cheeks.
She remembered very clearly just when it had struck her that she couldn't remember what her parents looked like. It had been a rainy day (they happened quite often) and she had been drafting a picture of Cair Paravel in one of the libraries, when Mrs. Macready had come in.
"The post just come, you've all got letters," she'd handed Lucy an envelope and turned around and left, presumably to find the other three and deliver their mail.
But Lucy didn't pay attention to that. She brought her hand up to her mouth and let out a small gasp of horror as she stared at the letter. Her hand dropped from her mouth and ran lightly across the letter, almost without her will. The first thing that had popped into her mind when she saw the writing was that the palace calligraphers were usually better than that. Then she had actually read the outer envelope. It was addressed in a cramped script to Miss Lucy Penvensie, Care Of Professor Digory Kirke, followed by the address. The return was a familiar location—or what should have been a familiar location—in London.
She had simply stared at the envelope for the longest time, and then slowly, she crumpled the page that she had been drawing Cair Paravel on, ripping it from her drawing book. She threw it into the fire, along with all the other drawings of Narnia.
Then she started to draw again.
The Professor was still there, looking at the drawings, as she drew herself out of the terrible memory. Her eyes drifted to the letter that had arrived today from London, that now sat on her bedside table-the older letters safely stacked and tied with a ribbon in the drawer of the same table. Most of the letters were from her mother. Those letters were always filled with love and familiarity, speaking of commonplace things that only made Lucy feel worse for ever forgetting her parents. But one in the pile was from her father, one very beaten envelope containing a latter he'd managed to write on her birthday, from the front lines in Germany—it had arrived four months late. Worn and near tearing from how often she looked at it, it also bore smudges from her tears. He had drawn a picture of her, a near perfect portrait of his beloved youngest child.
"We were sent here," she said, her voice somewhat more steady now, "to the country, to escape the bombs in London. And then we found another escape, from our boredom, from our anger at being sent away, from our worries and fears." She paused and looked down at the pencil still in her hand, and sniffled a little, eyes tearing up again. Then she continued in a whisper, "But, sometimes, escapes are the worst favor that life can do for us."