Chapter XVI. Adjusting.
James Harvey leaned against the brick wall that marked the border between the grounds of Hannon House and St. Finbar's Academy. This was his favorite haunt. He had several girlfriends at St. Finbar's who would climb over the wall to see him. Also, should a boy he and his gang didn't like walk by, there was usually no one near enough to hear the poor lad screaming for mercy.
Today Harvey was alone. He took a long whiff of smoke and smirked at the grey clouds above as if daring them to rain on him.
A schoolmate was coming down the hill in his general direction. Harvey narrowed his eyes at the boy, trying to place him. The kid was familiar—pale skin, black hair—but Harvey could not remember his name.
When the boy was close enough for Harvey to see his facial features clearly, the bully nearly gasped in shock. Good God! It's Edmund Pevensie!
Edmund was a year or two younger than Harvey, and spent most of his time in school trying to get Harvey and his gang to like him. The lad had a cruel streak as wide as Harvey's own. There was nothing he wouldn't do to humiliate and torment underclassmen, sissies, nerds, or his elder brother Peter. In short, not a bad kid. Sometimes, when his other friends weren't looking, Harvey would even deign to share his pack of cigarettes with E. Pevensie.
But Edmund had apparently changed a great deal over the summer.
He had left school last term prepubescent: pimple-faced, knobby-kneed and squeaky-voiced. Now he was as big as Harvey; his acne had cleared, his form had filled out, and he muttered under his breath in a voice deeper than that of any other boy at Hannon.
"Hullo, Pevensie," Harvey drawled.
Edmund looked up, startled. His huge eyes snapped so wide open they nearly swallowed his face.
Harvey snickered. "You're so funny when you're surprised, Pevensie. You look like a bloody insect."
"Good morning to you too, Master Harvey," replied Edmund flatly. "I am sorry to have disturbed you." He turned around and started walking back in the direction he'd come.
"Would you like a smoke?" Harvey held out his cigarette.
"No. I don't smoke anymore. Good day."
"Hey! What's with you? We were friends last term, remember?"
"We were friends."
"Don't you know who you sound like?" Harvey raised his voice, but there was no one to be seen but the two of them, and if there had been others about he probably wouldn't have cared.
Edmund kept walking as if he didn't hear.
"You sound like your brother—like the oh-so-wonderful oh-so-popular oh-so-golden Peter Pevensie."
At this Edmund turned on his heel and marched toward Harvey, fists clenched, murder in his eyes. Harvey could taste the anger in the air; he got high off it the way some do off illegal substances (and he was no stranger to those either).
"Listen, snake," Edmund hissed. "Insult me and I can walk it off. But say anything—anything—about my brother or sisters or anyone in my family again, and I will turn this school into your own personal Hell." Every visible muscle on his face and body was tensed. He stared unblinking deep into Harvey's eyes. There was no doubt he meant his threat.
Harvey wanted to say something now just to spite him but his words died before they reached his mouth. Wherever this new Edmund Pevensie had come from, he was bloody terrifying, and James Harvey was, like all bullies, a coward inside.
He watched Pevensie stalk away into the underbrush and knew with despair that his reign of terror at Hannon House was finally nearing its end.
"Do you suppose we'll ever go back, Ed?" Peter asked over lunch later that day. All the Pevensies asked each other that question frequently when they were alone.
Edmund sighed. "I can't answer that, Pete. Only He can."
"Not that there's any guarantee that he will," Peter grumbled. "He's not a tame lion." He paused, as a comparatively pleasant thought made him smile despite himself. "I heard Harvey complaining to his lackeys about your 'insolence' and 'ingratitude.' What happened, Ed?"
"Nothing much. I was taking a walk and met him accidently. He offered me a cig but I turned him down and walked away. No doubt he's furious. All his goons will be out for me in full force." He chuckled grimly. "It's rather funny that he thinks he can intimidate us—we who faced armies and slew monsters."
"Mm." Peter's eyes grew distant. "How do you think they're doing, back in Narnia without us?"
"I'm sure Lavinia is leading them well."
"Ah, dear Lavinia." Peter's voice wavered as he fought the urge to weep. "I miss everyone we knew back there, but her especially. I love her still. She probably feels like I abandoned her."
"Lavinia's a clever woman, Peter. I'm sure she understands that whatever happened by the Lamppost was out of our control."
"If we were called back, do you think we would be the same age we are now, or would we be the same ages we were when we left?"
Edmund shrugged. "I have no idea. We should ask Professor Kirke when we see him again."
"I'm just picturing how awkward it would be if we went back, as we are now, and I met Lavinia again. She would be twenty-seven and I would be seventeen. It would never work out."
"I've heard of women marrying much younger men. But I understand your point. The hardest part for me is learning to think like a kid again. I feel rankled when adults boss me about. I notice the beauty of twenty-and-thirty-something women; when I look at pretty girls my own age, I feel like I'm doing something wrong. I'm going through puberty all over again—at least you haven't had that pain."
"True, true, I have not," Peter returned with a grin. "Sometimes Su and I forget how distressing that must be for you and Lu. As far as puberty goes, though, you're well over the worst of it." He stared out the lunchroom window absently.
"Do you remember that story Pelli told us about when Queen Tirelia and her friends went hunting the White Stag centuries ago?"
"How could I forget?"
"Do you think that maybe that hunting party turned up in our world, just like we did?"
"By Jove, Ed, I hadn't thought of that! What a fascinating idea."
Over Peter's shoulder Edmund saw another pair of brothers sitting alone at the table behind theirs. One was about sixteen and the other ten at the most. The elder, who was dark-haired and unkempt, was completely unfamiliar to Edmund, but he knew he had seen the younger one before.
"Pete, behind you," he whispered. "Do you recognize the kid with the red hair?"
Peter glanced at the strangers quickly. "We shouldn't stare at them, Ed. They'll get nervous. I have seen that boy before, but I can't remember where."
Robin couldn't help being frightened of his new school.
Hannon House was huge, a good three times the size of his school back in Michigan. Its interiors were gothic, or at least to Robin they seemed gothic. The ceilings were so dreadfully high, and the dorm rooms were dark.
At the moment he was hiding under a table in the library, writing a letter to Kitt, who had insisted upon corresponding with him.
I suppose things could be worse.
I wanted to share a room with Ben, but that didn't work out. Instead I'm rooming with three boys in my same year. Their names are Planter, Grey and Jones. They seem nice, but they're all taken up with cricket and rugby, while I as you well know prefer my books to any athletic activity.
Mr. Blackwood, the history teacher, is a very kind gentleman. He understands that I don't know much about English history, so he loaned me a compilation of Shakespeare's histories, saying I might not get one-hundred percent historical fact from them, but I will get the right spirit.
Other than him, the teachers run the gamut from inoffensive to downright nasty. I just try to do all my work with my best penmanship and turn it in on time.
I don't see Ben nearly as often as I'd like, but from the little time I've spent with him I think we feel the same way about school in general. We sit together at lunch. We are alone. He's tried to make friends, but unsuccessfully.
You asked in your last letter if I have had problems with bullies. I don't get beat up every day here like I did back in Riverside, Michigan. Here it's just the little things—my roommates don't talk to me, my classmates don't talk to me, my teachers (on the whole) think I'm stupid, and there's this one older boy named James Harvey who likes calling me a sissy, among other insults that I will refrain from inscribing.
I am truly sorry that Lily Kingsbury and Jenny Featherstone and their gang pick on you, though I know neither of us is surprised—
He stopped writing here because two older boys (he could only see their legs) had sat at the table he was hiding under. One of them kicked him.
He cried out in pain.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" the boy exclaimed. "I didn't know anyone was down there."
"We assumed this table was empty," added his companion. "But you can sit with us if you like. We won't hurt you."
Sore and embarrassed, Robin gathered up his pen and paper and crawled out from under the table.
He froze in shock when he saw who he'd been talking to.
The blond boy was about seventeen, his black-haired companion about fourteen. Their coloring was dissimilar, but there was something about the cut of their features that told Robin they were brothers. When they'd last met, these two wore the garb of kings, for kings they were, and they were both in their twenties. But he recognized them nonetheless.
"Your Majesties," he whispered, daring a quick bow. "What are you doing here?"