A year of my life had come and gone, a year of my life I'd wasted yearning to be somewhere else. I'd shut the world around me out and only left the house when absolutely necessary. Some barely noticed, others did. My friends at school had been avoiding me ever since I came back to this world. I was different, not the same girl I was before they claimed. Deep down they were right, I wasn't the same person. But all I wanted was to talk to someone who was so far away. My friends here didn't understand my change, my teachers reprimanded me and told me I was being foolish to be throwing away the promising future I could have had.
What they didn't know was the future I truly cared about had already happened and then taken away from me in the blink of an eye. My brother, Oliver, was the only one who could understand how I was feeling. My mother just rolled her eyes at my attitude before moving on to what was important to her. Oliver had tried to comfort me but it wasn't working. I just wanted to go back. The only thing that could pull me out of this black hole was Narnia. As days turned into months and finally a year, I'd given up all hope of ever returning there.
Drawing bacame my escape, the only thing that calmed me these days, it was a place I could retreat to and no be judged. I could truly be myself. I could remember and grieve on my own terms. I was finishing up the curve of a bow when my mother's voice broke my peace and quiet:
"Rebecca and Oliver, please come down, I've got some news!"
I sighed and put my pencil down. Pushing back my desk chair, I streched and got up, switching off the light as I left my room. Oliver was already on the landing when I came out.
"Have any idea what this is about?" I asked him as we started heading downstairs together.
"No, I don't." He shrugged.
Oliver had put up a brave face but being back here was not his heaven either. He didn't feel at home, he just felt out of place. Before Narnia, he'd always been a shy and quiet boy but our adventures there had made him shine and become who he was truly meant to be. He'd shrunk into the background as soon as we came back. He didn't want to get involved with anything that was out of his comfort zone but no one put up a fuss, as they liked to put it, 'It's just Oliver'. No one but me noticed that his eyes didn't shine as brightly as before.
We reached the living-room to see Mum sitting with her boyfriend on the couch. She gestured us to sit down on the other one and we did.
"Paul and I have some news." She beamed as she looked at us both expectantly, completly oblivious to her children's pain. She paused for a moment waiting for us to say something but when we didn't she forced an even bigger smile onto her face and announced: "I'm pregnant."
"And we're going to get married." Paul added for effect.
My eyes grew wide and my mouth fell open. She was pregnant? I was going to have another sibling? A part of me wanted to be happy for her but then a bigger part of me was angry. It was as if she was trying to start all over again.
"No need to look so excited." Mum said, her voice shaky. I couldn't tell whether it was in anger or if she was about to burst into tears. I would have much preferred the latter.
"It's great, Mum, really." Oliver, always the diplomate, smiled. "It's just a lot to take in."
"Rebecca?" My mum asked. "Are you alright?"
"I'm … I'm…" I stuttered as I tried to find my words. "I'm shocked." Tat was probably not the best thing to say but it was the only word I could find that was close to descriing how I felt.
"And why is that?" She looked angry but was trying not to let it show.
"It's just a surprise." I swallowed hard, hoping she'd just drop the matter and go back to her happy ignorant self.
"At least I know my own daughter doesn't support me, isn't that brilliant?" She scoffed and got up. "You really are ungrateful, Rebecca."
All the anger, the hurt and fear that had bubbled up inside me over the past year had finally reached boiling point in that precise moment. It was ready to erupt.
"You have no idea what it's like!" I yelled at her as I got up off the couch. "You're happy, you might have found the love of your life and now you're going to have a kid. What about me Mum? I've been practically invisible to you since you got divorced! You don't know what it's like to be stuck here when I really want to be as far away from here as possible!"
"Don't you dare talk to me like that!" She shouted as she turned back round to look at me. "I am your mother!"
"When have you ever cared about how I act? I've been getting into fights at school all year and you've never given a damn! I don't even know why you're going to have another kid; you hardly have time for the two of us!" My chest was heaving as everyone fell into a stunned silence.
And with that I ran out of the room grabbing my coat as I walked out of the door. I headed for nowhere in particular I just let my feet guide me. I ended up at the entrance of the Tube and automatically took out my pass from my jacket pocket and beeped it. Once I reached one of the platforms, I sat down on one of the benches. I sat in silence for a few minutes trying to regain my composure when I heard footsteps and finally the feeling of someone sitting next to me.
"You shouldn't have gone that far." Oliver told me as he crossed his arms in front of him.
I turned my head to look at him. "I've wanted to get those things off my chest for a while."
"Mum didn't really appreciate it though." Olly sighed. "I know this year has been hard for you but you need to stop taking your anger out on others."
"I know, but I'm just frustrated all the time. I want to go back, see my kids again and see Peter again." A single tear fell from my eye.
"You will see them again." Oliver reassured me.
"It's been a year, Oliver, how long are we supposed to stay here?"
"I don't know, Rebecca." He sighed as he put one arm around me. "For now, we just have to live our lives and wait."
"I can't Oliver." I whispered as I brought my legs up onto the bench and rested my head in my knees.
"I'm not asking you to forget I just want you to move on in the meantime instead of cutting yourself off from this world."
He'd been trying to reason with me for months and each time I didn't want to listen. I sighed because deep down I knew he was right but I also didn't want to admit it. Then suddenly I felt him pinch me.
"Oliver, stop it!" I protested as I scooted away from him, a small smile breaking onto my face.
"I'm not doing anything!" He raised his hands in defence.
"Of course you're not!" I rolled my eyes playfully.
"Honestly! I'm not-" He stopped then jumped off the bench. "What the hell was that?"
I saw the train coming as wind started to rise in the tunnel. I got up off the bench and stood next to him. There was nothing natural about any of it. "Oliver, give me your hand!" I held mine out to him and he took it without hesitation.
"Is this magic?" He asked.
"I think it is!" I answered as the train started to pass in frontof us.
We both fixed our gaze on the train and were amazed by what was happening. As it wizzed by us, the bricks on the other side of the wall looked as though they were peeling back one by one. They were disappearing leaving behind what looked like the inside of the cave. I watched the train disappear into nothingness, the tube station had long been left behind instead a lush beach was just beyond the cave's exit.
"We're back." I whispered in disbelief. I didn't need any other confirmation, I just felt it in my heart that we were in Narnia again.
"I can't believe it!" Oliver gasped before turning and hugging me.
"We are actually back!" I grinned as I embraced him tightly.
"And we're not alone." Oliver said over my shoulder as we broke the hug.
He gestured to the sand and walked over picking up what had caught his attention. I realised it was a blue jacket and Oliver was inspecting the collar. He looked up and it out for me to take it. Reaching it I took the fabric between my fingers and ran my hand along the collar where a name had been scribbled onto the label. I read it and my heart skipped a beat.
"PETER?" I yelled while running out of the cave. "PETER?"
The sunlight blinded me momentarily but as soon as I caught used to the brightness, I saw him. I caught sight of Susan, Edmund and Lucy too and I grinned even more, feelng like a child on Christmas day.
"PETER!" I yelled again as I dropped his coat and started running towards him at top speed.
He looked up and I saw his smile increase as he did. He couldn't have gotten out of the water fast enough. Peter began to run in my direction as he called my name. We met halfway and I jumped into his arms with such force that we fell backwards onto the sand.
"It's really you." I whispered as we sat up and I placed my hands on both his cheeks.
"It's really me." He had tears in his eyes as his eyes roamed my face before finally landing on my lips.
A small silence fell between us as we just took the sight of the other in. I rested my head on his forehead as I took in his scent, how he breathed and how it felt to finally having him back. After a moment, he moved his hand up and placed a finger under my chin to tilt it up, our lips brushing slightly. It was like an electric shock went through both our bodies at the feeling. I pressed my lips gently against his as I wanted to savour the moment as much as possible. Our lips moved perfectly in sync like they always had, as if we had never been apart for the past year. It was the most amazing feeling to taste his lips again, to have the softness of them touch mine and to have his arms around me again.
"I have missed you so much." He murmured as he trailed along my jawline.
"I've missed you too." I sighed as I melted in to his arms resting my head on his shoulder.
"I'm not letting you go this time." He promised, his arms tightning around me.
I brought my head up again and looked into his blue eyes. "I love you." I leaned in and gave him another soft kiss.
"Are we allowed to see her or not?" Ed joked from behind him.
"All in good time, Edmund don't worry." I smiled as Peter and I both got up from the ground brushing the sand off of our clothes.
I went over and gave Edmund a big hug before moving on to Susan and Lucy. Oliver gave the girls a hug and the boys what they like to call "a man hug". I just think they're being damn annoying when they do that. They should just give each other a proper hug and be done with it.
"So you guys were having fun?" Oliver said as he gestured to their wet clothes. "How's the water?" He grinned.
"It's lovely!" Lucy beamed at both of us in turn. "I'm just so happy we're back!"
"We were actually on our way up to see why there were ruins in Narnia." Ed informed us, dampening the mood slightly.
"Ruins? In Narnia? Since when?" I asked looking slightly confused as I finally took in the scenery around me. There was a rocky cliff looming over us and right at the top I could make out ruins. "I don't remember ever coming across these ruins in Narnia."
"Neither do we." Peter nodded, as his hand slipped into mine. "Let's go and find out."
We found a path that led us up the rock face and made our way up. Once we'd reached the top we started to have a look around. As I explored the area, there was something crying out to me, telling me this place was familiar and that, once upon a time, I held this place close to my heart. I ran my hand over the tree trunk of an apple tree and something clicked in the back of my mind. Lucy plucked an apple from the tree grinning at me as she bit into it. I watched her walk over to the edge and look out over the sea.
The view finally made me realise where exactly we were standing. Grief washed over me as I finally put the pieces of the puzzle together. An apple orchard looking out over the sea. There weren't many places like that in Narnia. I went over to my sister in law and looked solemly out over the bay.
"It's beautiful isn't it?" I said sadly.
"Why so sad?" She asked but I just shook my head.
"I don't know, everythong just feels familiar, you know?" I looked back the younger girl, hoping someone else would catch on.
She looked out over the water, taking my words in. "I wonder who lived here." She went on to say.
"I think we did." Susan said as she bent down to pick up a golden knight she had hit with her foot.
"That's mine, from my chess set." Edmund remarked as he took the piece from Susan's hand.
"Which chest set?" Peter asked.
"Well, I didn't exactly have a solid gold chess set in Finchley, did I?" Edmund replied as he took the piece off Susan.
"It can't be." Lucy breathed out as if in a daze.
She then ran by us grabbing Peter's hand as she went and led us to an opening. She dragged her eldest brother up onto what appeared to be the ruined dais. The rest of us followed them both.
"Look, imagine walls." She put each of her siblings in front of what I could tell was the remains of a throne one by one. "And columns there." She arranged Susan. "And then a glass roof."
Ed had already found his spot so Lucy stood in hers. I walked up what was left of the steps and took Peter's hand.
"Cair Paravel." Peter whispered as he took in the sight of the ancient throne room turned to ruin.
"But what happened, we have only been gone a year?" Susan was looking around at us, looking very confused. "How could this have happened?"
"Narnian time doesn't go at the same rate as ours." I remembered. "Aslan knows how long we've been gone. When we went back, not even a second had passed on Earth."
Slowly, the six of us headed out of what used to the throne room. I don't think any of us could stand being there a moment longer. When we reached what was left of another part of the castle, Edmund kneeled and examined one of the rocks.
"Catapults." He observed.
"What?" Peter looked at him.
"This didn't just happen. Cair Paravel was attacked." Edmund explained.
"But who? We had the biggest army; no one would dare to do it." Oliver interjected.
"We were gone." I stated as Edmund stood up. "An army without a leader is nothing. With us out of the way Narnia was prey to the bordering lands."
Peter's gaze landed on a wall a few feet away from us. He started headed over to it and pulled away the ivy. I finally realised that he was trying to get in to the secret chamber. Ed went over and helped him push the wall to reveal a single wodden door. Peter, with the help of his pocket knife, knocked some of the rotten wood away to open the door from the other side. He ripped the bottom part of his shirt off and wrapped it around a couple of twigs.
"No one happens to have any matches?" He asked.
"I don't have any matches but would this help?" Ed said as he pulled a torch out of his bag.
"You might have mentioned that a bit sooner!" Peter smiled as he threw his thing away.
Ed just smiled and led the way down. Susan and Lucy stepped in after in closely followed by Oilver with Peter and I closing the march.
My hand found Peter's as we followed our siblings into the dark corridor. We quickly caught up with the others and soon overtook them. We reached the bottom first and together pushed the steel gates open revealing six chests with stone statues behind them.
"I can't believe it, it's all still here." Peter looked amazed.
Lucy rushed by us to her chest. Followed by Susan, Oliver and Ed. Peter hung back as he picked up a golden tray with Aslan's head on it. I watched him take a deep breath to blow some of the dust off it.
"I was so tall." Lucy remarked as she pulled a dress out of the trunk and compared it to her body.
"Well, you were older then." Susan smiled.
"As opposed to hundreds of years later, when you're younger." Ed had put his war helmet on that was way too big for him now.
I took a deep breath and walked over to my chest and opened it. Waiting for me was my sword gently placed on top of parchments and clothes. I took it out and slowly caressed the sword hilt debating whether I should pull it out or not. I turned to look back at Peter who was staring longingly at the statue of himself. I knew how much he probably wanted to be that High King again. He started taking slow steps towards it.
"What is it?" Lucy asked Susan as she continued to rummage her chest.
"I can't find my horn. I must have left it on my saddle the day we went back." She sighed.
Peter was now in front of his chest and opened it carefully. He attracted the attention of everyone in the room. He went straight for his sword and pulled it straight out of its cover without hesitation.
"When Aslan bares his teeth, winter meets its death." He recited.
"When he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again." Lucy finished.
There was a moment of silence before she continued. "Everyone we knew, Mr Tumnus and the Beavers, they're all gone." Lucy's gaze lingered on me for just too long, she didn't want to say it aloud but we all knew what she was thinking.
I closed my eyes and I finally accepted the inevitable. I'd pushed back the thought of Liliana and Archer being dead since we'd first arrived in the ruined city. Now, the thought was reality. I slammed my chest shut out of frustration and the sound resonated around the dusty and silent room.
"I think it's time we found out what's going on here." Peter announced, once the sound had died away.
"We need to change, we can't trudge around Narnia in these clothes." Oliver announced as he rummaged through his chest. "We'll need to find things that fit."
They all started rummaging through the chests, picking out things that would fit and help us on this journey. I remained silent as they all got busy. Peter soon noticed my silence.
"Can you give us a minute?" I heard Peter's voice plead with the others.
Ever so silently they left the room and I felt Peter strong arms wrap around my waist from behind.
"Everything is going to be alright." Peter murmured.
"They're dead Peter." I turned round to meet his eyes. "We abandoned them and now they're dead."
"We did not abandon them." He wiped the tears away from my cheeks but it was no use others continued to fall.
"We left, Peter. We went back. I promised Archer I would come back. I let him down and now he's dead." I rested my head on his shoulder as I tried to regain control of my breathing.
"We didn't leave on purpose, it was an accident." He whispered. "If we could change it, we would."
Tears that weren't mine trickled down my neck and I hugged my husband just that bit tighter as we let grief wash over us.
"You're right." I lifted my head. "We need to find out what's going on."
Once we'd changed, we headed back to the beach and walked along the shore hoping to find a sign of life. After a while we came to a soft water lake.
"What's that?" I pointed to a small row boat.
"They're going to throw a dwarf into the water!" Lucy cried.
Susan drew an arrow the second Lucy had finished her sentence. "Drop him!" She ordered as she loaded her bow.
The two men shrugged and dropped the dwarf in the water. I saw one of her arrows hit one of the soldiers and the other jumped ship and swam off. Peter and Edmund had already started running into the water. They both dived in and less than a minute later, Peter dragged the dwarf ashore as Edmund dealt with the small boat. Lucy hurried over to her brother to cut the dwarf's bonds with her dagger.
"Drop him?" He demanded after he had regained his breath. "Is that the best you could do?"
"A simple thank you would suffice." Susan said to him.
"They were doing fine drowning me without your help." He snapped.
"Maybe we should have let them." Peter added.
That remark cut the dwarf off and I'm positive that if he could have killed Peter he would have.
"Why were they trying to kill you anyway?" Lucy asked.
"They're Telmarines, that's what they do." He answered.
"Telmarines? In Narnia?" Edmund asked confused.
"Where have you been for the last few hundred years?" The dwarf said.
"It's a bit of a long story." Lucy smiled.
Susan picked Peter's sword up from the sand and handed it to him. The dwarf eyed it suspiciously before sighing.
"Oh you have got to be kidding me." He said in disbelief. "You're it? You're the Kings and Queens of old?"
"High King Peter, the Magnificent." He introduced himself.
"You could have probably left the last part out." I snorted.
"Probably." The dwarf chuckled.
"You might be surprised." Peter challenged as he held his sword out.
"You don't want to do that boy."
"Not me, him." Peter gestured to Ed as he gave the dwarf his sword.
Ed smiled and drew his. The dwarf took Peter's sword and let it drop to ground as if it was too heavy but I knew better. Edmund looked a bit cocky. Suddenly the dwarf swung Pete's sword viciously and hard. Edmund had to duck to avoid it. He swung again and this time he nearly hit Ed.
"Are you all right?" The dwarf teased.
Edmund swung and moved behind the dwarf whacking him as he went. He blocked the dwarf's attack and counterattacked. He swayed his sword with speed and ease managing to finally disarm his opponent. The dwarf dropped to his knees.
"Beards and bedsteads." He gasped. "Maybe that horn worked after all."
"What horn?" Susan enquired.