Peter read the letter over and over again. It was short, and that bothered him. Edmund had always been the one who's great with words, he had been the one to settle arguments and write contracts, agreements with other parties and such in Narnia. Lucy had always been the most talkative of them all. For them to be scarce in words was strange, and it worried Peter. Though the letter was well phrased and its words were very descriptive, it was barely four lines long. The writing itself was scribbled and a bit incomprehensible, very unlike both his siblings' neat cursive handwriting, and Peter suspected they had written the short letter while in a hurry, as if they had to finish it quickly before rushing off to do something else. All this caused him to suspect they were holding back information, and were not telling him the full extent of the situation at home—whatever it was.
But one message was loud and clear. He needed to come home, and he needed to do so as soon as possible.
"Peter, son, are you alright?" the Professor asked carefully.
"I-I I have to go," he stuttered and rose, shaking, from his seat.
The Professor nodded his head solemnly. "I'll send Ivy to pack your belongings. You go pack your books and collect your things from the library. I'll speak with Mrs. Macready and you'll get on the train back to London first thing tomorrow morning. I'll also contact your parents and, make sure there is someone there to get you from the railway station."
"Thank you, sir," Peter said and ran out of the study and to the library, the bow and quiver left behind.
Once in the library, he immediately began collecting all of his stray books and piling them on his desk. Once he had finished, he found a large box and neatly stacked the inside. He put the box on the floor and commenced to organize the many papers on his cluttered desk. He organized them according to his different school subjects, and tied each packet of pages with a string, as to not get the papers mixed up. When he finished that, he put the packets in the box along with the books.
The desk was rather clear now; only a couple pens and several letters remained on it. He collected the pens and put them in the box as well. Then he sorted through the letters. One stood out in particular and Peter read it again. He remembered this letter; his mother had sent it to him several weeks prior, but only now he realized the importance of what had been said in it. One line kept ringing again and again in Peter's mind until he fell asleep that night: "I fear for her, my son. She is slipping away; I do not wish to lose my daughter."
Peter left early the next morning; the sun was just rising above the horizon when he mounted the open carriage, sitting beside Mrs. Macready, his trunk in the back.
The wonderful weather and enchanting smell of fresh dew soaked into the wild grass and recently upturned soil of the fields on stretching on either side of the road made Peter feel morbid. The perfect picture so greatly contrasted what Peter feared was awaiting him, that it made him feel all the more depressed.
The boy and the housekeeper rode in companionable silence, the only noises being the sound of the horses' hooves and nature awakening to a new morning.
By the time they reached the train station, the sun shone brightly in the sky, bathing the world in a warm yellow glow. Peter was surprised when Ms. Macready dismounted the carriage and helped him carry his trunk to the platform. He had thought she would simply command the horses to turn around and would return home. Despite that, he was grateful for the help—he was strong, but his books were quite heavy and he did not possess the strength he had as a man and well-trained knight in Narnia.
They stood alone on the platform, an awkward silence lingering between them.
"Tell Susan I wish her well-being," Mrs. Macready suddenly said. "I will be praying for her recovery."
Peter stared at the housekeeper incredulously. She looked back at him, and it seemed to him that her face had softened.
"I know you all think I hate you. You make a racket and endanger many of the precious artifacts in the mansion with your childish games, but you have… a certain maturity about you all that I admire.; especially in the eldest of your sisters." She pursed her lips for a moment. "I cannot say I understand it, but I most certainly appreciate it."
Peter pondered her words. He knew what she was talking about. The maturity that came with age and possessed them all too often was something they had acquired in Narnia. Acquired naturally, as they had grown in that land to full adults—kings and queens no less. It was only natural and logical for them to grow in mind as they did in body. It was also one of those things one could not erase or forget. It was impossible to erase from one's soul. The air of maturity the Pevensie kids carried about them was what differentiated them from most children their age, and caused that sense of respect and silent obedience adults felt when around them. The adults didn't know how to explain it or what to name the feeling, but Peter knew all too well it was the respect given to royalty. For the maturity they possessed was accompanied by their regal ways and strong, serene confidence of mighty monarchs.
All of this was ever more prominent in Susan. Since the war had begun, she had taken up the role of a secondary parent—when their mother had stepped up to take the role of their father who had gone to fight, Susan had stepped up to take the job of mother, even if not completely. Before the four Pevensies had come to Narnia, she was already familiar with taking care of her family, and silent, willful ruling. When they became kings and queens, she kept the role of the matriarch, only adjusted it slightly to include her country. She was a mother to the land as much as she was to her own siblings, and loved it just as she loved her siblings. In Narnia, she was the Gentle Queen. In England she was but a mere teenager who acted too adult for her age. A beautiful young blossoming woman, who held on to everything she could from that magical land.
Peter's brow furrowed as he remembered those times when he thought she was too invested in the memory, in what was and not what is. He feared that she was living too much in the land that was out of her reach, deluding herself and convincing herself that she would return to that land when Aslan had clearly stated that they would not. He often found himself hoping that her rising status in society and rising popularity with the boys would pull her from her dreams and convince her to enjoy this life. He knew it was a rather odd wish of him to have for his younger sister—no less—but he silently wished that one of her many courters would catch her attention. Perhaps whisk her off her feet. Maybe they'll fall in love. As long as he distracted her from thoughts of that other world, where Peter knew she left another lover, Peter would be satisfied.
Peter continued to ponder this, and as he did, he paced the platform. Mrs. Macready on the other hand retired to the simple wooden bench at the platform's edge and sat there. It was not long before the train arrived, and the two parted on a friendly note, with Peter promising the old lady he'd pass on her wishes and kind words.
He boarded the train and hoisted his trunk with the help of a kind ticket-seller, who also helped him carry it all the way to an empty compartment. Peter thanked the man, and he tipped his hat and continued on his way through the train.
Peter settled in a seat near the window and watched the scenery as the train flew past it. Autumn enveloped the countryside in its fiery colors, nature coming to the end of one journey, yet beginning another. Whereas the leaves on the trees were just beginning to turn from vibrant greens to bewitching reds, oranges and yellows preparing for the end of their lives, farmers were working in their fields. Plowing, seeding, planting… beginning a new cycle of life. It just reminded Peter how one thing must always end at the beginning of another. An ominous feeling crept to his heart, and he shook his head, as if the quick jerking motion would wrench the feeling from his heart. The feeling slipped away, but still left a fraction of doubt in Peter's mind.
Hoping to ignore the unsettling feeling, Peter allowed his lids to slide closed and for sleep to take him.
The sudden honking of a horn yanked Peter from his dreams and he woke with a start, panting heavily. It took him a few moments to gain his bearings. Once he did, he realized that the train had pulled to a stop—his stop no less.
As he struggled to pull his trunk through the train's narrow corridor without disturbing too many of the other passengers, he fought his inner demons. The nightmare that he had woken up from was not as vivid now as it had been when he'd been dreaming it, but the jumbled up and blurred images of blood, war, loss and the sounds of piercing screams and desperate begging were just as awful in his wake as in his sleep. In fact, not having the full picture made the images much more disturbing in Peter's mind. He couldn't help the chill that crept down his back.
He stepped onto the platform and walked to a slightly less crowded corner of the station. In their letter, Edmund and Lucy mentioned talking their Mum into sending their father to collect Peter from the train station—they would have spoken directly to their father, had they not been afraid of his wrath that would undoubtedly be upon them for having asked their brother to come home without his or Mother's consent. Peter didn't know if they were successful in their mission, but he certainly hoped they were; he couldn't imagine how he could possibly get home with the small amount of money he had if they were not.
He scanned the platform with his eyes, searching as far and wide as he could. Ten minutes passed, and he decided simply standing there would do him no good. He bent down to his trunk with a sigh, meaning to pull it up. Suddenly, he felt someone stumble into him. He rose, searching, but couldn't find the offending passer-by. Instead, his eyes fell on a tall and all too familiar figure in the distance. The man's eyes suddenly met Peter's and the two pairs of identical blue eyes locked. The man walked determinedly in Peter's direction and was standing next to him all too soon.
"It's a good thing you and your sister are sensible. I don't know how we would have managed if we didn't have you two to balance out your mischievous little siblings," he muttered.
"Hello to you too, Father," Peter greeted with a chuckle.
With the help of his father, Peter lifted the trunk, and the two carried it out of the station and to the automobile Mr. Pevensie had borrowed from a rich friend at work for this purpose. Once the trunk was placed carefully in the back of the automobile, the two men started the car, then settled themselves in the front.
As they drove, peter glanced over to his father. Several months ago he had been sent back to England after getting injured on the battlefield. Peter remembered how frantic his mother had been. Now, only a scar remained on the side of his face, and the left arm was weaker than the right, due to the break it had suffered. These days he worked at the war office, gaining him connections to people in higher jobs and statuses. He was a wise and knowledgeable man, and gained the respect of many of his coworkers. All of this had allowed for the trip to America he took his wife and eldest daughter on. He had offered Peter to join them, but Peter preferred getting ahead in his studies (for once) and went to the Professor's house instead.
"I can't say that I'm pleased with your siblings' actions, but I understand their reasoning for behaving as such. I was surprised, however, by how upset your mother became over this."
Peter was surprised as well. It was strange that their sentimental, over-doting mother who knew them and had seen the change in them after they came back from Narnia would be against him coming home if he was needed. He knew his mother had always been very much aware of the strong bond between him and Susan. He also knew she had noticed how much closer knit all four of them had gotten since the came back from the Professor's house and—unbeknownst to her—from Narnia. It seemed irrational that she would be aware of all of this and still deny the siblings from being together when they needed each other, and Peter was sure they needed each other. Not only did he have the old letter in which his mother had expressed her own concerns for Susan, but he now had the urgent, pleading letter from Lucy and Edmund. He could not ignore that.
"Then again," his father continued, "things are much different than they were. The lot of you has changed as well."
Peter looked out the side window and smiled to himself. He had often wondered if his tough old father would notice the change in his children, as they had noticed the change in him. They had all grown up. Their father used to be a very warm person, smiling and not stern as much as most fathers of kids their age. They also were more carefree and happy. But war—or wars—had matured them all, and the kids along with the father had become quieter, sterner, less jovial. Though their parents did not know it, the children had also been adults, and now understood many difficulties of adulthood they had known nothing of before their reign in Narnia.
Before long, the scenery became familiar as the car neared the house. Before long, the car slowed to a halt and Peter sat staring at the house.
A.N.: I know, I know, it's been months since I updated and I truly, sincerely apologize for that. First I had writer's block, and then school started and I got crazy busy with that and other things…
Anyway, this chapter was supposed to be a bit longer, but I decided to give you all a little cliff and make the next part longer so it could be a chapter on its own, seeing how I put into this chapter a bunch of stuff I didn't think would be here.
So…review and tell me what you think!