Chapter One – Evacuating London:
1940 – Finchley, London
"Peter! Quickly, the shelter. Now!"
The panicking voice of her aunt scared her.
Her heartbeat sounded louder than the screeching noises from bombers and the rhythmic booms from anti-aircraft guns surrounding her uncle and aunt's home. The young girl was terrified.
"Cor," her youngest cousin Lucy panicked beside her. They were lying together in Lucy's bed, the room covered completely in darkness.
"It's okay, Lu. It will be over soon," Cornelia assured, trying to sound calm.
There was this voice in her head, stating that since she was the older of the two, she had to remain brave. Nine was young, but eleven was older, and her big brother had always told her to look after her family. Cornelia found a reason to smile amid the terrifying cacophony, for her by DNSUnlocker" style="z-index: 2147483647;"> brother would be visiting them tomorrow. Her elation was fleeting, though, as it was his last weekend pass, and then he would be going off to fight in the war.
"Mommy!" Lucy cried as a loud boom erupted nearby.
Suddenly, the bedroom door opened and in came Susan.
"Lucy, Cornelia," she exclaimed, shining her torch at them. "Come on!"
Susan impatiently dragged both of the youngsters out of the bed, then herded them into the corridor where they nearly collided with Peter.
"Peter!" Susan exclaimed shrilly, immediately urging Cornelia to go to him. Peter didn't even waste a second; he grasped Cornelia's hand in his own, stroking her palm soothingly to still her trembling. Whether it was because of the chilly air or the shock, it didn't matter. They had to get out!
Aunt Helen already stood near the back door with Edmund, her youngest son, waiting impatiently like a mother hen for her chicks to return.
"Come on, quickly!" Cornelia's aunt Helen managed to call over the air raid sirens as she opened the door and ran out, quickly followed by her children and niece.
"Run!" Peter bellowed over the booms, urging Cornelia forward with a hearty tug.
Little Lucy's frightened cries reached Cornelia's ears. She herself couldn't help but yelp at a loud boom. Lights flared, and the eleven year old could only guess that it came from nearby burning houses.
Just as they reached the safe shelter, the eerily out-of-place sound of an arriving train ripped through the air. That was when Edmund stupidly decided to go back.
"Wait! Dad!" he exclaimed, running past them, and then dodging Peter's outstretched hand.
"Edmund, no!" Helen exclaimed in horror.
Peter then gently shoved Cornelia towards his mother, only to run back towards the house with a 'I'll get him!'.
"Peter, come back!" Cornelia could hear her aunt call frantically.
The rumbling sound of the bombers became louder and louder. Her aunt led them down into the shelter. Cornelia and Lucy immediately turned to Susan for comfort, and Susan, being the gentle soul that she was, promptly wrapped her arms around them, holding them tight.
"Ed! Come here!"
A bomb exploded, causing only a single by DNSUnlocker" style="z-index: 2147483647;"> window to shatter, but Cornelia still screamed.
Suddenly both boys came running out, running for dear life while their mother urged them on.
"Come on. Hurry!" Helen exclaimed as the pair reached the shelter, Peter immediately shoving Edmund down on a mattress, looking completely furious with his by DNSUnlocker" style="z-index: 2147483647;"> brother.
"Why can't you think of anyone but yourself?" Peter snapped. "You're so selfish! You could have gotten us killed!"
"Stop it!" Helen raised her voice.
All of them looked to the broken photograph in Edmund's hand; a photograph of the four siblings' father in uniform. He had gone overseas not long before this.
Cornelia and Lucy sobbed quietly.
"It's okay," Helen assured her youngest boy, pulling him into her arms.
"Why can't you just do as you're told?" Peter faltered, his anger abating. He turned and closed the door.
Then it became eerily quiet in the shelter, all except for Lucy's quiet sobbing. Tears threatened to fall from Cornelia's eyes, but she wouldn't let them. Her eyes focused on each of her relatives from her perspective by Susan's side. Her aunt looked weary. Edmund looked down at the photograph with tears of anger forming in his eyes, while Peter sat down heavily, locking eyes with Cornelia. Peter's lips curved up into a small smile. The eleven year old rose slowly from her seat, taking a few steps forward before sitting down on the floor beside her oldest cousin.
Cornelia ended up leaning against Peter, watching her aunt study them with tired, sad eyes.
Peter had an arm wrapped around Cornelia, and she could feel her eyelids slowly become heavier and heavier. It didn't help (as Cornelia wanted to stay awake) that Lucy and Susan had fallen asleep on the bottom cot, while Edmund had commandeered the one above them.
"It's okay, Sprout," Peter whispered, rubbing her arm. "You can sleep."
Sprout was originally Cornelia's middle name, but it had quickly become a frequently used nickname along with 'Cor' and 'Lia' since the four siblings apparently thought that Cornelia was too long a name to say constantly; hence the different nicknames. Pick and choose.
It was not long before Cornelia finally had to give up, although the attack raging outside hadn't stopped; on the contrary, it had only just begun.
Her lips curved up into a small, content smile as Peter brushed her bangs away from her eyes. She could feel herself being tilted to the side, and then her head was placed on Peter's lap. Cornelia fell asleep with Peter rubbing her arm soothingly.
Morning came and the various Pevensies rubbed the sleep out of their eyes before leaving the shelter to look at the damage.
The distant sound of sirens could be heard while the neighbors talked with Aunt Helen about the night's shocking and horrifying events. The sound of bricks being tossed aside, hitting the concrete, echoed all around Cornelia.
It was hardly more than eleven in the morning – the Pevensies were still clearing away the debris, writing a to-fix and too-damaged list when they heard the unmistakable sound of a vehicle that was far too familiar for all of them. To Cornelia's joy and surprise, the car stopped in their driveway.
"Andrew!" Cornelia exclaimed, putting down whatever she had in her hands before running to greet her older brother.
Andrew had recently turned 21 and was considered very handsome among many. He, like his sister, had blonde hair with a couple of dark stripes here and there, as well as the very same blue eyes.
"Hey, little lady." Andrew greeted her before hoisting her up in the air, earning a giggle from Cornelia before she landed safely in his arms again.
"Thank God you lot are okay," he whispered, kissing her hair as Cornelia hugged him tightly.
They then approached their cousins and aunt who had watched the scene with smiles on their faces.
"Andrew!" Lucy greeted as she too ran towards her cousins.
Andrew, who still carried Cornelia on one arm, smiled warmly as his youngest cousin approached them.
"Hey, Lucy Bear," he drawled, then grunted as he lifted Lucy, supporting her weight on his other arm.
Peter smiled and shook his head in disbelief. Susan did the same while the two younger girls giggled, smiling at each other as both of them held tightly onto Andrew.
Edmund's else bad mood perished when he saw his other cousin, who - like Cornelia - had always been considered as an honorary sibling – and a cool one at that since Andrew just had joined the Royal Air Force like Edmund's father.
Aunt Helen had to reach around the two youngsters to pull her nephew in for a hug before questioning him with a warm smile, motioning to her daughter and niece. "Are you sure you can balance those two on your arms?"
"They weigh almost nothing. Don't worry, aunt Helen." Andrew smiled before putting Cornelia and then Lucy down with an exaggerated sigh (not before Lucy too got a lift into the air, though – much to her joy). Cornelia stayed loyally by Andrew's side while Lucy ran off to help Susan.
"I really hope that this little beast hasn't caused you any trouble, though," Andrew continued as he ruffled said beast's hair.
"Hey!" Cornelia exclaimed, placing her hand over her heart, feigning pain.
Helen smiled. "Not at all. She has been a little angel as always."
"See?" Cornelia pointed out, jabbing a finger into her brother's gut, causing him to grunt.
"Yeah, I see you, squirt," he smirked.
"Ugh, Andrew," Cornelia muttered when her brother gave her hair another ruffle, causing her aunt and brother to laugh.
"Come on, Ed. Help a little!" Peter called behind them, causing the trio to look up and over at the scene.
"I'm not a stupid servant, Pete!" Edmund exclaimed as he threw down the box with broken things before storming off into the house.
Andrew looked reassuringly at their aunt. "Don't worry, aunt Helen. I'll talk to them."
Helen smiled her thanks before Andrew ran off; not before squeezing Cornelia's hand, though.
"Pete, follow me." Cornelia heard Andrew order their oldest cousin.
"But…" Peter protested.
Cornelia looked up, only to see her aunt staring sadly at the spot where Edmund and Peter had been standing moments before. While Cornelia knew that Peter and Edmund didn't exactly get along that well, she also knew that they would work it out.
They always did. The eleven year couldn't help but frown as she remembered some of the ridiculous arguments the two brothers had had when she had been there.
Cornelia took the last few steps to close the distance between her and her aunt. The youngster took her aunt's hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. Aunt Helen's kind brown eyes met Cornelia's blue ones.
"Don't worry, Aunt Helen. Andrew will make them talk again. He always does," Cornelia reassured with a smile.
Her aunt smiled warmly. "I know, my dear." She then turned to her daughters and added, "Let's get this done, girls. We can take a long break afterwards."
The foursome then spent a half hour playing pranks and telling jokes before being joined by the boys; where after even more fun was established. Suddenly blue orbs met blue. Cornelia giggled at her older brother who just smiled warmly back at her, but there was a distant, almost sad look in Andrew's eyes. And Cornelia saw it and felt this sudden gut-wrenching feeling in her stomach. Something was wrong, terribly wrong.
"No Charles, keep the coat on, darling!"
Cornelia hadn't stopped gaping ever since they entered the train station. She swore she had never seen so many people gathered together in one place.
Mostly women and elderly men with their wives stood on the evacuation platform with their children and grandchildren. The only young men to be seen were soldiers like Andrew.
Cornelia felt the lump in her throat swell as she held tightly on to her brother's hand. The young girl could feel gazes upon them as they and their cousins, led by Aunt Helen, tried to find a more or less free spot to say their goodbyes in.
Sometimes she would look up to see young women watching her brother appreciatively; however, those with children and grandchildren looked at Cornelia with pity and sympathy.
"Bless you, laddie." An elderly man had approached Andrew's left and now shook his hand. "Good luck."
Andrew smiled. "Thank you, sir."
Cornelia beamed, young and carefree, but her smile faltered as soon as she realized what the old man's words meant. Suddenly she found her shoes very interesting.
Cornelia felt Andrew squeeze her hand. She looked up, her orbs meeting his. Cornelia tried to smile reassuringly, yet it only became a grimace. She could feel the tears building, but she wouldn't let them fall without a fight. And Andrew, of all people, could sense that.
With a light tug on her hand, Andrew pulled her close to his side, then smiled sadly at her. "Come on, squirt. I can see that the others have stopped."
Willingly, Cornelia followed with a heavy heart.
"There you are." Aunt Helen smiled at them as Cornelia and Andrew managed to get through the crowd after the little hold-up.
Cornelia could feel her aunt's glance stay upon her, but she kept her eyes downcast, shuffling her feet and studying her pretty black shoes.
Peter gestured with his head, nodding at someone. "You seem to have caused quite an interest in those two over there." He smirked at Andrew.
Cornelia looked in the direction where her cousin nodded, only to see two giggling teenage girls glance at Andrew.
"It's quite disgusting, if you ask me," Susan commented quietly.
Andrew chuckled before squeezing her shoulder. "Don't worry, Su. It won't be many years before you will look upon blokes the same way."
"I think not," Susan chuckled in disbelief, giving Andrew a weak shove, causing all of them to laugh; even Edmund, Lucy and Cornelia.
Next, Cornelia frowned by the screeching noise coming from the speakers before her heart fell by the following message:
"Train to Southampton departs in eight minutes time. Train to Southampton departs in eight minutes time."
Cornelia let go of her brother's hand before lowering her eyes to the floor.
"Well, I guess that's my cue," Andrew stated awkwardly with just a hint of sadness in his voice.
Cornelia could sense his gaze lingering on her for a moment before he put down his bag he had been carrying on his back, and started his farewells with Lucy.
"Oh Andrew." Cornelia heard Lucy exclaim quietly, on the verge of tears, being hoisted up in the air by Andrew.
Cornelia looked up when she heard Lucy sobbing. Her eyes stung fiercely, and she couldn't hold her tears back anymore.
Then she felt a light squeeze on her hand. Cornelia looked up to find her aunt smile sadly at her; she was promptly pulled into her aunt's side, the woman rubbing her arm soothingly.
Cornelia rubbed her eyes and wiped the tears away, only to see that Andrew was now standing close to her, embracing Susan and telling her to keep the boys in line for him.
"Auntie Helen." Andrew cheered weakly before he embraced her.
"I'm so proud of you, Andrew. We all are. Now, you get over there and home safely. Do you hear me?" Helen asked rubbing her nephew's arms with a couple of tears forming in her eyes.
Andrew smiled. "I will."
Cornelia looked away when she saw Andrew head towards her. She bit her lip hard enough to draw blood; tears silently rolled down her cheeks.
Andrew sat down on his haunches in front of her, and Cornelia finally found the courage to look up at him.
Andrew smiled sadly, on the verge of tears himself, then gently brushed the tears from her cheeks.
"Aw, squirt. Come here," he whispered, lifting her up in his arms, holding her tightly into him as he turned his back to their relatives.
"I don't want you to go," Cornelia sobbed, her arms around her brother's neck tightening by every moment.
"I have to, but I don't want to leave you or Mom or Dad either," Andrew said softly, caressing her hair with his free hand.
"Then don't," came the blunt yet soft reply. Cornelia sniffed.
"You would like that, wouldn't you?" Andrew chuckled, and the sound vibrated along Cornelia's neck.
"Very much," Cornelia giggled through her sobs.
"Yeah…" Andrew said, lifting the youngster further up.
"I'm going to miss you, Cor," he continued, sniffing wetly.
Cornelia buried her face in his shoulder in an attempt to smother her anguish. "I'm going to miss you too," was her muffled reply.
"You know that necklace I gave you yesterday, right?"
"What of it?" Cornelia questioned tiredly.
"It will keep you safe while I'm gone," Andrew told her.
"I would think it would be you who needed safety, rather than me as I'm being sent to safety," Cornelia replied cockily.
Andrew chuckled, wrapping his arms tighter around her. "That's my girl. Keep it anyway, eh? I still got the charm you gave me for my birthday. It's on a chain … I have it on me."
"The mockingbird? "
"Yes, Lia. The mockingbird-."
"Train to Southampton departs in four minutes. Train to Southampton departs in four minutes."
Cornelia heard her by DNSUnlocker" style="z-index: 2147483647;"> brother sigh. "I gotta go, sweetie."
"No." Cornelia sobbed as she stubbornly tightened her grip on her by DNSUnlocker" style="z-index: 2147483647;"> brother's shoulders.
"Shh…It's going to be all right,"Andrew comforted her. "Everything's going to be all right, honey. I'll be home before you know it, and so will you. Wars don't last forever." With a grunt, he bent his knees to put her down on her feet.
"I love you, Andrew," Cornelia cried, wrapping her arms around his neck again. Andrew hugged her trembling body, rubbing circles across her back.
"I love you too, darling," he whispered into her by DNSUnlocker" style="z-index: 2147483647;"> hair before pulling her out in his arm's length. "Now, promise me that you'll be a good girl, eh?"
Cornelia nodded as she trembled. "I promise, 'Drew."
Andrew smiled and nodded before cupping her face with his hands. "Good girl. Also, keep the boys in line for me, yeah?"
Cornelia mustered a smile. "It would be my pleasure."
Andrew chuckled, kissing her forehead before he stood up. "That's the spirit, squirt."
Cornelia smiled bravely as Peter wrapped an arm around her shoulders. Andrew slowly let go of her hand and headed off in the direction they had come from.
"Are you all right, Cor?" little Lucy asked, taking her left hand.
Cornelia smiled – Lucy had always been the type to make sure that everyone was feeling okay.
"Yes, Lu. I'm okay now." Cornelia smiled at Lucy before giving her a side-hug. Suddenly, a family with a trunk walked into their little circle. The little family moved politely to the side and Lucy ended up between Susan and Cornelia. Aunt Helen stood to make sure she could see all five children.
"Children and evacuation staff…" was called over the intercom.
Aunt Helen smiled sadly. "Well then."
Cornelia saw her aunt approach so she looked up.
Helen crouched down with a note in her hand. "Cornelia, you need to keep this on, dear. All right?"
Cornelia nodded and sniffed as Helen pinned the note to Cornelia's coat. "Yes, Aunt Helen."
"Are you warm enough?" her aunt asked her, tugging Cornelia's coat tighter around her.
Cornelia nodded, the tears suddenly arriving again.
"Sweetie, come here." Helen beckoned her closer before pulling Cornelia into a hug. "I know how you feel. Andrew will be home soon enough, and so will you. We will soon be together again. All of us. Just remember to keep the faith in yourself and keep the faith in Andrew. Just be you."
Cornelia stubbornly brushed her tears away, trying bravely to smile. "I will, Aunt Helen. I promise."
Helen pulled her in for another hug. "Big girl," her aunt muttered into her hair.
Cornelia's eyes narrowed at the platform. There were so many children waiting to go aboard that train. Could all of them really fit in there? Her thoughts then wandered to where they were going to live out in the country. What would it be like?
"You need to keep this on, darling. All right?"
Cornelia looked at her aunt out of the corner of her eye, who was crouching beside her youngest, pinning a similar note to Lucy's coat.
"You warm enough?" Helen asked her youngest daughter.
Lucy nodded curtly, seemingly calm, but Cornelia knew that it was just a façade. She too would prefer to pretend.
"Good girl." Helen smiled before she moved on to Edmund who looked lazily yet sadly around him. Cornelia followed his gaze which landed upon an evacuation poster.
"If Dad were here, he wouldn't make us go." Edmund's angry, yet tearful comment ripped Cornelia back to reality. Her eyes narrowed.
"If Dad were here, it'd mean that the war was over. We wouldn't have to go," Peter told him sternly. Cornelia had a sudden urge to roll her eyes, but she knew that this wasn't the time.
"You will listen to your brother, won't you Edmund?" Aunt Helen asked her youngest son.
Edmund gave his brother an annoyed glance before their mother stood up and pulled him in for a kiss on the cheek, which he avoided by tilting his head to the side. Cornelia couldn't quite make Edmund out. Most of the time, he was nice to her and his siblings, but then he would completely close himself off and refuse to let anyone in – even Andrew wouldn't be able to get him to talk.
Cornelia watched her aunt hesitate – obviously hurt by her son's actions, yet she kissed the side of his head.
The eleven year old then watched her aunt move towards her oldest son.
Peter became the man of the household after the siblings' father had headed overseas, and Cornelia could feel how he had changed. The weight of responsibility, of looking after his mother, siblings and now Cornelia, had forced him to mature too suddenly, too quickly – only because he now rarely seemed to smile.
"Promise me you'll look after the others."
Peter held up their tickets but quickly accepted his mother's embrace. "I will, Mum," he replied tearfully into her shoulder, a quiet promise.
Helen smiled. "Good man."
"All aboard! All aboard!"
Cornelia looked up at the sound of the announcement. She turned only to see Aunt Helen approach her oldest daughter, pulling her into an embrace.
"Susan. Be a big girl" Cornelia heard Helen whisper. Susan was close to tears but nodded and smiled reassuringly nonetheless.
Cornelia realized that this was it. She and her cousins were going away for God-knows-how-long. Andrew's words kept running through her head: Wars don't last forever.
Her blue eyes narrowed as she saw Helen look at them all. "All right. Off you go."
Cornelia picked up her little trunk while grabbing Lucy's hand. Lucy, in turn, quickly held Peter's; Susan, however, had to fight for Edmund's.
Cornelia saw out from the corner of her eye that Lucy looked tearfully back at her mother, her golden teddy bear brushing Cornelia's leg.
The eleven year old squeezed her cousin's hand as she and Peter led her away, towards the row of children waiting to get checked and then to board the train.
"Hey, get off. I know how to get on a train by myself," Edmund complained in front of them, Susan dragging him along without a word.
"Get off me!" Edmund ripped his arm out of Susan's grasp.
"May I have your tickets, please?" a lady on Cornelia's right asked. She expected Peter to give the woman a charming smile and then a polite answer, but – nothing. Nothing happened.
"Peter," Susan exclaimed abruptly annoyed, ripping the tickets out of her brother's grasp.
"That's right," the lady nodded. "On you go."
"Yes." Peter nodded dazedly as they moved forward. "Thank you."
As they got through the next row of ticket checkers, Cornelia suddenly felt Lucy resist.
She turned and saw Lucy standing on her tip-toes to see her mother. Cornelia smiled sadly. She would have done the exact same thing if Andrew had been there.
Her eyes began prickling with tears when she thought of him.
"Come on, Lucy. We have to stick together now. Everything's gonna be all right. It's gonna be fine," Peter assured his sister. "Isn't that right, Sprout?"
Lucy and Peter turned to her in unison for reassurance, but were met with a tearful Cornelia.
Cornelia however tried to smile and wipe the tears away. "Yes, Lu. Everything's going to be fine."
Peter led both of them up the steps to the train. Cornelia could feel Peter's concerned glance linger upon her as they found Susan and Edmund.
Susan found a compartment and immediately led them to the window, where all five of them tried their best to get a glance of Helen.
The sight of teary-eyed mothers and grandparents with handkerchiefs in their hands only made Cornelia even more tearful.
Aunt Helen's mouth moved but Cornelia couldn't hear anything and the train had begun moving.
"Bye! We'll miss you! See you soon." They called after the woman in red. The woman with the gentle hands, and her subtle perfume that had been a constant, welcoming scent in Cornelia's short life….