Chapter 1 - Peter’s Journey: Sadness and Surprises
The past eight months had been difficult since arriving back in the train station. He spent most of the fall in shock, the winter in depression, and now that spring was here…who knew? He was a king, right? And, not just any king, he had been High-King for over fifteen years! That he had been given the opportunity to go back and help Caspian should have made a difference, but it didn't. It also didn't help that the last time he was in Narnia he had let his pride get in the way. He was still trying to cope with the choices he had made. And now, Narnia was gone for him, forever!
He could not reconcile his experiences in Narnia with the boring day-to-day life at this school. Once he had been in charge of kingdoms, of armies, a true leader. Here he was fifteen years old and the only decision he got to make was what food to put on his tray. It was no wonder that he wanted to be left alone. And, after winning the last few fist fights, most of the students just let him be.
Sometimes Edmund sat with him, but he had his own set of friends and had in most ways given up on trying to draw him out. It was easier for Ed, he was younger and did not have the sense of responsibility that was Peter's nature. Susan and Lucy had their friends too. They would smile and wave at him and then move on laughing and joking. That was it, they had all moved on, but not him.
He supposed the recent construction on the dining hall of the Saint Finbar’s School for Girls across the street, should have lifted his spirits since the room was overflowing with females at every meal. They were curious about him. His tall physique, blond hair, and striking blue eyes drew many admiring glances. But, he really could care less.
"How can I help?" asked Lucy when she came and ate with him one day.
"I don't know Lu. It's so confusing. How can I be one person there and a different one here?"
Lucy touched his arm and lowered her voice, "You are the same person Peter. Look inside yourself and see the king that you were. That brave, compassionate, diplomatic, generous person is still you. Try to incorporate all of those traits into who you are here. Don't let what happened there be a barrier to you, let it help you."
"How did you get to be so wise?" he teased.
"I learned it from you and Aslan," she said simply. "We miss you Peter."
As she walked away Peter thought about what she said. It was wise. He would have to stop avoiding the painful memories and try to deal with them. Aslan! He hadn't thought about him in much too long. He involuntary breathed a request, "Help me, please!" Maybe that was the key to becoming himself again.
It was on such a day surrounded by his introspective thoughts that a voice nearby startled him.
“Hullo, may I sit with you?”
He looked up and saw a tall willowy girl with bright green eyes. She had long thick blond hair that waved around her face in the style of the day. There was a slight smile on her face and she was obviously curious about his dumbstruck response.
He stammered, “Uh, sure.”
She smiled and said, “I’m April, April Treed."
He didn’t know why but there was something about her that was both familiar and strange at the same time, like they were from the same place. Time seemed to stand still for a moment, then he recovered,
“I’m Peter Pevensie.” He was quiet for another moment then said, "You must think I'm daft."
"No,” she replied in all seriousness. “I think you are lonely. You sit here like an island in this sea of people. Would you like me to leave you alone?"
"No!" he said, a little too quickly. He didn't know why he wanted her to stay, but there was something about her. It was like a fresh spring breeze had blown across him. An answer from Aslan? He was curious.
"Please stay," he said quietly.
"Where are you from Peter Pevensie?" She said lightly, making conversation as she took a bite of her chocolate cake. It was one of the school's specialties, all the girls loved it.
"London, well, most of time, at least before the war," he said.
“I’ve always wanted to live in London," she said smiling. "I am just thrilled to be on the outskirts. I’m a dancer. It has always been my dream to dance on the Royal Opera House stage.”
“Ballet, right?” He was intrigued. A dancer? It made sense. She was very graceful in her movements. Why had he even noticed that? She was saying something about a performance at Saint Finbar’s on Friday, would he like to come? He noticed around him that other students were starting to move towards afternoon classes.
“Sure,” he mumbled, not really aware of what he was agreeing to. She started to leave.
“Good bye Peter. Thank you for letting me sit with you.”
Then she was gone. He sat back stunned. For the first time in months he was curious and interested in something, or someone.
The next day he looked for her trying not to appear too eager. Would she come today? Likely not after the fool he made of himself. He heard a soft voice say,
His head snapped up, she came!
“Hullo,” he said.
It look all his resolve not to jump up, bow and pull her chair out for her. Courtly manners die hard, he thought grimly. He was determined to find out more about her this time, but, where to start?
“I didn’t get a chance to ask you yesterday. Where are you from?”
“I’m from Sway in Hampshire. It's a small village in The New Forest, about four hours southwest of here. My family has lived there for generations. I am the first one from my family to go away to school. It has been quite an adventure.”
“What made you decide to do that?” he asked.
“My grandmother’s dream was for me to travel away to school. She said I was special, that the best of the family rested inside me and that I should be able to realize my dreams and ‘make something of the spirit within me’. That sounds completely looney doesn’t it?”
“No, it doesn’t, that makes sense in a way that I haven’t heard in a long time.” And, it didn’t sound crazy, it sounded slightly…Narnian!
The ballet at Saint Finbar’s was Friday night. When he asked his sisters if they were going, they looked at him and laughed so hard they almost fell over. When they found out he was serious they were shocked.
"Who is she Peter?" asked Susan.
Peter told them what he knew about April.
"Oh, I know her!” exclaimed Lucy. "She is very kind. And, I know what you mean about there being something different about her. We'll go with you Peter, if you want.”
With relief, Peter thanked them.
All that week April sat with him at lunch. They talked more than they ate. On Friday, as April was leaving the table, Peter said softly, "See you this evening."
She stopped and stared at him her eyes brightening and her smile glowing.
"Thanks Peter," she whispered. And she seemed to almost float out of the room.
Peter was nervous. He straightened his tie for the fifth time and tried to stop fidgeting.
Susan rolled her eyes and said, "You are driving me crazy, I'm leaving."
Just as well, Susan was difficult and somewhat stuck up these days. Lucy smiled at him and patted his knee. He was glad she was here. This was a big deal for him and she knew it. The lights dimmed, the music started, the dancers came out on stage in introduction for the lead ballerina. The music swelled and the chorus of dancers parted to reveal the star of the show.
There she was, her movements so graceful she moved like the wind. Her form was so lithe and balanced her dancing was so beautiful. As she whirled and twirled on the stage he was mesmerized.
Lucy breathed, "Oh, how pretty...she moves like a...tree spirit!"
They looked at each other in amazement and disbelief. Could it be? How would it be even possible? But, they both felt the magic. It was as if time stood still again. Lucy would be the one to see it. She was closest to the trees in Narnia. They were her friends and she missed them so. It was a tree spirit, or dryad, as they called them, that awoke him to tell him what had happened the morning after Aslan had sacrificed himself. He would never forget the gentleness that the tree had, even with such horrible news. Then of course, he and all of them, owed their lives to the large trees that turned the battle in their favor against the Telmarines.
Before he knew it the show was over and the spell broken as the lights came back up.
"Let's wait and talk with her," suggested Lucy.
All he could do was nod. He did have the thought to be grateful for the pink rose Lucy suggested that he bring. After what seemed like an eternity, the dancers came out from back stage. April had a crowd around her. They waited a few more moments until it thinned to just a few people. As they approached, she turned and saw him.
"Peter!” she cried. "You came!"
“This is for you,” he smiled, handing her the rose.
"How beautiful, thank you."
A deep voice broke in, "April, who is this?"
Peter turned and there stood a very large man thick and well over six feet tall. Her father? He had a grim disapproving look on his face.
"Daddy, this is Peter Pevensie and his sister Lucy," acknowledging Lucy with a smile.
"Peter, my father Manfred, and my mother, Miranda."
Mr. Treed did not smile, but sized Peter up and looked at Peter's proffered hand with uncertainty. When he finally shook Peter's hand, the grip was massive and meaningful. Peter returned it and held eye contact.
"Nice to meet you sir," he said in a strong even voice.
One never forgets how to greet even your enemies in court. High King Peter was well known for his diplomacy and political grace. He turned to greet her mother who looked much like April, only lines of age and hard work showed on her timid face.
"Hi, I'm Elisa," a little voice piped up from below.
April laughed, a merry sound that eased the tension.
"And this," she said, hugging the child to her, "is my baby sister."
"I'm eight," Elisa said.
They all smiled. He turned to April hoping to get to talk to her more. But seeing her father's face, he knew he would have to wait.
"You danced beautifully,” he said. “See you on Monday at lunch."
Turning to her family he said, "It was very nice to meet you all."
Lucy exchanged her pleasantries and they left the auditorium.
"How can this be?" Lucy asked. "Do you want me to talk with her? I could see what she knows, then we could compare notes, this is so exciting! I can't believe it!" Lucy danced around him.
"Calm down Lu," he laughed. "Let's take it slow. Let me talk with her. I'll try to find her tomorrow."
"Sure," said Lucy. “I'll let you talk with her, but I still want to be her friend and get to know her better."
Peter smiled at her. "I'll walk you to your residence. Thanks for coming with me tonight. Funny, I can fight trained soldiers with a sword without blinking an eye, but the thought of coming to a ballet by myself terrified me." He hugged her.
"Anytime. It was fun!"