Chapter 13 - The Knowledge of April: Night and Days
The house was dark and quiet when April came back down the stairs. She was still dressed from the day not feeling it appropriate to wear her nightgown. Entering the living room with the journal and an additional lit candle she thought that Peter might be sleeping he was so still. He looked uncomfortable and in pain.
He heard her moving around. She was placing some pillows on the floor for comfort and to be closer to his level. The couch was already low the ground. He stirred and she checked his hand to make sure the bandages didn't need to be changed yet. Her mother had showed her how to change the dressings if needed. She sat down on the pillows and touched his cheek.
"Hi," he whispered.
"Oh Peter," she cried softly, laying her head on his chest. "I thought I had lost you. We just found each other and I couldn't bear the thought...I prayed so hard! You were so sick and white and still..." She started to sob softly against him.
"Hey now," he said indignantly. "You can't do that!"
She looked at him in surprise and he chuckled, "If I can't comfort you, you can't cry! I can't even move my hand to touch you."
He took his other hand and tried to touch her face but winced in pain. It must have happened when he fell. Sometimes the old shoulder injury acted up when it took another hit.
She laughed and smiled through her tears. "I love you Peter Pevensie, but don't you ever scare me like that again!"
"Come here," he said.
She leaned in closer, kissed his lips gently, and then sat back. He sighed. She laid her head back on his chest. Is was bliss to hear his heart beating. She must have slept but awoke with his movement. She got him some water, and helped him get more comfortable. Her father came out once during the night to help him up. As he settled him back on the couch, she got ready to change the dressings on his hand. Her father watched her for a long moment and then went back to bed. Amazing, she thought, and then turned her attention back to Peter.
She was very tender and gentle with him. They hated his being sick but knew they would not be together like this if he were well. She read to him her grandmother's version of the Caspian and Telmarines story from the beginning. And, they talked of little things, of nothing, and of the day. They relished being alone and awake together in the middle of the night. It was almost like being in the grove again but without the passion.
She did get rather brave and kissed him more than a few times, but the kisses were sweet and tender full of love and the relief of his being well enough to kiss. As morning began to dawn, they watched the sun rise through the window. The house began to stir for the day.
He smiled and whispered, "You were a great nurse."
She kissed him one last time, "You were a great patient."
Her father cleared his throat. April turned, not embarrassed in the least, and carried the medical supplies into the kitchen. Her father checked on Peter, helped him up, and just steadied him as he walked on his own. She sighed in relief, he was going to be okay.
Peter was feeling better, not up to running any races, as he liked to joke, but his hand was healing and his strength had returned. He had spent a whole day on the couch after April's night of nursing, but by the next morning he threatened bodily harm to anyone who tried to keep him there. They spent that day around the house and in the gardens, looking at the book and journal, then picked up Elisa at school.
April was helping her mom in the kitchen, Peter was sitting at the table drinking the constant glass of water that Miranda shoved in his hand. Delicious smells were starting to overcome the kitchen. April was making an apple pie and his mouth water. Miranda was working on the beginnings of dinner and the roast chicken was about to go in the oven. They were talking about school and telling Miranda about when they met and Peter's struggles with adjusting to this world from being in Narnia for so long.
Miranda asked, "So, has it been better now Peter? The longer you are back from Narnia, the easier it is getting?"
"Sometimes I think yes, April has really helped. And, this trip has been great. Now that I know that there are pieces of Narnia here, it seems not so far away. But, it is still really hard being a kid again. My brothers and sisters have struggled with it too, but not so much as me. Sometimes I really want to just jump to being an adult again."
"Oh, but Peter," Miranda sighed. "Think about the wonderful things you get to experience again. I'm sure it is different being a young person here, but it can still be just as fun. All too soon you will be out in the work world day after day paying the bills, wishing for some of the freedom of school days and school breaks like this one. Being an adult has its advantages, but also more responsibility. Take time to enjoy these days. Slow down and relish the opportunities you have been given. Many of us had to grow up too soon. I wouldn't wish that for either of you. Enjoy being young while you can. You don't want to look back and wish you had taken the time to embrace it."
April looked at Peter. He was seriously considering her words. She wondered if he was thinking of his recent illness. She hoped he would take her mother's words to heart. She wanted to grow up too. If nothing else, to be able to be with him all the time, but she also did not want all the worries that her parents had.
It was the last day of their break. Their train would leave to go back to school the next morning.
"So, what are you kids doing today?" came the question they had been expecting.
April opened her mouth to speak, but Peter placed a hand on her arm.
"I would really like to go to the sea shore today. It is only a short bus ride away, right? And, not just April and I, but all of us. Today is Saturday, there is no school or work. I know the bus fare will cost money. But you have been feeding me all week, and nursed me back to health. I haven't even been able to help with the chores these last few days. Please, let me treat us all to a holiday."
There was silence, then everyone started protesting at once, except for Elisa who was dancing around the room in excitement. Peter refuted each of their arguments with practical logic and solutions. And, presently they were packing extra clothes, a picnic lunch, going over the bus schedules and making plans. Finally they all got out of the door and to the bus station. Even Mr. Treed looked excited about the day. Miranda had a smile on her face that April had not seen in a long time. As the bus started on its way, April took Peter's good hand and intertwined their fingers.
"Thank you for making this happen," she said quietly. "You can be quite persuasive when you want to be. They need this, they are already more relaxed than I have seen them in a long time."
The weather was perfect. Warm, but with a cool sea breeze blowing over them. Elisa frolicked in the ocean's shallows wearing an old dress. April's parents sat on the blanket talking and holding hands of all things. April shook her head in wonder. She and Peter walked along the edge of the shore wading in the lapping waves and laughing together. They found the boardwalk and purchased ice cream for everyone and ran back as carefully as possible before it melted. Elisa had never had this treat and thought it was the most wonderful thing ever! After that they helped Elisa build a huge sand castle. Peter winked at her when he added a turret in a special spot. She knew he was building Cair Paravel just for her and that was where his chamber was that he used to dream of her in.
The sun was starting to get low in the sky, so before they left they all walked along the shore, Elisa gathering shells near her parents. Peter and April lagged behind. Peter held her hand and was stroking her arm gently and slowly. The gulls cried overhead and waves made a beautiful rolling noise in the background.
April sighed deeply and when he looked at her she said, "Peter, with the exception of your being sick, this has been the best week of my life. I don't want it to end. I can't stand the thought of not getting to see you all the time. Being in school is going to be torture."
He squeezed her hand in understanding. "This week has been great for me too in so many ways. Even being hurt was okay, because I had such a great nurse," he said, smiling. "It will be hard to be back at school. Your dining hall is supposed to be finished, so I guess we will just get to see each other on the weekends. It already makes me miss you. One of my favorite parts has been seeing you when you first wake up. You are so cute when you are grumpy!"
She tried to pull away at that but he held fast and kept her close to his side. If they had been alone, she wondered if he would have held and kissed her. They had not been alone since he had gotten well and she knew that once they were back at school, there would be no privacy. She found that she craved his touch and wondered if this was the consequence of their time in the grove. She refused to think of it as a mistake. How was she going to feel whole without being near him? She wanted to tell him how she felt but not with her parents so close. She looked up at him, he was watching her and smiling.
"Do you know what I am thinking?" she asked.
"Only if you are thinking whatever I think when I am not next to you...How am I going to survive until I can touch you again? I already miss you."
They had doubled back and it was time to load up and board the bus. All was quiet on the way back. The sun was setting. April laid her head on Peter's shoulder and fell asleep. When they arrived, he gently woke her and they all walked quietly back to the house. Elisa had fallen asleep on the bus and now slept in her father's arms as he carried her back to the house. Her mother turned and asked if they would run ahead and light the candles before they got there, so her father wouldn't trip in the dark holding Elisa.
Quickly finding the energy, they raced each other the rest of the way. Heart beating hard from the run and anticipation, she quickly got the candles and he helped her light them. Then he pulled her into the darkened kitchen and she found herself being kissed the way she had desperately hoped he would. She drifted in a world where only they existed and came to herself only when she heard the door. She spun away from him and lit the rest of the lights. Her parents took Elisa straight upstairs and Peter disappeared into the living room. She paused, holding onto the edge of the kitchen table as if to get her balance. She touched her lips gently, reliving the pressure of his. She turned around and found him leaning against the doorway near the stairs watching her. She glided over to him and then heard her mum coming down the steps.
"Good night," she whispered kissing him ever so quickly.
He backed away before her mum reached the bottom of the stairs. She said a goodnight to her mother and ran up. Sleep was a long time in coming for her. It was late when she finally started to drift off. Her last thought was that Peter was going to be very happy in the morning, because she was going to be really grumpy!