Chapter 17 - Their Future Together: Strange Dangers
Peter took her to orientation the next day. He wanted to see the University he had chosen which happened to be just a few blocks away from the school/Royal Opera House. He promised to return for the reception that was to be held afterward.
After walking around the campus for a while, he returned to the Ballet school and met a smiling April who was very excited about her new life that would begin in the fall. He wished beyond anything that he would be attending the University right next door. It would be great to be so close to her. After the reception they walked back to the house. She seemed to be moving slower than normal, but it had been an exciting two days for her. When they got into the house, his father called to him.
"Peter, come in here for a moment, please."
"Yes, father. April, why don't you go upstairs and rest? You've had a busy day." He watched her walk slowly up the stairs.
Peter went into his father's study. His father wanted to go over some more details about the summer and the examinations he would be studying for. After he was finished he stepped out into the hallway. His mother was passing by.
"Mum, have you seen April?" At her answer of no, he asked, "Would you mind to check her room? I don't think she was feeling well when we returned from the orientation, she was warm and a little unsteady on her feet."
Peter milled around downstairs waiting for his mother. She came to him concerned.
"Peter, I can't find her. She is not in her room, the girl's room, or the lavatory."
They began to check the house, Peter was starting to panic. He had been searching the upstairs sitting room when he heard a noise. The door to his and Edmund's room was closed as usual. He doubted his mum had thought to look in there. He opened the door slowly. The sight that met his eyes shocked him more than anything he had seen. April's clothes were in a pile on the floor. April, wearing only one of his t-shirts, left from last night, was asleep in his bed. She was lying on her side but her torso was turned so that her head lay face up. Her blond hair fanned out across his pillow and her arms were raised above her head. The shirt came just over the top of her thigh. It was the most provocative thing he had ever seen.
He stood in shock staring for a moment and then reached down and drew the sheet up over her. She was completely covered, but he still felt the need to preserve her modesty. She must have felt the difference in her sleep because she moaned and then curled onto her side like a little girl. He shook his head in disbelief. At that moment his mother appeared next to him.
"Oh, you found her! What happened? Why is she in here?"
Peter leaned down and put his nose near April's mouth. Alcohol? Where had she gotten alcohol?! He had been with her for most of the day. He motioned for his mother to smell.
"Maybe Vodka?" she whispered.
He pulled her out into the hall and closed the door. "I found her like this mom. Where could she have drank Vodka?"
And then it hit him. The reception after the audition! One of the older male dancers had come up to her and offered her a glass of punch and was talking with her. Peter had been a little ways away talking to an old friend, but had come to her side immediately. There was something about the look in the man's eyes that had set off his warning instincts. The man left soon after introductions were made. April had said the punch tasted different and it made her feel warm. She asked him to try it, but he had declined.
The punch had been spiked with alcohol, but why? And, was it just her punch or all of it? The thought was disconcerting and made him feel very protective and a bit panicky. He would have to watch over her carefully, but how could he if he was at Hendon? He relayed all this to his mum, who was concerned as well.
"Has she ever drank before, Peter?"
"I don't think so. We've never been in that situation together, and I didn't see any in her parent's home. I don't think they could afford it. Oh no, I know what could be coming next..."
When Peter had been thirteen and missing Narnia, he felt especially depressed one day and snuck into his parent's liquor cabinet. Although he had drank many kinds of alcohol in Narnia and had been drunk there, it was different in this world and his tolerance did not travel with him. What ensued was a horrible experience. Then, he had sworn he would never drink to get drunk again. Now, he knew he would wait until he was older and could handle it better. He felt for April, she had not even chosen to drink.
His mom said, "I will stay close to her Peter and help her if she needs it."
"Thank you Mom. I need some air and then I will talk with dad about it."
Peter could not get out of the house fast enough. He went out the back door to the small walled garden and sank down on a bench. He put his head in his hands, "Oh, Aslan, please help me. Help her. Help us!"
He couldn’t get the image of April out of his head. It would have been so easy to have looked at her…but that would have been cheating. Cheating both of them out of an experience that they should have had together. Not only that, but how would he have explained his actions to her? He was glad he had pulled the sheet up and covered her. It solidified his self-respect and his respect for her.
But, the image still stayed. He knew of other guys in his residence that looked at magazines and had pin ups in their rooms. He had always been taught to respect women in all ways and forms. And the men who looked at those pictures, there was no way they could keep that level of respect, not in the purest sense anyway. He shook his head to try to clear his thoughts and started to pace in the small space. What made it worse was that she was in his bed, in his clothes, on his pillow! How on earth was he going to be able to sleep tonight? Would he see her like that all the time, especially when he kissed her? This could definitely test the limits of his self-control.
He heard a noise and turned around. His dad had come to find him. Apparently his mom had told him what happened.
"Are you all right, son?" he asked.
"Dad, I don't know!" he moaned. "Not only do I have a provocative image of the girl that I love burned into my mind, which will drive me crazy for the next year and a half, but what if someone was deliberately trying to 'drug' her? I didn't think to look if anyone was following us. But, what if there is someone at that school that is preying on new students knowing they would never tell because they would have to forfeit their dream? I think that thought is going to haunt me more than seeing her like that! I won't be able to protect her if I am at Hendon!"
He sat down hard on the bench, slamming his palm onto the concrete. His father was silent, thinking. At last he said, "Let me ask my contact, see if he knows of anything. Try not to panic until we have some evidence. Perhaps your mother and I could look out for her in some way. We will figure this out. We won't knowingly leave her or you in danger."
Peter nodded. And about the other issue?
His father must have read his thoughts. "We men think differently than women. They are affected by the sight of us, but not the way we are of them. I know she would not have knowingly put you in this position. Son, you will have to come to terms with it, with her, somehow. You two seem to have a very open relationship, so talk to her about it. She will feel guilty regardless, but don't let this drive a wedge between the two of you. And, try, try not to put yourself in situations where you find yourself alone with her. It will only make things more difficult.
April did get ill, but not as bad as they all were expecting. When he saw her next she was pale and quiet. She was in the upstairs sitting room on the window seat staring outside.
"April," he said softly, moving her hair from her face, so he could see her better. She scooted closer to the window, so he could sit on the edge of the seat. He wasn't sure what to say to her. With a brief plea to Aslan, he said the first thing that came to mind.
"You're beautiful. So beautiful it hurts to look at you sometimes. Your beauty makes me feel weak yet strong, ravenous yet satisfied, and desirous but protective. I know none of that makes sense, but it is true. I long to protect you, whether it is from an unknown danger or from myself."
She put her arms around him and cried. She sobbed into his shoulder and he was completely powerless. What could he do to ease her pain? He held her close and began whispering a prayer. She soon calmed.
"How could somebody do this to me? To us? What if..."
"You cannot think about the what-ifs!" he said forcibly. "It won't help, it will only make things worse. Now, I am not sure what my mom told you but let me tell you what I know."
He told her everything. What he had seen and most importantly didn't see, how he covered her, and, though it was hard for him, how it had affected him. She was very embarrassed and he tried to make it easier for her.
His theory on why she was given the punch was that the man probably thought she was alone. Once he got close enough, he most likely saw the ring and when Peter came over, obviously making a statement that she was with him, he lost interest. Peter told her about the conversation with his father and they were going to make sure she was safe before school started in the fall. He hated this for her. She was so excited about getting closer to achieving her dream and then this had to happen. It was hard to see the evil in this world. In Narnia it was much more obvious. He wasn't sure how to fight against this kind. But, he would figure it out.
Peter woke up with a sense of urgency, something was happening. It was April, she was screaming his name. He leapt out of bed, pulling on a shirt as he ran into her room. She was still asleep and having a nightmare. He sat on the bed and pulled her up to him. Calling her name and smoothing her hair, she woke up and clung to him crying.
"Shhh, now, it's okay. I'm here. You’re safe," he said over and over.
His mother came into the room. "Peter...what? You can't...be in here."
"Mum, she had a nightmare, she was screaming for me. There...is no passion in me right now, I promise. I just need to take care of her...please."
His mother looked at him for a long moment and believing him, nodded, placed a hand on April's head and then left the room. Peter knew she wouldn't be far, but was relieved she hadn't chased him from the room. In any other circumstance he would feel passionate, but since this afternoon all he had felt toward April was a great tenderness.
She clung to him now like she was drowning. She refused to tell him the dream. Eventually her tears ceased and she began to relax in his arms. He gently laid her back down and covered her up.
"Please...don't leave me," she whispered.
How? He thought, and then agreed. He laid down next to her on top of the covers that she was under and put him arm over her.
"Thank you," she whispered and then drifted off to sleep.
He watched her for a moment and then fell asleep as well.
Early in the morning, his mother checked on them. She shook her head and went to find her husband. He looked in on them too and pursed his lips. They went down stairs to get some coffee and to talk. What were they going to do with those two? They were so young, but seemed to be so much older. They were close, too close for just the beginning of their relationship. There were no easy answers. They would have to see what time and circumstance brought. At least Peter and April would soon be back at school, safe behind the gates and rules. And, they would have to trust Peter and the way that they had raised him, although they were not quite sure who he even was these days.
The light streaming in the windows woke Peter. He had forgotten where he was for a second and then looked over at April. She was so peaceful, almost childlike in her sleep. Her eyelids fluttered open and she looked at him. She smiled to see him there. Her eyes were sleepy, yet full of love and hope. Then she remembered and they changed to fear and doubt. He saw it and kissed her gently.
"Don't worry love. It will be okay. I'm here," when he saw her about to protest he put a finger to her lips. Reading her thoughts, he said, "And, when I cannot be here with you, Aslan will be and He can protect you in more ways than I cannot."
She nodded. He told her to tell him about her dream. She didn't want to, but he needed to know what demons she was facing. And, in order for the dream to release her, she needed to talk about it. It was horrible. He shuddered and was frightened by it too. He tightened his grip around her telling her it was only a dream.
When they arrived back at school they caught up the others on all that had happened.
Susan remarked, rolling her eyes, “For being in the real world, you two certainly have a lot of adventures."
Lucy was in awe of April's ring and the significance behind it. She was ecstatic that she would be gaining April as a sister one day. Even Edmund pounded Peter on the back saying, "Good work, ole chap!"
They all began making plans for the summer. It was decided after they got permission from all of the parents, which took a while with all of the letter writing that had to be done, that the Pevensies would journey to London to pack and prepare for their summer locations. April would go on home to Sway. After a week, Peter, Lucy, and Edmund would take the train to Sway to visit April and see the grove. Susan declined the trip saying that she really did not want to have anything to do with Narnia anymore, 'she was growing up'. She gave a pointed look at Peter as if to tell him he should too. Peter just rolled his eyes and turned his back talking to the others. After a couple of days in Sway, Peter would continue on to Wareham to study with the Professor, and Edmund with Lucy would head to the Scrubb's.
Peter had a letter from his father. There was no news about what had happened to April in London. His contact reported no prior incidents and there was no history of any complaints or foul play at the ballet school. Mr. Pevensie advised them to proceed as planned and they would talk with April when she came into London for the fall semester.
So, April still struggled with her fears because of what happened in London, but time began to heal those inner wounds. Time and Aslan, she would say later. She began to trust Aslan more, and in turn developed a maturity and depth to her character that even Edmund noticed. Peter would smile when he thought about it. Aslan was still preparing her for him. Peter didn't understand Aslan's ways, he never had, but he believed there was a plan and it included the two of them together.
Lucy, Peter, and Edmund boarded the train for Sway saying reluctant goodbyes to Susan and their parents. Once underway they became excited about their journey. More about seeing April than continuing on to their final destinations, but they tried not to think about that. Peter had talked with all of them about revealing their secret to their parents, but in the end they decided against it. Susan staunchly refused since she didn't want to have anything to do with Narnia anymore, saying it would just bring it all back up again. Peter refused to pretend anymore especially since his parents had already noticed the changes in him. In the end, they decided to leave it alone. Knowing, one day they might have to share, but for now they left things as they were.
April was waiting for them at the train station. It had only been a week since Peter had seen her, but it felt like forever. He hugged her then lifted her and swung her around. She blushed and told him to put her down. It was a small town after all. Not that everyone hadn't already been talking about the ring on her finger. But she really didn't care. She was just so happy to see them all!
Lucy was entranced with the small village and exclaimed over this and that until Edmund told her to pipe down. She grinned and shrugged and enjoyed the walk to the cottage. They would only be staying one night since the accommodations were so tight. April lamented that she wouldn't have more time with Peter, but decided to be grateful that she had this little bit. He wouldn't be too far away, and that was some comfort. He wanted her to come and visit him. There was a castle from the medieval ages there that would be fun to explore, but she knew it would never be appropriate for her to travel there alone.
She reminded Lucy and Edmund not to talk about Narnia while her father or Elisa were home. She told them about the paintings on the wall. She did not want a repeat of what had happened with Peter. She and Peter shared a smile over that memory.
When they got to the cottage Elisa ran out to greet them. She was overjoyed at the sight of Lucy and promised that they would be fast friends. Edmund was just as enthralled with the paintings as Peter had been but was very discreet about it. April watched her mother meet Edmund and smiled a secret smile, knowing that her mom's favorite King from the Narnia was Edmund. It was so much fun having them there.
When she met Peter's eyes the look in them made her shiver in anticipation. She realized it had been a long time since she had been in his arms. But, would they get a chance while he was here? Remembering what had happened in the grove was on both of their minds, but they would be fully chaperoned this time. And although April would dance to wake the trees, Peter would not be dancing with her as they had first planned. He had told her that would have to wait, and she understood perfectly.
Her mother graciously took Elisa out of the house so they could look at the book and go over some of the journal entries they had not seen before. Lucy cried when she saw Mr. Tumnus' name on the book and exclaimed over the pages. Edmund was in awe and practically speechless, not an easy feat. They would go to the grove in the morning. Their train would leave late the next afternoon.
They all helped get dinner on the table. It was a lively affair. Lucy infused everything with energy. Even April's father seemed to enjoy the chaos. It had been interesting to watch Peter greet her father. They shared a warm handclasp and a look of great respect had passed between them. She was happy, so happy. Nothing could be more perfect!
Lucy slept on the couch and pallets were made up on the living room floor for Peter and Edmund. April and Peter had walked in the gardens some after dinner, but they were never truly alone and she was becoming antsy. She tried to sleep, but it was difficult. It wasn't the moon this time that woke her in the middle of the night. It was the knowledge that Peter was downstairs. Was he awake, thinking of her too? Taking a chance, she had to see. It could be months before they had this opportunity again. She crept silently down the stairs into the kitchen. Now what was she to do? Heart beating, she peeked around the corner. He was lying on his back. Was he staring at the ceiling? She lightly scratched a fingernail against the wall. He turned and saw her. She melted back into the kitchen her heart beating even faster, did she know what she was doing? He came into the kitchen. She checked to be sure her parents door was fully closed, it was.
He stood near her. He touched her shoulder and ran his fingers down her bare arm. She trembled. He touched her hand and pulled her slowly towards him. Step, step. He touched her cheek and her lips. She looked into his eyes and like a magnet that cannot help its attraction moved until her lips met his. Pure bliss, she sighed. He gathered her closer and parted her lips. Sensation after sensation rippled through her body. She thought she was going to faint. They clung together for some time, then slowly he lessened his grip and his kiss and then held her in his arms, tight yet tender. He was trembling too.
"I'm glad you came," he said.
She nodded her head against him, not able to speak. She was content just to be in his arms. She didn't want the contact to end, but she knew it had to. They were risking too much already. She looked up at him. He kissed her again softly, he knew didn't want the time to end either, but he had to let her go. She slipped up the stairs almost forgetting to avoid the creaks and tried to fall back asleep. She kept thinking about him, how handsome he was, how he made her feel...when she finally fell asleep, she knew she was smiling.
The next morning when April came down the stairs, the boys were folding up their blankets. She looked at Peter. He winked at her, she blushed and went into the kitchen. Edmund elbowed Peter and raised both eyebrows in a 'what was that all about' question. Peter punched him in the arm.
"Ow! What was that for?" Edmund whined.
"For being nosy," Peter quipped.
Edmund lowered his voice, "It's not called nosy, its called accountability, right?"
Peter gave a slow nod, realizing, "Sorry, Ed. Thanks for remembering. You have nothing to worry about. I'm not going to get to see her for two months." Then in a low whisper he confided, "We just needed to spend a few minutes by ourselves. We both were in control."
"So, what are you kids doing today?"
Peter and April smiled.
"We are going into the forest. I thought we would try to find some of the wild ponies," answered April.
"Oooohhh, can I come too?" asked Elisa.
"Not today dear," answered her mother. "You and I are going to sew your new dress. Your doll might need a new dress too."
That distracted Elisa from the ponies and they made their plans.
It was a beautiful day to be in the forest. April talked with them about the grove while they walked. She reminded them not to touch the brush at the top of the circle nor to reach their hands in between the trees. She spoke of her ancestors and the traditions of their family. When they arrived Lucy and Edmund could hardly contain their excitement. Edmund checked his watch and they both circled around the grove exclaiming over the shimmering. Edmund made Peter go inside so he could test the invisibility. Lucy linked her arm in April's and thanked her for bringing them here. They walked into the grove together.
Lucy was talking but April couldn't hear her well. As soon as she walked into the circle of trees she felt it. Something was different, very different. She felt almost choked, like her air was being cut off. Peter noticed and came over to her.
"Do you feel it, Peter?" she asked.
Peter stopped and looked around. "It's different this time, isn't it?" The unusual energy he had felt here before was gone. Now, it just felt...lifeless and like something else that he couldn't define, but seemed familiar, dread perhaps?
Edmund and Lucy looked concerned. Peter said, "Try the dance."
She quickly put on her shoes, told them to remain still, and began. Lucy breathed in awe watching April move like the dryads, it was beautiful.
April began to feel a little better as she danced until she touched the first tree. She stepped back in shock, normally warm to her, the tree felt cold. The others did too. By the time she finished there were tears running down her cheeks and she was almost panicky. She ran into Peter's arms. They looked up. Where the trees should have swayed once or twice, they barely, almost imperceptibly moved.
"This isn't right," Peter said and motioned them to go to the large beech tree, her grandmother's tree. He spoke, introducing Lucy and Edmund, at first nothing happened, then one small shriveled leaf fell to April. April would have collapsed had Peter not been watching her. Tears ran uncontrollably down her face.
Edmund looked around wide-eyed, "Do you feel cold? I'm very cold all of a sudden."
They heard a strange crackling noise and noticed a white film began to form all around the edges of the circle at the base of the trees. Edmund touched it.
"Frost!" he exclaimed.
They all began to feel chilled. Then they heard it, not with their ears, but inside their minds. A woman's laugh, a deep vengeful laugh. They looked at each other in disbelief, but they all heard it. The air became colder and they heard the laughter again. Peter and Edmund reached to draw swords that were not there. They slowly backed up to the center of the circle. April trembled in Peter's arms and then fainted.
Edmund whispered, "It's her!"
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