Chapter 3 - Peter’s Journey: It Happens
The next morning Lucy ran to catch up to April as they were leaving their residence at Saint Finbar’s. Lucy sensed a kindred spirit in April and even though Peter said to go slow (and he was moving slower than a snail), she intended to see if she could find out more about April. She broached the subject of Peter tentatively.
"So, you like my brother?"
"Yes, quite a bit actually," April blushed. "He's so....I haven't figured out exactly how to describe him yet. Dreamy is the best...what did you say?"
Lucy rolled her eyes. How many times in Narnia had she listened to women gushing over her brothers? She mumbled something mockingly under her breath. It sounded like 'Magnificent would work."
April's eyes flew open, she stopped and stared at Lucy. "Did you just say Magnificent? As in King Peter the Magnificent?"
"No, I...yes, but," stammered Lucy. She had no idea this would mean anything to April.
April was looking wide-eyed around the yard. "No, she said, it can't be! I don't...I have to go." She ran quickly down one of the paths.
"April, wait!" Lucy called. What had she done? So much for taking it slow. April was nowhere to be seen. It was starting to rain. Peter! She raced over to Hendon's dining hall and ran into the room. She almost ran over Edmund.
"What's wrong Lucy?"
"She knows, I have to get to Peter!" Lucy gasped for breath.
Peter and Susan had just gotten to the table and had seen Lucy run into Edmund. They hurried over.
"Oh, Peter," Lucy started crying. "I'm so sorry, I never meant to...you should have seen her face. She just ran out of the room. Is she here?"
"Who? What is going on Lu? Slow down!" he said.
"Come on, let's get out of here," Susan said. "People are starting to stare."
By the time they got out to the veranda Lucy was calm enough to speak. She explained what had happened. Peter's eyes were wide with fear and regret. He stepped to the edge of the porch and stared out into the pouring rain.
"I have to find her!"
"We'll go with you," said Edmund.
Peter walked quickly and purposefully into the rain and across campus. Would she go there in the rain? It was the only place to look. As he neared the copse of trees he saw a huddled form on the bench. He breathed a sigh of relief. April! He gestured to the others to stay back and wait. They were long used to recognizing his gestures and had learned to follow him without question.
He approached her quietly, said her name softly and put his hand on her shoulder. She jerked around in surprise and then just looked at him with utter sadness on her face as tears mixed with raindrops on her cheeks.
"How can it be true?" she asked. "The stories my grandmother told me, the book of fairy tales I used to read... what does it all mean?"
Peter made a quick gesture behind his back for the others to come closer. He knelt before her to look into her eyes.
"Narnia..." He begin hesitantly glancing at the others with raised eyebrows. Seeing their approval he continued. He had not spoken of Narnia to an outsider since the professor's house. And, they had made a pact never to tell the secret unless by unanimous consent.
"Narnia's time is different from ours," he said simply.
She looked at the four siblings with amazement. “Then it's true? You are the four Kings and Queens of Narnia?" Looking at each of them, she said, "Lucy, the Valiant; Susan, the Gentle; Edmund the Just..." She looked into Peter's eyes, "Peter...the Magnificent?" They all nodded at her.
She started to smile a slow smile, "I thought they were just stories! Will you explain it to me?"
"Yes," said Susan, ever the practical one, "Just not here. We are all soaked and it is almost time for classes. Let's meet at lunch. We can talk a little then."
The others ran off, but Peter didn't move. Seeing her look of uncertainty, he took her face in his hands.
"I am the same person now as I was then,” he whispered.
And, he finally knew it to be true. He kissed her gently then stood and offered her his hand. He tucked her hand in his arm and they walked in silence to her dormitory.
"I'll see you soon," he promised.
He thought about not going to classes, but decided not to draw any extra attention to himself. He changed into a dry uniform and went to class. He didn't hear a single thing that happened in his classes that morning. Thankfully, no one called on him. His thoughts were consumed by this morning's events. She looked so unsure at the end. Would she even show up at lunch? More importantly was what he said true? Had he truly incorporated the man he was in Narnia with the almost man that he was now?
It was just so hard and unfair that he had to be a kid again. He longed for adulthood with every fiber of his being. He knew he should be happy, most people would kill to be able to re-experience years of their life like he had. If it were reversed, normal life first, then growing up in Narnia, it would be perfect. But dreaming about that made no difference. He put his head in his hands. By Aslan, this life was hard! He had a feeling in his gut that it was going to take a work of Aslan just to get through these next hours.
He got to the dining hall first on purpose, but stood off to the side watching and waiting. He didn't want to appear too eager, and he didn't want to scare her away. She slipped quietly into the room and got her food. She moved slowly back to the table. He wasn't so sure that she wanted to be there. He got his food and by the time he joined her at the table the rest of them were there. They ate in silence, each awkward minute piling up like a wall. He was the leader, it was up to him to ease this situation. He cleared his throat, they all looked at him. He met each of their eyes and then looked at April.
"I know this morning was difficult for all of us, I think we all have unanswered questions. April, what would you like to know?"
April seemed most curious about who else knew. She then asked about the timing and how that worked. He wondered at that, why time should make such a difference for her. He was quiet for the most part, letting the others answer. He was waiting for her to look at him. She hadn't, not since the conversation started, something was wrong. Fear coiled up like a snake in his stomach. What if...? Then Edmund asked the question they were all waiting to hear the answer to.
"You mentioned a book of fairy tales?"
She took a deep breath, "The book is very old, and it has been in my family for generations. It might have been lost if my ancestors had more belongings or riches to past down. It details the story of two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve journeying to Narnia for the first time. It has illustrations that look like each of you. It tells the stories of your adventures during what it calls 'The Golden Age' of Narnia."
"Oh," said Lucy. "That's our book! Remember? We wanted to write down a record. Mr. Tumnus did the drawings!"
They all sat in awed silence. That something of that nature could be brought out of Narnia, when, how, and by who? April didn't know, but said there was a journal kept by her grandmother locked away at her home that might have the answers. Lunch was almost over.
Edmund said, "April, we are trusting you with our most valuable secret, with our reputations, with a precious part of our past. We count you as our friend in a way that cannot just be found here. I would like to make a toast. Let's raise our glasses to friendships both new and ancient, and to Narnia."
Everyone smiled and raised their cups. He knew the others felt relieved and ecstatic that they had someone to talk to about Narnian things. Who knew what had been written in the book after they left? He was excited to learn about that too. But, he desperately needed to make sure things were all right with April. He glanced her way, she was gone! She had left without a look in his direction. He was distraught, what should he do?
"Give her some time Peter," Susan said. "This is a lot to take in. She will come around once the shock wears off. "
He hoped she was right, but his instincts told him otherwise.
By lunchtime on Wednesday he was beside himself with worry, frustration, and something akin to panic. It had been two days since he had seen April. His frequent queries to Lucy proved to be futile. Yes, she was fine. Yes, April was eating. No, she had not mentioned Peter. No, she had not mentioned Narnia. Lucy said to give her some space. How could he? It was tearing him apart. He decided to write her a note, surely Lucy would take it to her.
“Dear April, I know you are upset. Please meet me for breakfast tomorrow so we can work this out. Know that I not giving up on you, nor am I giving up on us! Sincerely yours, Peter.”
She didn't reply or join him for breakfast. He sighed, he would give her until Saturday morning and then he was going to talk to her!
He never thought he could make it until Saturday morning but he had. When he was a small and very impatient child his Mum would tell him, 'There is pain in waiting, but whatever you are waiting for will be worth it.' He for sure knew about the pain part. He had withdrawn from everyone, shut them all out of his world again. But, this time there was a part of his heart that continuously plead for reconciliation. When he paid attention to the plea, a strange peace would come over him… Aslan?! How many more lessons must he learn?
He stood outside her dormitory waiting, he would wait all day if that was what it took. It was mid-morning when she finally emerged. She was looking down and didn’t see him.
“April!” he called.
She looked over. He knew he was a mess. He hadn’t eaten nor slept much this week.
“Peter…I…I can’t!” she pleaded.
“Please," he asked. "Don't shut me out. Just walk with me for a bit?”
She bit her lip then nodded. She looked very tired and very sad.
“Where are you headed?” he asked.
“The library, I have a project due.”
He nodded and they turned their steps that way.
“Thanks for your note,” she said simply.
He nodded again and then decided to plunge in. “What have I done? It is because I was in Narnia? Please… tell me!”
“Oh, Peter, it is not you...yes it does have to do with Narnia. But, it is too embarrassing to tell.”
"Please try. If there is someone else and you don’t want to see me anymore, tell me to leave you alone and I will. I promise.”
They had arrived at the library and stood in tense silence for a moment. She gestured to a bench off to the side of the building to give them a bit of privacy. The library didn’t have much traffic on a Saturday morning, so it was quiet.
She begin tentatively, “There is no one else, at least no one else but you. You have to understand, I grew up hearing your stories, reading the fairy…tales. I had no idea they were real! At first, they were just fun to hear and think about when my family was so grief stricken after Trisha's death. But, as I got a bit older, and understood more about life, I read the entire book again and again on my own. I began to dream about your adventures, but more so about you!”
She got up and started pacing wringing her hands. “I dreamed of you at night, and during the day…I daydreamed about what it would be like to be in Narnia to be a part of your adventures.” She blushed, “I was your Queen, Peter. We…I…the imaginings were so fun and entertaining that you kind of became my imaginary friend, well more than a friend. I envisioned myself talking with you and invented what you would say to the trees and all sorts of scenarios. And now, I know that you are real and, oh…I’m so embarrassed and confused.”
He rose from the bench and stood before her.
“Don’t be embarrassed. I think what you told me is fantastic! I don’t understand why this is a problem.” Seeing her face, he added, “This isn’t the whole story, is it?”
She shook her head in a wordless no and tears began to run down her face. “You see, I invented you Peter, your personality, your interests, your likes and your dislikes. I’m afraid I will find who you have always been in my head will be different from the person you actually are."
"Have I treated you wrongly? You know me pretty well already."
"No, and I know. I just dreamed up my fairy tale prince charming…well, King in your case. I guess all girls dream about the person they want to...grow old with.”
"You want to grow old with me? No...you don't. Is that what you are saying?" His face hardened, “I don’t measure up to the image you have of me in your head. Is that it?” he demanded harshly.
She grimaced, “I’m just scared, Peter, of the depth of my feelings and that I won’t be able to match the dream in my head with the person before me.”
“Isn’t that just great!" he laughed sardonically. I finally come to terms with who I was in Narnia and the person I am today, and the one I care about the most, can’t!
"So, are you going to tell me what was so wonderful about the imaginary me?” he said sarcastically.
As she shook her head no, he said, “Well, then, where do we go from here April?”
She hung her head as the tears started to flow in ernest, “I don’t know,” she whispered and ran into the library.Well, how do you like that! There was someone else, and it wasn’t him, no wait, it was! But, he was only real in her head. Wow! How crazy was that? Girls were so mixed up. Why on earth did he even want to try to understand them? He had no idea of what to do or where to go. He just felt like he needed to hit something. The tree worked nicely to bloody his knuckles. That kind of pain was refreshing. At least he knew how to deal with it. In reality, they were both so young. Should he really pursue this? Feeling how he did, knowing there was something Narnian about her, how could he not?