Chapter 6 - The Knowledge of April: Spring Formal
Lucy skipped into April’s room and stopped short when she saw her. Standing in front of a full length mirror April was smoothing the front of her dress.
“Oh, April. You are very beautiful!” she breathed.
April turned to Lucy with a wobbly smile, “Do you think so?”
“Peter is going to be speechless when he sees you! The dress turned out so nice.”
It was the evening of the annual Spring Formal Dance that both schools hosted together. Susan had graciously offered April one of her older gowns for the occasion. It was lavender which they all agreed needed to be green. Lucy helped April dye the dress to a light shade of forest green. The threading around the beads drew up more dye that the rest of the fabric giving darker green accents around them. The dress matched her eyes perfectly.
The sleeves of the dress were a type of tulle with beading that came from the base of her neck to over and around the top of her arm forming short translucent caps. The bodice was tight against her body and overlaid with the beaded tulle. It fit lower that she had ever worn before, and she touched her chest a bit self-consciously. The skirt was full and had a layer of beaded tulle stretching down the skirt and sweeping off to one side. It was the most beautiful dress she had ever seen, much less worn.
April’s blond hair was piled on top her head with curls. Small wisps had been pulled out to soften the effect around her face and it suited her perfectly. Her eyes were shining like emeralds and she wore a slight bit of makeup, just enough to set off her naturally rosy cheeks and flawless complexion.
Just then they called April’s name. Peter was here!
“I’ll run down and tell him you are coming,” said Lucy and she took off like a shot.
Lucy was a dear. April loved her almost as much as her eight year old younger sister Elisa. Lucy was only ten, but she had a wisdom far beyond her years, due to reigning as a Queen of Narnia. It was an amazing thought. Then her thoughts turned to the butterflies that were flitting about in her stomach. When she reminded herself that she had two very important questions to be answered by Peter tonight, they started to flit more furiously.
At the top of the stairs she paused. There was Peter waiting for her at the bottom looking more handsome that she had ever seen, or imagined him to be. He wore a traditional black tuxedo with short coat and long tails. His bow tie and vest were a light cream color and the suit fit his tall, broad physique perfectly. But, when she saw the look on his face, she was amused….he was indeed speechless! Then he started to smile the broad smile that he seemed to keep only for her. With an answered special smile of her own she slowly descended the stairs.
As she reached him, he bowed. There were giggles behind them as the younger girls, not yet able to attend the event, watched the older students. Still bowing, he took her hand and kissed it. They giggled louder when she curtsied to him.
“You are stunningly beautiful,” he said in a low voice.
“And you are most handsome,” she replied.
He pulled out a wrist corsage and tied the ribbon onto her delicate arm. As he held out his arm she tucked her hand at his elbow.
“Peter! April! Have a wonderful time!” Lucy called.
They waved at her. To Lucy it seemed that they floated down the porch stairs and out into the night. She sighed, it would be her turn one day. Right now she was too young. She grinned at that thought. Peter was actually too young as well. April was in her 11th year and Peter in his 10th. Only year 11 and year 12 students were allowed to attend. She liked to give him a hard time about dating an “older” woman.
Outside they walked along the paths. April pointed out where the event was to be held. Behind the common areas was a huge tent set up with a very large dance floor. Peter joked about being in forbidden territory since males were normally not allowed past the common areas. The tables were decorated with white cloths and spring flower bouquets. They had moved potted plants from the garden into the tent. And, 'fairy lights' (or Christmas tree lights as they are called in America), were strung from pole to pole giving the whole area a soft infusion of light. There were tables of punch and treats. The band, made up of younger students, were warming up in the corner. Students dressed in their best were starting to flow into the tent.
Peter got them something to drink and a couple of tiny chocolate cakes. They found Susan who was seeing a 12th year student named Christopher. Peter liked to rib Susan, since Chris looked like Caspian.
Over the last few weeks Peter and April had talked quite a bit about Narnia. He filled her in on their adventures with the Prince Caspian and the Telmarines that she wouldn’t have known about from her book. He spoke of his time as King and was starting to open up to her about how he felt while there. He seemed to be more relaxed in general and she hoped it was helping him to talk about his adventures. She loved listening to his stories, wishing she could have been there.
The band was starting off with a waltz. She had never waltzed before so when Peter turned to her and asked her to dance, she hesitated.
“Ballroom dancing class, remember?” he said with a wink. When she still looked unsure he leaned over and whispered in her ear, "The High King of Narnia is a very good dancer."
Left with no choice, she nodded, not trusting herself to speak. He showed her the basic step and then led her to the dance floor. No one else was brave enough to be out there and the band members were starting to look uncomfortable. Leave it to Peter to be the leader. He took her hands and placed them where they were supposed to go, and with a hand to her waist started to move. At first, she felt awkward and uncomfortable. She was able to complete the steps, she was a ballerina after all, but…
“April,” Peter laughingly broke into her thoughts. “Look at me, not at your feet. It will help.”
She raised her eyes to his and let out the breath she had been holding. It was easy then, they started to glide and turn making large sweeps across the floor. The other students feeling emboldened by their example came onto the floor, but April still felt like it was just her and Peter. He was not just a good dancer, he was an incredible dancer, she shouldn’t have been surprised. Leadership in any form came so naturally for him. She barely had to concentrate on the dance. A bit of pressure on her side, a lift of her elbow…he told her exactly where to move without saying a word.
He smiled at her, he was enjoying himself too. Good she thought, it would soon be time for her questions. Would she get the answers she hoped for?
After the waltz, the band jazzed things up and played a number for swing dancing. The dance floor was crowded now. The students were much more familiar with this dance. Made popular in Britain during the war, by American GI's stationed in the UK, most called it the 'Jitterbug'. April had been shown the basic steps by her friend who had a brother stationed at the RAF site in Christchurch early in the war. But, she was not quite prepared for the power of Peter’s moves. She laughed and was amazed at the way he twisted and turned leading her through the fast paced dance.
“Ready?” Peter yelled. Without missing a beat he picked her up by the waist and turned her against one side of his body and then the other.
Smiling, he called, “Great exercise, right?”
April was in a different place all together. It has been too much like the lifts and holds that she had imagined doing with him before she even met him. She needed to get some air. Thankfully, the song ended and they got some punch.
“Will you walk with me for a bit?” she asked.
They moved out of the tent to the paths that led around the grounds. They walked slowly arm in arm.
“That was fun!” she said. “You are a great dancer.”
“You’re not so bad yourself,” he said, winking at her.
She glanced around, they were in the copse of trees that she loved. She moved to stand in front of him. Taking a deep breath she stood closer and put both her hands on his chest. He had taken his coat off during the dance and she could feel his heart beating. His hands instinctively moved to her waist. He looked at her with a question in his eyes. She knew this was a bit out of character for her. But, she had to know…
“Peter,” she said softly, “Will you do something for me?”
“Anything,” he whispered.
She could sense his confusion, so she continued.
“I mean really kiss me. You have been so careful and so respectful, and I appreciate that, but…”
He drew her slightly closer, and bending his head, he kissed her softly and slowly as he had before. Her hands involuntarily went around his neck and he gently pulled her against him. He then deepened the kiss. A sweetness and sensation she had never known swept through her. They floated in a world where there was no time or space. It seemed as if an invisible force circled around them moving from their feet up and over their heads binding them together, connecting them as they had not been before.
When Peter finally pulled back gently, they were breathless. She moved to put her head on his shoulder and he held her.
“I hope you know, I am in love with you April,” he said tenderly in her ear.
She sighed, “I’m in love with you too Peter.”
Those were the answers she had been seeking, if he would indeed truly kiss her and if he felt about her as she did about him. She was fairly sure, due to the way he looked at her and seemed to enjoy spending time with her, but she had needed to hear the words. She needed to know that his feelings matched hers. She also needed to know before she brought him home to her parents. She was only sixteen, but she knew she was head over heels in love with him. It was the real thing!
Kissing her softly again, he suggested they move along before a staff member who was patrolling the grounds found them. She agreed. Just before they reached the tent she pulled him back.
“I have a question for you.”
“More?” he teased.
“No!” she said blushing. “Will you…go home with me on term break?”
Peter seemed surprised, then he started to grin. “I would love to!” he said excitedly.
She knew he was thinking about the Narnian books. She had to make sure of one more thing. “Do you want to come to be with me, or just to see the books?”
A frown creased his brow. “How can you ask me that question after what we just shared, after what I just told you? Didn’t you feel it too?” he demanded. He stepped backwards from her, his voice intense. “Of course, I want to know about the…books but, what I really want is to spend the week with you!” He took her hands. “How could you doubt that?”
“I’m sorry Peter, I did feel it too. I just had to ask, I guess I had a moment of insecurity.” She said sheepishly.
“That’s all right,” he said pulling her into a hug. “I certainly know what insecurity is like.”
“Wonderful,” she breathed a sigh of relief. “I can’t wait to show you the grove!”
"The grove?!" he asked. "Are you going to tell me what that is?"
"Nope," she said with a playful grin, "You sir, shall just have to wait and see."
The rest of the evening was wonderful. They went back to the tent and danced many dances together laughing, smiling, and just enjoying each other. April loved the slower dances best. There was something about being held in Peter's strong arms that made her feel protected and cherished. Still feeling the glow from his kiss and his declaration of love, she felt like she floated around the room all evening.
As they walked slowly back to her residence fingers intertwined she was reluctant for the evening to end.
"I had a wonderful time tonight. Thank you Peter."
"It has been a great pleasure, my lady." he said simply.
They stopped at the base of the porch stairs. He pulled her into his arms and kissed her softly but with an intensity that told her more than words could just how much he had enjoyed the evening.
"Good night," he whispered.
She walked up the steps and paused at the door, looking back at him. He gave her a deep bow and then disappeared into the night.
As she got to her room Lucy was there, looking sleepy but eager. She wanted to know all about the evening. April told her about the tent, the dancing, and the fun. Lucy loved hearing about April's awkwardness with the waltz. April told her how special it was to have Peter be in control and to lead her in that way. It reminded her of a conversation she had once with her grandmother. It made no sense at the time, but now it was very clear. 'When looking for the man you want to marry, make sure that he can be a leader and that you let him lead. Although you are a smart woman and would be fine to make all the decisions on your own, it is the natural order of things to let the man lead. If he has your best interests at heart, you will be able to trust him. It will make you feel protected and cherished and he will feel manly and respected. Love and respect are the keys to a lasting relationship.'
She shared her thoughts with Lucy who listened in quiet contemplation. April really missed her grandmother and would have loved to tell her about this evening. So she was happy that at least the wisdom of her grandmother could live on.
In talking over the evening with Lucy she did leave out the parts that needed to remain between her and Peter. Although the others were aware of the close relationship she had with Peter, they both felt it very important to keep the details private. It was fun for April to share those 'secrets' with Peter. She felt it set them apart and gave them a special closeness. So when Lucy asked if Peter had kissed her, April smiled a slight smile and simply said, "Yes!"