Chapter 8 - The Knowledge of April: Time Together and The Book
April came down the stairs feeling groggy. She had slept soundly, surprising herself after the stress of yesterday. She almost ran into Peter as she came out of the stairway. He caught her by the upper arms and steadied her.
"'Morning, beautiful," he said kissing her lightly and quickly on the cheek.
He continued on to the lavatory to wash up for breakfast she assumed. Entering the kitchen she saw her mother was putting the food on the table.
"Are you all eating earlier now?" she asked.
"No," her mother replied. “Peter helped your father with the chores this morning, so they got done very quickly".
Peter slid into his seat. "Hey! This looks great. They don't feed us like this at school, do they April?"
As April sat down she wondered at his mood. She looked at her father. He looked happy too. Well, maybe she didn't have to worry about the two of them anymore. She tried to clear the cobwebs from her brain and felt Peter looking at her.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
She nodded and was about to reply when a voice asked, "So, what are you two kids doing today?"
Kids? She never thought of herself as a "kid" anymore. She thought she might be a little grumpy today. Everyone was waiting for her to reply.
"Um, I thought Peter and I would bicycle around the village."
That seemed to appease them. Her mother was saying something about shopping for food and Peter was agreeing, and Elisa was chattering about going to Sophie's to play after school. She just wanted to sit still and collect her thoughts. She also planned to show Peter the book today, but she couldn't say that out loud. Soon her father and Elisa left. She heard Peter help clear the table. Then, she felt him grab her hand and walk her into the living room. He sat her down on the couch and perched beside her.
"Now, are you really all right?" he asked, peering into her face with a worried expression.
"Yes, just feeling a little grumpy," she said. "Don't tell me you're a morning person?!"
He laughed, "Most of the time. I've never seen you grumpy...this could be fun." He gave her a mischievous look, "I could tickle you. Are you ticklish?" He started poking her in the side.
"Peter, stop that! Oh, now quit," she said, squirming away and trying not to smile.
"Ha!" he exclaimed. "I've discovered the secret to get rid of April's morning grumps!" Hearing the back door shut, he said, "I bet I know another way to get rid of them..." and he kissed her until the door opened again.
"Mmm, I like the second way best. I could wake up like that every morning and be happy all day long."
Peter stood and pulled her off the couch. "Now where are those bicycles?"
They had a great morning. April, sufficiently woken and cheered up, led Peter around the outskirts of the village pointing out interesting spots where she would talk about the history. They stopped in front of a very large tower and Peter asked about it.
"Oh, that's Sway Tower. It can be seen from most points in The New Forest. It is 66 meters (200 feet) tall and is sometimes known as ‘Peterson's Folly’. It was built by Andrew Peterson in the late 1800’s. Peterson had seen towers like this in India. It’s made entirely out of concrete. Only the windows have iron supports. It is the tallest non-reinforced concrete structure in the world. Our industry is stone work and mining the limestone that they use in the concrete. Peterson used this structure to advertise the superiority of the cement that we help to make here."
From there they made their way to the shops and picked up the orders for her mother. Meat from the butchers and some other staples from the grocers. As they were loading the bicycle baskets, April looked wistfully at the shop next door. At Peter’s insistence they went inside.
"This was one of my favorite places as a child. Everything is much too expensive in here for me, but the tourists love it." She fingered some silken scarves, "Apparently, these are cheaper here than in London." As they were on their way out, she stopped. "Oh, I can't believe Madeline still stocks these!" She held up a small jewelry box that when opened played a waltz and had a small ballerina that spun around. I always wanted one of these when I was younger."
At that point a friend called her name from outside and she ran out to greet her. Peter quickly grabbed the box and took it to the counter. Madeline introduced herself with a knowing smile. He pulled the bills out of his wallet and asked if she could keep it there until just before they boarded the train in a few days. She smiled and agreed saying, "I've kept one of these on the shelves for years, just for April. You are a dear for giving this to her."
As he walked out of the shop to meet April his smile was huge. He waved April's interest away and talked with her friend instead of answering her questions. They rode peacefully back to the cottage together, parked the bikes, took in the supplies, then wandered around the gardens. They found Miranda in the back working in the herb section.
“Mrs. Treed, your gardens are magnificent!” Peter exclaimed.
“Thank you, Peter. That is quite a complement coming from someone who is ‘magnificent,’” she said with a smile. Peter flushed and Miranda laughed, “I do think they are nice to look at and smell good too.” She held up a sprig of mint.
“Mother, I thought I would take Peter in to look at the book, is that okay with you?” inquired April. Miranda nodded. When April turned to Peter she thought he looked like a little kid at Christmas time. They almost ran to the cottage.
April unearthed the book from its hiding place and they sat on the couch. Peter held the book and was surprised that was quite heavy and as large as his lap. As old as the ages, the leather cover was worn smooth, the pages were brown and brittle. The illustrations and lettering were faded but still legible. April felt the same thrill of excitement now as she had every time she had opened the book in the past. She curled her feet under her and leaned against Peter so she could see the book and be close to him. The cover page read, The Chronicles of the Pevensie family, Kings and Queens of Narnia, the Adventures and Details of The Golden Age of Narnia. Written by Lucy Pevensie, Illustrated by Faun Tumnus.
April looked at Peter. A myriad of emotions were flitting across his face. He looked over at her and to her surprise, his eyes were welled with tears. She placed a hand on his arm.
“I’m not sure why I am so emotional…maybe because this is proof that we were there. We have our memories, but often those seem like dreams. This book and those paintings are proof that Narnia exists, that we existed there. Thank you…for helping to affirm who I am.” He leaned his forehead against hers and took a deep breath.
They looked at the book for hours, forgetting that they missed lunch and tea time, laughing and scowling at the memories it evoked. April heard many new details about Narnia from his perspective, the war with the giants, dealing with the Calormens, visits with other heads of states, the parties they threw, and finally hunting for the white stag. She sat enthralled letting him talk, asking very few questions. Intrigued by the parts about Aslan, she resolved to talk with Peter and Lucy more about him. At one point they heard a noise and noticed Miranda at the door.
“Do you mind Peter, if I have been listening too? I grew up on these stories and it is amazing to hear you add the detail to them.”
Peter graciously invited her in and included her in the conversation. They talked until they heard Elisa shouting on her way home. “Can we look at it some more tomorrow?” Peter asked. “Of course,” they replied. Then, before giving the book to April he flipped to the very back, where Tumnus had drawn each of them after they left. He traced his adult image with a finger wistfully. Then April quickly put the book away.
“Will you go for a walk with me?” Peter asked April.
Miranda encouraged them to go and went in the kitchen to begin quickly preparing dinner.
They walked in silence alongside of the small stream that ran across the back of the house near the woods. They had dawn closer to the woods and in the fading light found themselves in a spot with some privacy from the house.
“I didn’t realize just how much I had forgotten. We spent so much time there. I grew up there, I became a man there, I…” His voice broke.
April took his hand and intertwined their fingers. She raised his hand to her lips, kissed it and turned him towards her. “You may not feel the same, but I am so glad you came back when you did. I could not imagine my life without you and I have only known you for a few months. I would have always kept on dreaming about you, and possibly found love elsewhere, but you would have always held a special place in my heart. I’m so happy to know that I have all of my heart to give you.”
Peter looked deeply into her eyes. He took her face in his hands and kissed her tenderly with all the love he felt but could not express with words.
April woke with a start and was surprised to find that she had been dreaming. It seemed so real. She had dreamed before of Peter, but not like this. Finding she was thirsty she stole down the stairs expertly avoiding the ones that creaked. The moonlight was streaming in through the kitchen window. It almost seemed like day, the light was so bright.
She got a drink of water and stood by the sink looking at the full moon. No wonder she couldn't sleep. She had always been affected by the moon when it was full. She heard a noise behind her and turned quickly. Peter was standing in the doorway. She glanced quickly at the closed door of her parent’s room which was off the kitchen and then turned her attention back to Peter. He came slowly toward her with a look of awe on his face. Assuming he was looking at the moon, she said in an almost whisper, "Pretty, isn't it?" gesturing toward the sky.
"No. Not simply pretty, you are absolutely beautiful! I wasn't sure I was awake at first. I thought you might a dream or a spirit, so ethereal you seem." He said softly.
April wore a simple sleeveless white satin nightgown that almost came to her ankles. It wasn't anything fancy she thought, not anything that should provoke that kind of response in him.
Peter said, "The moon is amazing tonight. You can’t sleep?" When she nodded, he continued, "Me, either. I've never slept well during a full moon, I think it comes from being in Narnia for so long. None of the Narnian creatures wanted to sleep during the full moon. Many nights we would have moon festivals. They were fun. Since I have been back, I just get restless and dream too many dreams." He paused, then said, "Tonight they were of you."
April was surprised. They had been dreaming of each other?! He came nearer and she held out her hand at arm’s length in a gesture for him to stop. He did and her hand laid on his chest.
"Please don't come any closer Peter," she whispered in a choked voice. "If you were to kiss me now I wouldn't let you stop."
He nodded, seeming to understand perfectly. He moved out of her way and she went slowly toward the stairs.
"April…" he whispered
She turned and put her fingers to her lips as if to blow him a kiss and disappeared up the stairs. It took a long time for sleep to come. Tomorrow she knew she must take him to the grove. It was time.