They speak often of Narnia in the days that followed, incapable of much else. Like all three of them were still trying to process all of it and remember every detail. By now coming back to England feels like a dance rehearsed one too many times. Yet the finality of it hits Edmund and Lucy the same way it did Susan and Peter. But they learn to live with it and keep going with their lives.
Edmund stops caring about the war that is now over in their world. He can only enjoy what he is given and let go of the rest. But it's not easy, that summer he wakes to Eustace's snores and the first few minutes he can feel it again. The soft rocking of the boat as it sailed. The salty taste of the air. As he wakes he expected to turn to his right and see Caspian. He expects to see his face slack in sleep, expects to see his palm, feel it and lace their fingers. But there’s no one there.The loneliness gets heavier and he turns to see the wall. He tells himself that nothingness isn't better that something you don't really want. He tells himself that Caspian will learn to be happy with the star. He doesn't think of her name, it's not her fault that he hates her.
So it’s now the summer of 1945 and the war is over, and yet nothing seems to have actually change. Lucy knows that logically, there will be no more attacks, but life continues the same way it had since 1940 and they had come back from Narnia the first time. There’s still a lack of food in England. There are people that can barely eat. The soldiers that come back are changed, haunted by the atrocities of war. The country is shaky, economy is grave and Lucy understands more than people her age. England is in debt as are most countries after a long war. Lucy remembers long nights spend in Narnia with her siblings. Worrying over the money the state possessed, trying to make sure it would be more than enough. Over the next years, the economic crisis in England is worse, things like bread, that hadn’t been controlled during war are under state control. Lucy even sees England’s empire fall apart in pieces little by little, she thinks of the Lone Islands, forgotten by Narnia. She wonders is the people in Narnia felt like this when her siblings and her disappeared.
Eustace spends the summer with his cousins. He’s not sure how to act at first. He doesn’t know how to act with his cousins at first. He sees them, sees the change. He wonders how he had never known before, never notice before, they don’t really belong to this world. And now, neither does he. He notices their longing. How Edmund will sometimes be outside and look around, like he’s expecting one of the little birds that fly around to speak. He notices the delicatess in which Lucy touches the trees. She even whispers something he can’t hear and then she waits for a second, like she expects them to wake up. He notices how Edmund wakes in the morning, Eustace sees him searching for a ghost that is no longer there. He notices how uncomfortable Lucy is in dresses, clearly she wishes for looser clothes. And Eustace understands that deep discomfort. Some mornings he feels the same they do. He feels like his skin is too tight around him, it feels too soft to his touch. Sometimes he actually expects to feels scales under his fingers instead. Sometimes he notices how unsharpened his teeth are, they don’t fit correctly within his mouth. Sometimes he’ll move around, careful of his size, like he expects himself to be much larger than he actually is. He’ll look at his own hands and wonder where his claws have gone to. When he hears his mother Alberta make a comment about his cousins being a bad influence on him, Eustace feels the fire pool in his belly and come up his throat. Of course there is no actual fire coming up. But it doesn’t make it any less real.
No matter how short his voyage to Narnia, Eustace had changed a great deal during that trip. He knows it and understands it. It was a horrible thing really. To change completely while the world stood still. So Eustace changes, it’s like the world has tilted around him, around its axis. When he expresses his interest about becoming a pilot, his mother clearly forbids it. But the idea of flying again is too attractive. Of course, he never gets there. His eyes feel sharper, he notices things now. Maybe because, he himself doesn’t feel quite like he belongs, just like his cousins. During that summer Eustace notices all kind of things about his cousins. Throughout the slide of days that summer, he notices the king and queen hiding in them. Eustace sees it in the way Edmund plays chess with him, mouvements deliberate and carefully thought. Mouvements Eustace had never quite seen, like he could actually see the people he was taking to war. Eustace would see it in the way Lucy would hold herself, how she would talk, her being demanded respect. And it a small corner of his mind, Eustace tells himself that he understands the Nanians. How could they ever tell her no after meeting her. He thinks of his cousins leaving before the end of the summer and knows he’ll miss them with all his heart. Most likely, just as much as Narnians will miss them until the end of time.
During the last month of the summer, Eustace remembers a little information he learned from Reepicheep. There is no portraits of the Kings and Queens of Old in Narnia . Most of Narnians didn’t even know what their famed Kings and Queens of Old looked like. So Eustace asks for a camera for his birthday and his aunt gives him one. With a camera between his hands, he starts taking pictures of his cousins. Maybe if he goes back to Narnia he can take the good ones with him. He takes hundreds of pictures over the following years. Some are blurry and crooked, more so at the start. Then he starts developing a better eye for it. He captures a thousand moments.
The summer comes to an end. The following summer, Eustace leaves his parents house in Cambridge and goes to his cousin’s house in Finchley. Peter is back from the professor’s house, they’ll go visit over the summer. Susan is back in England, with their parents since the war has ended. Over that summer Eustace captures a thousand moments. He takes a picture of Peter one late afternoon. Peter’s reading some old book, his brows are frowned in reflection, his tongue poking out from between his lips. His face scrunches and Eustace wonders how many times King Peter had shown exactly this face. Had he spend nights over some dark and complexe document back in Narnia? Or was this expression only fitting of the latin book resting on the kitchen table in front of him? He takes a picture of Susan in the morning, like he’s never seen her before. Her hair isn’t ready, there is no make up on her face yet. It’s early and her eyes are still half-closed in sleep. She’s still in her morning clothes, no signs of petticoats or tights. Her face was soft and gentle without the makeup that usually gave her a sharper look. Her hands around a mug of coffee, she had started to drink it instead of tea back in the United States. She looks perfect in the morning and Eustace understands Lucy’s stories about the most beautiful women in Narnia. He wonders if she ever put on makeup in Narnia. He knows she didn’t. He takes another picture when Edmund brushes and braids her hair, during a second he gets a glimpse of a much longer hair being braided and decorated by all the siblings. Had this gentleness been suffocated by England? Had it been lost somewhere else? Eustace takes a picture of Edmund on a grey rainy day. He’s sitting by the window, a blank book on the armchair, he’s writing something in it. He never seems to stop writing lately. He hides the book, doesn’t let anyone get a glimpse of it. There’s a cup of peach tea by him, he writes so much it usually ends up cold, even if it’s his favorite. Edmund writes like he’s running out of time. Did he ever write like that in Narnia as a king? Or was that just in England as a boy? Edmund has gone through his last growth spurt, he’s barely shorter than Peter. He hasn’t put on weight and looks more like a skeleton than a man. Eustace takes a picture of Lucy in a rare sunny day outside. The sun is glaring down and her hair looks and shines like copper. She’s not wearing a dress or a skirt. Edmund’s clothes have been carefully altered by Susan and their mother to fit Lucy’s size. And Lucy finally looks like she’s comfortable, her feet are bared and she looks every piece the queen she had been. Her hair is messy, a few flowers braided in by Edmund. The shirt she’s wearing is still a little loose, the sleeves are cut short to her elbows. The pants have gone through a similar process, they sit high on her hips, cut short to cover just a little pass her knees. Eustace looks at her, wondering just how much more free she had been in Narnia. Had she always run around court without shoes on? Or was that because they were having a picnic outside in one of the rare sunny days? Eustace thinks of the paintings he had seen in books of dryads, nymphs and fairies and thinks how Lucy puts the paintings to shame. Because no black and white picture could ever capture just how out of this world she looks. He hopes he can show Caspian these pictures if he ever goes back to Narnia in his lifetime. At night he prays to the lion for it to happen.
They tell Peter and Susan all about their last adventure in Narnia. The islands, the sea, the people and everything in between. Well they don’t tell everything. While they talk about Caspian plenty, they all keep quiet about the relationship that developed between him and Ed. After all, if Edmund wants to talk about it then he will. They do talk about the dragon incident. about Aslan saving him. It results in a lot of entertaining talks. Susan lets out a startled laugh while Lucy rubs his back, telling him it’s all in good fun. Peter ask all kind of questions about dragons, as if he had gained some obscure knowledge while changing shape. He hadn’t. They’re outside and the weather is perfect for once, it’s sunny and amazing. They are sitting around the food, enjoying it, enjoying everything around them. Peter still has some food in his mouth when he gets up, taking the butter knife with him.
“Kneel, Eustace, one knee on the ground.”
Strange how it doesn’t even come to his mind to protest or ask about it, he kneels like a knight does in front of his king. Peter swallows the small piece of bread in his mouth before touching Eustace shoulders with the butterknife, one at the time. He smears some butter on the shirt at the same time but it doesn’t matter.
“For your services to Narnia aboard the Dawn Treader, I, High King Peter, named thee, Sir Eustace, the Undragoned and knight of Narnia.”
Eustace is dizzy after it for a second. He gets up and turns to Edmund, sitting besides him as Peter sits down again and talks to Susan.
“Can he do that?” Eustace whispers, shy and a little confused about the whole thing.
“Of course, he’s the high king, he could have knighted you with a lollipop if he had wanted to.” Edmund smiles at Eustace confused face, takes Eustace’s camera and snaps a picture.
Days after, they see the picture is blurred. But the confusion in Eustace’s face is still clear as day.
That summer, there are a thousand new experiences for Eustace. He gets to meet professor Digory and his friend Polly. He takes pictures of them too, spends a whole afternoon listening to the story of the birth of a whole world. He wonders how a lion could even sing and create a world. Then he imagines that a lion that can talk also must have the vocal cords to sing and decides to just accept it and think about something else. He takes pictures of them too because even if Caspian didn’t know who they were properly, surely he would like to see the two people who had witness the dawn of the world. He catches them in the kitchen, this place is so small they’re mostly squeezed around the living room. It’s so small that both Lucy and Edmund sitting in the same armchair. So Eustace takes a picture of Digory and Polly doing the dishes, their heads close, clearly whispering something between them. There is something between them, that Eustace can’t quite make sense of it then.
Days later, the pictures are developed and he puts them away, he looks at the picture of professor Digory and Polly. Suddenly, it clicks, it’s strange really. Love, that’s what those eyes were showing. Pure love towards one another. Except he knew that they weren’t married or even in a relationship, Polly was even married, had been at least. They had stayed close friends after their adventure in Narnia but it had never become more. That night, Eustace doesn’t sleep, he takes a pieces of paper and a pen, spends hours trying to find the young faces hidden behind the wrinkles. Not that wrinkles were bad, wrinkles are good, they are the lines of wisdom painted with the brush of time. But he spends the whole night awake trying to find the youth underneath it until he’s more or less satisfied with it. He was never a good drawer, maybe he could give this to Susan and ask her to make a better version. But still looking at the messy drawing, with its corners pulled and curled, the lines he had tried to erase without complete success, he could see them. Digory and Polly, before they ever grew up, enjoying the countryside. Just how they had described it, how Lucy had described the beautiful forest around the professor’s old house. He could see them running around, laughter filling the air. Perhaps it was just his imagination, perhaps none of it had ever happen. But he couldn’t get the idea out of his head.
He could imagine it clear as the clouds in a sunny day. The image of two childhood friends growing together. Falling in love as the teenage years passed. He could see them, running through a forest, falling together into a river and laughing at being wet and having nothing to worry about in life. He imagines the mother’s boy telling him one day you’ll marry her . He imagines a kiss exchange in secret, hidden among the leaves of the forests, under a dark night sky. Eustace wonders, most likely from the heavy lack of sleep, what had happened between them. Had life gotten between them? As the sun starts coming up, he watches it. In the back of his mind images flash, alive in their own way. The boy going to a school too far away. The girl is left behind. And the love they hold for each other start straining until it’s paper thin. Too thin. There are calls, letter sent but it’s not enough. The boy focuses on his studies until finally there is no going back. The boy grows lonely. The girls moves on to a second best. There is a break, until many years later four children, kings and queens, stumble out of a wardrobe talking about a world that they had thought a dream. And they find each other back again, too old, too tired, too hurt by the world around them. Their bones hurt, and their bodies feel heavy until then. Yet love blossoms in the harshest of conditions.
As Eustace watches the sunrise, he’s so tired that his eyes seem to burn from the lack of sleep. His back and neck, stiff and uncomfortable. Even his head hurts. But within all the pain, watching the sun rise in the sky reminds him of Aslan. Reminds him of new beginnings and of healing. For a second he could have swore that he could hear a song and a roar in the distance. His brain must be truly exhausted if he had hallucinations of any kind. He stumbles downstairs, a part of him praying that Susan is up and made enough coffee for someone else. He himself didn’t know what were the proportions to prepare it correctly. When he makes it downstairs he sees Edmund in the armchair, book open in front of him, he’s writing again. He really never seems to stop anymore, like he was really scared there would be no more time soon. Lucy was half asleep, resting against Peter on the couch. Susan in the kitchen making the coffee. She looks at him for only a second before she decides to make more coffee. Later, they explain to him that they got used to waking up with the sunrise in Narnia. They’d never shaken the habit off after. Eustace wonders if perhaps, they all heard the song and the roar but he doesn’t ask. It seems strangely intimate now. In december of 1946, Lucy finally tells him that yes, they do hear it too. It makes them feel like the song and roar gives them energy, heals something broken within their soul, a tiny bit at least. But that’s enough.
The year is peppered with all sorts of moments. The Pevensie's particularly enjoyed showing Eustace all the old narnia holidays. Often enough they would escape to professor Digory's house. They teach Eustace all kind of things. The celebrate the holidays around a small campfire in the backyard, it's a tight fit but it works. Lucy plays her little faun flute, she tries to show Eustace. He's not very good. The drawing Eustace made back during the summer before of Digory and Polly is redrawn by Susan. She makes two copies, one Eustace keeps, the other she gives to Edmund. Edmund keeps it in one of the books he writes in. Eustace isn't very sure of the why but he doesn't question it. Peter teaches him a few mouvements with the old wooden swords. Eustace is better at that than playing the faun flute. But he's far away from having the experience that Peter and Edmund possess with a sword.
It’s the summer of 1947 before they even know it and life keeps going. They all make their way back to Helen’s and George’s house. The adults are very often out at their jobs, uncle George trains soldiers now, since he’s injury doesn’t let him take on a more active role. Aunt Helen still worked at the factory, a job she had taken on during the war and had kept since so many men hadn’t make it back from the war. And Eustace is incredibly happy about such a fact, it’s great to not have to pretend to be a child in front of the adults.
The relationship between the pevensie’s and their parents had never gotten better, not really. There was an independence that the kids had taken. Things had never really gone back to normal and so the parents had taken a step back. But sometimes, among the summer humidity, Helen and George would catch glimpses of their kids being true. And even if those moments puzzled them deeply, they couldn’t say anything about it. Helen had tried once asking Lucy why exactly she wanted to have Edmund now loose clothes instead of a nice dress. She had never received such looks from Susan. They had ended up making alterations to the boys clothes instead. Apparently Lucy didn’t like dresses and skirts. Not right now at least now. Truth was, english dresses were too tight, the fabric scratchy and Lucy had liked loose and breathy clothes.
That summer are small moments hidden in between everyone’s busy moments. Susan is working at the reception of a hotel, she answers the phone but it’s not that busy. Peter is working on his final thesis, he’ll be done with college soon. Edmund works in a coffee shop, yes, people are dumb and he wakes way too early but he deals with it. The house is mostly empty with only Eustace and Lucy. But there are still moments where they go out, they have fun and they forget about the situation in London. On the rare days off they can make it, they go to the professor’s house. Polly usually makes her way there too. Sometimes they have more special dinners, they’ll make all the dishes they can remember from Narnia and life keeps going. Like before, like after.
They spend more than one afternoon wondering if Eustace would have another adventure in Narnia and if it would be the last one. They wonder if other people around their world had visit other worlds or even Narnian. They would never get the answer for the second question. As for the one regarding Eustace, the answer would be clear on a monday morning, 22th of December 1947. Eustace had arrived the night before with his parents to the Pevensie house and the adults had all gone out on this monday morning. As soon as the adults had been gone for a couple of minutes Eustace had turned with an excited face and started to talk at full speed. Really it was rather amazing how he seemed to not need air to breath. He talked about Caspian, too old now. About his son Rilian, which him and a friend from school, Jill, had saved. By the end of his tale his voice had become softer and more hesitant. Like he didn’t quite know how to explain it, his voice took a fatal tone to it, like he was expecting that glass would be shattering soon.
“Caspian… Caspian passed away. Of old age.” Finality. Silence.
“I’m sorry, I need a second.” Edmund got up quickly, put in his coat and boots before leaving the house, closing the front door softly. Perhaps, a sound much more terrible that if the door had been slammed. It sounded final. Such a terrible sound.
That evening, as the sun was setting down, found Edmund sitting outside. It had been hours since he came out and snow had been falling down for a few hours too. That evening found Edmund sitting in the cold, his hair covered is white snowflakes. That evening found his cheeks wet from both tears and the snowflakes melting. That evening ended as Susan comes out of the house to hold Edmund’s hand, a silent support. For there are never good words while once grieves.
For the first time since they had been in Narnia for the first time, Edmund cries and makes a sound. He sobs.
The Pevensies are terrifying. It’s the spring of 1949 and the Pevensies have grown older. Peter is now in his last year of university, making his final dissertation. He spends most of his time with some caffeinated drink and awake in the middle of the night, hunched over some old book or another to finish typing it. Susan was finishing some of her classes but education for women in the UK was still complicated, most of her teachers had very firm beliefs about what women should do. Susan had lost the number of times she had heard comments along the lines of : why are you getting your education? It’s not like it’ll be useful. A lot of you girls will be married soon enough anyways. Really she hated those comments, and her teachers of possesed little to no intention to actually teach the girls. Edmund was actually in his first year of university, doing an english major, and spend most of his time writing, the number of books he had written become more numerous. Some he writes again and throws the old ones. Lucy was 17, she was doing her last year before being done with High School, she couldn’t wait until she was done. Eustace and his friend Jill had gotten used to hang out with the Pevensies more and more with time too. They were both 16 and were now dating. And they had taken to hanging around the university grounds lately, which meant that a few times a month they would forsaken their own class in favour of driving in Peter’s car.
The car was an old nearly broken down thing that he had fixed slowly in the years before that. So on a warm day of June, nearly at the border of the vacations day they find themselves in the university. Professor Digory had a final seminary to show the students in Peter’s classes. The friends of Narnia, as their little group now called itself, were only too happy to watch and participate. The professor had brought it a few medieval weapons, there was swords. And the Pevensies were only too happy to help give a demonstration.
Which result in our previous statement. The Pevensie’s are absolutely terrifying. There was something strange about the Pevensie’s, the people knew it as soon as they had seen the oldest sibling walk into a room. People walking into the classroom for the first time could be spotted quickly. Students shuffling inside, unsure of themselves. The scared look around before they finally go in to find a sit. The hands awkwardly fidgeting with pens and notebooks. But Peter had been different, he had walked in head held high, shoulders straight and had simply picked the spot he wanted without looking at anyone else. He hands, firmly set on the table. Have you ever seen someone held themselves in complete immobility. If you ever meet such a person, be afraid. That person is fearless and you should terrified and run away quickly. The surprise had only become strangest when Peter’s little brother had come to the university. One, they looked nothing alike. Two, they stood the same, there was an air about them that was completely unshaken. And Edmund had a tongue of silver, he liked arguing with teachers, he liked to crush them and he could. And now, in a day of june, the students in Peter’s medieval class get to meet the Pevensie sisters. And these two are just as terrifying. The oldest, Susan, was the most beautiful woman they had seen, most students couldn’t look away. While the youngest had something nearly…. feral about her, something dangerous despite her lite frame. Her smile seemed to be more in the spirit of showing just how sharp her teeth could be. A boy was one with them, a cousin it seemed, a boy that seemed to think he was larger than he was actually like. Finally, a girl holding his hand that seemed to be looking at the world as if it was her to discover.
The show became so much more terrifying once Professor Digory asked the two Pevensie boys to show the other students how to handle medieval swords. No one in this day and age should ever look so comfortable while handling deadly swords. What was even more scary was when Edmund took, not one, but two swords to fight against his brother who had taken a sword and a shield. People all around had stopped breathing when the two brothers training exercise had turned into an actual fight. Peter had been the one to draw blood, passing the sword too close to Edmund’s shoulder, cutting through the cotton of the shirt. It stained quickly in the harshest shade of red. Scarier was the shout coming from the youngest sibling, the whole thing through a laugh.
“Kick his ass Ed.”
The words followed by a light laugh from the other sister, joined in by a boy and another girl. Clearly none of them were worried about the fact that the youngest brother was bleeding. Really that whole family was terrifying. The fight continued only for a few minutes before the younger brother puts his brother down, cutting Peter’s cheek. There’s a whisper between them that no one else can hear. This will give you an excuse to grow your beard again.
The professor continues his seminary as if nothing is going on while the two brothers patched each other. The Pevensie’s are scary.
Everything comes down to a stop in a rainy day of July. Susan had taken Peter’s car to get to work and the others had seen a few days before, the apparition of a narnian soldier. Only for a minute but Lucy was never wrong. So the others had gone to find the rings to travel through the woods between the worlds. After getting the rings they take the train making their way to the professor’s house. The world shakes, the metal screeches. Oh no, at least Susan would be safe.