Readers Note: this story takes place after LWW when the children must face the depressing idea of returning home and leaving the beloved professor's house behind.
"Have you seen Lucy?" Peter asked Susan. Susan was beside him attempting to shut a suitcase overflowing with dresses. She grunted as she tried to shove it closed and replied, "Actually Peter, no I haven't." Peter scratched his head and placed his own suitcase down.
"Y-yes..." Susan managed to say, still trying to shut her valise with all her might. Finally it clicked and she let out a sigh of relief.
Peter mumbled to himself as he left the room and ran down one of the Professor's richly rugged hallways. He was just about to descend a flight of winding stairs to the lower level, when he heard a cry of dismay from behind him. Sighing he turned to find Edmund, sitting amidst a pile of shirts, socks, trousers and other things; the remains of overturned luggage.
"Oh, hang it all!" Edmund cried, crawling on his knees to gather up his clothes. Peter bent down to help, noticing his brother's irritated breathing.
"This blasted valise wont shut and the clasp isn't working right!" Edmund cried. He angrily shoved his clothes back inside, not bothering to fold them. Peter was going to say something about it, but Edmund shut the suitcase with frightful force.
"Do you want me to try and fix it?" Peter asked politely. Edmund ignored him and started banging on the clasps. Finally the red-faced Edmund declared that it had shut properly. "At last...but if it comes undone again I'm going to go mad!!"
Peter stood up and glanced nervously at his watch.
"Where's Lucy?" He asked Edmund, hoping his younger brother had recently seen her.
"You know," Edmund replied thoughtfully, staring at the floral designs of the rugs in his musings, "I actually haven't seen her this morning. That's funny...have you?"
Peter sighed, "No and that's just it! Our train leaves in less than an hour and I haven't seen her."
"Well, I'll help look if you'd like." Edmund offered, lifting his heavy luggage up from the ground, "I'll tell Susan to look, too."
"You're a brick, Ed. But she's probably just somewhere around the corner."
Well, Peter ran down many flights of stairs and opened many doors and still did not find her. If she was just around the corner as he said, which corner was he thinking? It really was a silly thing to say in such a house as this, for it's such a big house with every so many corners; she could be anywhere!
He checked the parlor, he rummaged through the kitchen, and he looked out the window to see if she was sitting by the fountain, but it was no disappointment to find that she wasn't. He shouted at the top of his lungs, making quite a racket and even poked his head inside all of the bedrooms. He glanced at his still ticking watch, and sighed; his watch wasn't going to slow down for him and Peter still hadn't found Lucy. He darted in and out of all the rooms where he thought she might be and even double-checked the hallways, which means he had been running laps up and down the stairs. Before long he was panting for breath and his legs were stinging from running non-stop; he collapsed to his knees for a quick rest.
"Come on, Peter..." He willed himself, "think hard and think like you never thought before! We've got to find Lucy or we all miss the train!" He hid his head between his legs, waiting for his heaving chest to relax and praying for an inspiration. But he couldn't sit there long enough to map out the mansion in his mind, not with the time he had left. So he stood up and decided to just wander about aimlessly, this time his steps were slowed with hopelessness.
His hands in his pockets, he strolled down the upper hallway, his breathing not yet fully returned to its normal state. Curiously he found that he was headed down a path that he hadn't checked earlier. This is strangely familiar. He paused. Did he just go down three steps? He looked at the ground and a thrilling sensation wavered his body. Now he was going up five steps...
"How come I remember this?" Peter thought aloud, looking around him as a revelation slowly crept into his mind. He kept on walking, half driven by this strange feeling and half by a force he was unaware of. But I'm sure you know what I mean, don't you? There was a greater force that was guiding his legs, a greater will that was willing his own.
He passed a familiar door and to his surprise he knew what was behind it before he even opened it.
"That's right." He said," this door leads to a balcony." He shut the door gently and went onwards. He found himself running through a maze of book-lined rooms, colors of the different volumes flashing past him in a blur. But why was he running? He didn't know why either. All he knew was that he suddenly felt an overwhelming desire to keep going, as if deep inside he knew where he was going but at the time he really didn't.
At last he stopped, quite abruptly I must say, in a room that was very bare compared to the other rooms. Very bare indeed, there was only one piece of furniture in the room, standing in the far corner and as bare and boring-looking as the cracked walls. But Peter couldn't take his eyes off of it. It was a wardrobe with a mirror on it, reflecting his bewildered and giddy face as he walked towards it. However ordinary this piece of furniture seemed, it wasn't just an ordinary wardrobe- oh no! It was the wardrobe.
"How could I have missed it?" He whispered. He didn't know why he whispered; he supposed it was because he was so beleaguered, "I mean, why didn't I think to look here in the first place?" He shook his head, his eyes still fixed on its strong wooden doors. For some reason as he approached it, it seemed to be taller than he remembered, taller and greater. It was the truth to say that Peter hadn't really seen it much since their adventures, and when he first saw it was indeed so much smaller. He pondered this as his spellbound footsteps drew him nearer to the handle. Then he realized why.
"Its ever so much bigger because I am bigger." He said. You probably don't quite understand him, but he knew what he meant, he was just too overcome to explain it. Why should he explain it anyway, if he understood himself? But you probably don't understand so I shall try to explain it to you.
What the awe-struck Peter had meant was that he was now a little but older, and a little bit wiser and so this awesome wardrobe was indeed a little bit bigger. Because he didn't just see a wardrobe when he looked at it, he saw everything beyond it; he knew what it really was. The first time he saw it he hadn't known what it realty was so it was a lot smaller and actually, a lot shabbier.
But the old woodwork seemed polished and smooth to Peter's shaking fingertips, and he reached out his hand to open the door.
It was locked.
Peter sort of snapped out of his reverie for a moment. It was locked? Locked?
Then he heard a stifled sob and a broken wail from behind the thick wooden doors. Peter's mind was racing now and he called out," Lucy! Lucy! Is that you?"
There was a pause and instead of crying there was a frail reply, "Peter? Yes, yes it's me-Lucy." Then there was the sound of one shuffling about on their bottom, and her voice grew closer.
"It's locked! Oh Peter I can't get out! It was so stupid of me to shut the door behind me. I-I don't know what came over me!" Then the howling sobs started again and Peter tried to block them out has he tried to think.
"Oh...there is probably a key somewhere." Peter thought aloud, turning around and biting his lip.
"Hold on, Lu!" Peter cried into the side of the door, "I'm going to see if the Professor has a key." Lucy weakly urged him to hurry, for it was frightfully stuffy and smelled like mothballs, and Peter ran off as fast as he could.
Peter felt his head dig against something soft, yet firm and fell back with a cry. He saw darkness for a split second and he let out a pathetic moan.
"What gives, Peter? Have you found Lucy yet?"
Peter opened his eyes and saw the distorted and fuzzy form of Edmund peering down on him. He cautiously arose and rubbed his head, "Did I bang into your stomach, Edmund?" He asked, dazzled.
"Yes, we both were running at each other, I was trying to find you to see if you've found Lucy. You see, Susan has already loaded the automobile with our bags and Mrs. Macready wants to head on out. I told her I would go get you and Lucy, hoping you would have found her. If she knew Lucy was missing you know she'd have a beastly row!" Edmund helped Peter up and it didn't seem that his stomach was pained by the collision. It must have Peter who had suffered that hardest part of their blow.
"Well, yes I found her." Peter replied, rubbing his head and wincing. He certainly had fallen hard backwards.
"Really?" Edmund cried, excited," Well then, where is she?"
"Well..." Peter sighed, "she's sort of stuck- no-she's trapped," Peter mumbled as he fought for words and sighed, "Lucy is stuck inside the wardrobe-she locked herself inside."
Edmund just stared at Peter.
"I need to see if the Professor has the key!" Peter had tried to remain calm, but their time was wasting away and no one seemed to know what to do.
Edmund nodded and scratched his head, "Suppose I told Mrs. Macready that you were both telling the professor good-bye? That wouldn't be so much of a lie, would it?" Edmund looked up at Peter, trying to be of help. Peter nodded stiffly, not wanting to waste time and both of them ran off in differing directions.
It was a good thing that Peter knew exactly where the Professor's study was, and that it was only just around the corner. Sprinting to the door, he almost forgot to skid to a stop and proceed with his manners. What would the Professor think if Peter had just barged in to the office, his hair a mess and sticking to his forehead with sweat? Well...I don't rightly know. But maybe we will find out because even thought Peter didn't run into the room, he was still very, very sweaty and his breath came out in huge, distracting rasps.
"Come in." The Professor said in surprise. Peter hadn't knocked first and immediately bit his lip at his foolish act.
"I-I'm sorry Professor..." Peter went back out the door and knocked. "May I come in, sir?" He cried from the other side.
The amused professor chuckled, "yes, my boy you may enter." The exasperated Peter sighed and shut the door behind him with unconscious vigor.
"What is it Peter?" The professor sat back in his chair as if glad for an excuse to escape his studies. Peter explained everything to the professor in what seemed like only one breath, for the elderly man blinked at the young man's energy and excitement as if it somewhat surprised him.
"I see..." he replied, perching his glasses further up on his delicately pointed nose.
"Yes, sir and we really must get going!" Peter explained, wringing his hands.
"Yes, yes you've mentioned that about three times in your little story, I understand your urgency, really I do. But..."
Just then the door to the study opened and Edmund's anxious face appeared.
"Oh! Sorry, sir." Edmund cried, blushing a bit as he closed the door. You could hear him clearing his throat opposite the door as he knocked, and the professor shook his head in amusement, "I'm just glad you boys remember your manners-although perhaps you should work on your timing?"
"Come on in, Edmund." The professor cried, and Edmund just burst out as soon as the door was opened, "Mrs. Macready is getting very anxious, Peter! She's tapping her foot, fussing about how â€˜entirely rude and absurd' our manners are and Susan is doing her best to keep her from going dreadfully mad!"
There was a pause, and a most uncomfortable one it was. Peter shook his sweaty head in dismay; Edmund was nearly jumping up and down in his anxiousness and the Professor twidddled his thumbs as the clock loudly ticked away.
"The thing is, boys I can't get to the key."
Edmund and Peter looked at the Professor.
"W-what do you mean by you cant get to the key?" Peter asked him, leaning closer to the elderly man's desk, feeling even the hairs on his back rising in alarm.
"The key is hidden somewhere and I don't remember it's hiding place. Oh dear me, why must my memory fail me at this hour?" He tapped his forehead and looked quite disturbed.
"How then-" Edmund began his complaints when Peter interrupted him, "Wait! Wait a minute...I'm sure the door will open on its on when it's ready!" Of course the others gave him a quite confused look.
"I mean...you know, when it's finished with Lucy." Peter continued, "she has to go back into Narnia and once she's finished there the door will open! Maybe she really didn't lock it herself, maybe it locked on its on!" Peter was ecstatic and he nearly ran in circles as he explained his theory to the others, adrenaline giving him added energy.
"But Professor said that we couldn't get back into Narnia by the wardrobe." Edmund pointed out.
"I know..." Peter replied, " that is the only thing I am doubtful about."
"Well," The Professor sat forwards in his chair, " I could be wrong, you know. Just because I'm old doesn't mean I'm always in the right. I think Peter's theory is an excellent one and we must prove it. Only, the clock is greatly against us."
* * *
"What?" Lucy's voice was heard from behind the wardrobe walls.
"But I tried...I felt the woodwork; Peter I cant get back!" Her voice was frantic and they all knew she was about to cry. Peter felt as if all hopes were dashed and they would have to pry open the door or do something horrid.
"If only I could remember the key..." The professor murmured to himself.
"Yes," Edmund said, "that would be of great help."
"Sush," Peter said sternly, "let a chap think, won't you?"
Edmund folded his arms and was about to spit out one of his nasty remarks when the professor interrupted him, "I thought I hid the key somewhere-dear me- because for the longest time I had kept a valuable pair of doubloons in that very closet. But then I decided to sell them, and so from then on the wardrobe has been unlocked ever since." He sighed, "I guess since I didn't need to hide it any longer I must have just misplaced it...oh dear."
"Ohhh-ohhh..." Lucy started to cry and everyone was at their wits end by then, which meant that Edmund was in a rotten mood and Peter was very sharp with him. I guess you could say that they both were in a rotten mood.
Lucy had braved battles, she had seen a witch, she had endured many perils as a Queen of Narnia, but she wasn't a queen right then, she was just plain old Lucy and that Lucy was scared. She didn't want to be trapped inside the stuffy, smelly wardrobe to suffocate even if at one time it did take them to a magical country. It was different now, it wasn't magic...It wasn't wonderful. She wished she'd never opened it again for she knew deep down that it would never be the same. The delicious air that was once inside it's walls was gone, the life to it all was dead and perhaps Lucy's memory of this beloved wardrobe would have been better off if she hadn't returned to its eerie, un-magical state.
"Oh...it's just like when you pack everything up to move and you wait around in the bare and empty house; it isn't the same and you know it never will be. Oh!" Lucy hid her face in the darkness of the closed-up wardrobe and reached for one of the coats. She grabbed the nearest one and cried hard into it, like one who cries hard into their pillow on a very depressing day.
Then after a few good cries, Lucy suddenly stopped. She gently ran her finger around the sleeve of the coat she was holding. "This was the coat I wore," she whispered to herself. A little smile came to her face and she remembered the feel of snow beneath her feet, she remembered Mr. Tumnus and his tea, she remembered the turning of winter to spring, and most of all, she remembered Aslan and all of his majesty.
"Oh Aslan," Lucy breathed," I only wanted to see you one more time-just once more!" She was about to cry again when she felt the sound of metal against wood and turned to see a flash of gold clatter on the floorboards beside her. The creak of light from beneath the door illuminated the object and she picked it up, her hands shaking from crying.
"Why its-It's a key!"
Lucy could hardly believe it! It must have fallen from one of the coat pockets. She looked up at the hanging coats in wonder, "How could it have?"
"Lucy, Lucy-are you alright?" Peter cried from the other side of the door. His voice was muffled, but she knew he was anxious. The others had heard the crying stop and were curious as to what had happened.
"Yes Peter!" Lucy cried, and she got up from the floor and peered through the crack in the door, "I found the key!"
There were amazed murmurs from the other side and then Peter replied, his voice overjoyed, "Why Lucy that's amazing! By Jove! Can you fit it through the crack?" Lucy could hardly contain herself and neither could the others. They were bursting with relief and laughing, their sweaty foreheads and hands were now dry; they all could breathe.
Lucy knelt down on the hard floor and stuck the key underneath the crack. Peter pulled it the rest of the way through and there was a shout of merriment from Edmund as the professor let out a low whistle.
"Alright, Lu...I'm opening the door!" Peter cried.
There was a click as the key turned, a deep breath from the excited Peter, and a creak as the door opened to reveal the tear-stained, yet happy Lucy. At once she burst into Peter's arms and held him tight, her whole body shaking,
"I was so scared," She said, her cheek pressed against his chest. Peter smiled, "well you're alright now, Lu, can't you see?" Edmund lovingly patted her on the back and said, "we were going to get you out no matter what happened, and you knew that right?" Lucy nodded, " yes of course, but-oh-it was so different." She looked back at the open wardrobe door and shook her head, "I thought perhaps I could say goodbye-I mean, I knew I wouldn't get back that way...but.... I don't know." She sighed.
"You hoped somewhere deep down it would happen anyway," Peter replied, looking at her sister tenderly. "Don't you think all of us feel that way, Lu? Don't you think we all want to return?"
"Oh I know it! But Peter, the wardrobe was empty and bare, scary and dark...it felt like nothing that had happened before really took place, like we had all just been-just been dreaming." She bit her trembling lip and Peter was afraid she would cry again.
"Some things are best left alone. It's almost like entering the house of a loved one who no longer lives...something isn't there and you know that it never will be again." The Professor explained kindly, his eyes sympathetic for the little girl. Lucy nodded and then Edmund asked a question that would change the subject a bit.
"Lucy, you said the key was in the wardrobe?" He fingered the golden key curiously.
"Yes, it fell from one of the coat-pockets, although I have no idea how." She followed Edmund, who grabbed one of the coats and brought it out into the light. He examined the pockets, all of them being ordinary and showing no possible way for its contents to empty. Then Edmund ran his finger inside the last pocket and his index finger poked through the bottom. "Aha!" He cried, "The key must have fallen through this hole, Lucy!"
"Well I'm glad of that, " Lucy replied, "I mean not of the hole of course, but that the key fell."
The Professor chuckled, "Perhaps some of those old coats need mending, no one has worn any of those in years."
"Or," Lucy's eyes suddenly lit up and she cried, "maybe it was magic!"
Lucy could have been right, and the others, unlike normal people these days, nodded in agreement. It's not everyday that you meet a group of truly sensible people like that, for nowadays so many hearts are clouded with unbelief. It's sad, it really is.
The children all said their good-byes to the Professor, who actually looked quite sorry to see them go. After hugs all around, Peter, Edmund and Lucy ran outside to see Susan sitting in the back of the motorcar, anxiously wrenching her handkerchief into a ball.
"Thank goodness!" She sighed, her eyes full of questions that would need to wait.
The others trooped in the car and Mrs. Macready started the engine, complaining about how unfashionably late they were going to be.
"We are going to miss the train!" She shook her head and mumbled to herself the whole way to the train station.
However, it just so happened that they arrived on time, due to a delay at the station, and the four children boarded their train and were headed home.
"Home..." Susan said with a most pleasing air," how I miss it so."
"Really?" Edmund asked, watching the hillsides roll past him in a dizzying array of colors.
"I don't want to go to home." Lucy sighed, "and I'm sure you know why."
"Yes, Lucy, I know. But don't you miss mother? Don't you miss school and friends?" Susan asked her sister.
"Well yes..." Lucy agreed.
"It won't be the same..." Peter shook his said sadly, "don't you all understand that we know something else now? Something that no one else knows about; a great secret that will set us apart from the rest."
"If we tried to tell our friends about Narnia I'm, sure they'd laugh." Lucy added, "and mother mustn't know, for she wouldn't believe us either and she'll question the professor about how he kept us."
"Then we mustn't tell anyone. That is all we must do and everything will be the same." Susan said, much assured.
"Do you really think it's that simple, Su?" Peter asked her. Susan nodded, "yes...I'm sure in time we will all forget about this adventure. Just like when we were in Narnia, our life here felt like a dream, remember?" She opened her purse and looked at herself in her pocket-mirror. The reflection of her perfect face pleased her and she was about to shut her mirror when the image of the boy behind her smiled.
"Forget?" Peter said a bit loudly, ignoring her vanity, "if you forget, Su-Su that would be horrible!"
"Not so horrible." Susan said absent-mindedly, "I mean, once we are all grown up, Peter, all of this will seem so silly."
Lucy and Edmund glared at Susan in their disgust and Edmund grabbed Susan's mirror, snapping it shut with a dreadful vengeance.
"Now look Su, and ignore that chap behind you-"
"Edmund!" Susan cried in frustration. Her mirror flew into the chair behind her and Susan would have strangled her brother if it weren't an improper thing to do.
"Now Edmund, that was a bit uncalled for." Peter said, although he was a bit glad of Edmund's foolishness for Susan's words had angered him greatly. How could she talk in that way? She sounded so-so much like a grownup!
"Edmund you beast!" Susan cried, too embarrassed to reach behind her for the mirror.
"Suits you right, Su, for being so silly-"
"Silly? Silly?!" Susan was outraged by then and her pretty face was anything but pretty.
"Yes, Su-if only you could see yourself!" Peter added," fawning over your own looks like that and-" he lowered his voice, but it was still stern," talking about FORGETING Narnia!"
"Well I wouldn't mind forgetting-it was the most unusual thing and-"
Everyone shut their mouths to see Lucy, who hadn't spoken a word since the fight, looking much distressed at them all. "Stop it at once! If only you could see how beastly you are being to each other."
Everyone blushed and looked at each other in shame. Lucy was right.
"Excuse me," said an unfamiliar voice, not much louder than a broken whisper. The others nearly jumped-did people really hear their horrid row?
They all turned their heads to see a boy about Peter's age, with a smart-looking cap and rosy features. He smiled sheepishly at them, "Does this belong to someone?" he opened his hand to reveal Susan's mirror and everyone knew at once that that was the chap Susan had been looking at. Susan's face turned bright red and she gratefully accepted it.
"Thank you kindly." She said, and everyone could see it took all she had to make the words audible.
"I-I saw your reflection," the boy said nervously.
"Did you see me smiling?" He asked, fixing his cap nervously.
"Yes..." Susan's voice was barely over a whisper.
The boy smiled.
Peter, Edmund and Lucy rolled their eyes.
"Thank you," Susan said again. The boy tipped his hat and sat back down while Susan slowly opened her mirror again, watching her face turn bright red.
She turned to see her siblings, who shook their heads at her.
"See why it wouldn't be so bad to forget Narnia; to go on with our â€˜real' lives?" Susan said, sitting up straighter as she decided to apply some lipstick.
No one spoke a word. It wasn't as if they agreed with Susan or that they didn't, everyone was much angered and it was a good thing they all held their tongues. Maybe they should concentrate on their real lives for a while, on just the ordinary Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. Right now, that is what they were, just plain old ordinary children aboard and ordinary train, minding their own, ordinary business. Anyone who looked at them would never have known that these four â€˜ordinary' children were once Kings and Queens now would they?
I'll never be the same; whether we get back into Narnia ever again or not-I'll never be just plain ol' Peter Pevensie. Susan can forget all she wants, but I will never forget. Aslan, I will NEVER forget you. Peter thought, as he stared at his lap, listening to the train clatter and rattle across the tracks. It was hard, It really was, once you've encountered something that has changed your life forever; changed it from ordinary to extraordinary, and then you go and try to turn the clock back to the way things were before; when things were just plain and boring. Because once your life has changed, it's hard to change it back.
"Peter..." Lucy tugged on her brother's sleeve with a worried look in her eyes.
"What is it, Lu?" Peter replied softly, still a bit upset from their row.
"We will get back, back to-you know-won't we, Peter?" Lucy's eyes were hopeful as she awaited her brother's reply. What would he say? What could he say?
"Well, Lu...the professor said we would, didn't he? He said to keep our ears and eyes open because you never know when or how or..." Peter sighed. " I don't know, Lu...but all I can say is that should hope. But even if it never happens...never forget." He touched her nose with his as he said those last two words and Lucy blinked into a smile.
"Of course I won't Peter, I'll never forget," Lucy said with a nod of her head to reaffirm her words. Lucy smiled and looked about her, wondering how these people could ever have truly lived if they'd never heard Aslan roar, never seen and felt his majesty; never been to Narnia. I know I won't forget. She thought determinedly, and she never did forget. Who would?