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happiness (this time round)

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"And where are the kings and queens of the Golden Age? The Pevensies?"

If a lion's expression - already thunderous, if only by the wild edge behind his eyes and the deadly jaws that glint as he speaks - could darken, it would. It's a strikingly obvious cold spot in the paradise of warmth that he has torn down a whole world to create.

"They are no longer friends of Narnia. They think of only nylons and lipsticks and invitations, these days."

 

*

 

i - invitations

Lucy Pevensie, still only a teenager, yells with excitement and gleefully grips the letter in her hand so tightly that it almost tears. Her brothers and sister have all gone away, but her cousin is here, and she runs from the front doormat to her cousin's bedroom with her nightdress falling off her shoulder and her dressing gown behind her like a cape; he is still half-asleep, and she jumps on the bed to wake him.

"Lu!"

His voice and her delighted laughter are twin shrieks.

"What the bloody hell are y-"

"I was accepted!"

She displays the letter, too brief in her joy for him to sleepily comprehend anything more than the sender's address, Hunter Street Royal Free Hospital, London School of Medicine for Women. For her age and her gender Lucy has no part in the last remnants of the war, but this is something she's fought for for years, as valiant and brave as she ever was in battle.

"They've sent me an invitation to attend in September! I'm going to be a doctor!"

 

*

 

ii - lipsticks

Sergeant Edmund Pevensie, twenty three years old and as new in his rank as he is in the shiny, too-stiff shoes on his feet, smiles at the man staring wide-eyed and fascinated at him from the other side of the bar. As he smiles, his lipstick cracks slightly - he dismisses the thought of it; in the dim lights of this kind of club, who will be able to tell?

The man throws back his last shot, visibly steels himself, and gets up to walk over to Edmund. His hands stay firmly in his pockets - so that any shake in his fingers will be hidden - but he blinks too much. Nervous, Edmund thinks, and half surprises himself at the fact that he isn't. How long had it taken him to become accustomed to men in makeup, to get used to wearing it himself, to learn from bitter experience to apply only that which he can wipe quickly away with a handkerchief?

"Do-" the man starts, then ducks his head and clears his throat. He's a little taller than Edmund, even standing stooped and defensive as he is. "-Do you come here often?"

It's the oldest pick-up line in the book, but heedless of the lipstick, Edmund smiles even wider.

 

*

 

iii - nylons

Peter Pevensie, white hairs at his temple and in his beard, leans contentedly back at the table and sips his tea. He has no wars to fight. He has no campaigns to plan. He has no laws to make. He has his students' essays to mark, but it's a Saturday, and that can wait - a kingdom wouldn't wait.

"Pevensie, a boy like-" his headmaster had said to him, shortly before Peter would leave school, then cut himself off. Peter had not stood being called a boy since he was fourteen, since the summer that he was evacuated. "A young man like yourself could do anything in life."

Peter had simply nodded and waited. The headmaster sighed, the weight of four years of defiance and dissent from what had previously been a model pupil audible in his voice.

"Well. If you insist on going into teaching, do try to go somewhere respectable."

He made no mention of Peter returning to his school; the headmaster was old, but not old enough to be entirely certain that he would be gone by the time Peter finished his training, and he clearly didn't want to ever have to see him again.

Peter works, and has for fifteen years, at a day school full of aggressive cockney children  with scraped knees and dirty faces - they adore him. To his headmaster he had bitten back a grin.

He does the same now, as the doorbell rings, knowing that it will be a delivery. It's not nearly so difficult to procure nylons now as it had been under rationing, but his wife still finds the concept of them rare and charming.

It's the little things that he enjoys, now.

 

*

 

iv - all three

By 1959, she will be Suzy P., model and muse for a number of risque portraits, the fascination of modern art critics.

By 1965, she will be one of the principal figures in the fight for queer rights, for the decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England, for the protection of teenagers from abusive 'cures'.

By 1977, she will be Professor S. Pevensie, renowned pioneer in the field of feminist theory.

But it is 1949, and she wakes up in the apartment she rents in New York to the sound of the staticky wireless playing jazz, and to the smell of a lover cooking bacon, and to the feel of the soft hair of the woman lying naked in the crook of her arm. She often amuses herself with the thought of how scandalous it would be, if anybody knew: the socialite from the respectable English family, away from the care of her parents and her older brother, sharing her bed not only with a man out of wedlock, not only with another woman, but both at once.

It's lucky, then, that nobody knows.

A biography, published in 2017 with the help of Lucy's son, would describe Susan Pevensie's as one of the most interesting lives of the twentieth century, and her personally as an intensely private person.

A god of death in the form of a lion, worlds away, would call her a sinner. But Susan will allow no one, neither god nor man, the right to dictate her life, or the lives of her siblings. Not this time.

On the wall, a red light on the telephone is flashing gently with invitations to parties; on the dresser, her lipsticks are neatly arranged, with the red, her favourite, most prominent; on the floor, her and her lover's nylon stockings lie discarded where they were thrown last night.

Susan Pevensie closes her eyes and goes contentedly back to sleep.