Originally only Edmund and Lucy had planned on staying with their aunt and uncle for the 16 weeks that their parents would be in America. Susan was to go with their parents as it was believed that she would get the most out of the trip. Peter, who was studying for an exam, was going to stay with Professor Kirke. Professor Kirke would have taken all of the children in like he had during the War, but he had become poor since those days. The small cottage he was living in only had one spare room.
Incidentally so did the Scrubb’s house.
But that is aside from the point. The point is that Edmund and Lucy were to spend those 16 weeks at their cousin Eustace’s Scrubb’s house and Susan and Peter were not. However, both Susan and Peter woke up one day after having a dream that they couldn’t recall as soon as they were up. All they knew was that they had to go with Edmund and Lucy.
Of course their parents didn’t understand and were very angry because plans had already been made. But Peter and Susan insisted. The dream had been magic, that much they knew. (Not that they told their parents that.)
And so the Pevensie children found that they would all going be staying with the Scrubbs. The boys were all going to share Eustace’s room. Susan and Lucy were going to share the spare room.
As soon as the children arrived, they were on edge for two reasons. The first was that the Scrubbs were definitely the odd ones in the family. The second was that they knew Narnia would be involved somehow. Peter and Susan were slightly more on edge because they knew they wouldn’t be returning. But they had to be there. Narnia was calling and they would be there to hear it. They might not be allowed to answer it, but they would be there.
But days passed and nothing happened. Then those days became a week and then two, then three. The eager anticipation of Narnia faded and Susan began to wonder how her parents were doing. Peter’s studies became more frequent if that was at all possible. Edmund began to grouse about Eustace more and more.
Only Lucy believed that Narnia was coming. It was taking a long time, but Narnia would call them to her again. She was also the only one to hope that Peter and Susan would come as well. Aslan couldn’t possibly be so cruel to tell them to give up their summer plans and then not let them come to Narnia.
But soon (though not soon enough in Edmund’s opinion), the 16 weeks had become 8 and their stay with the Scrubbs was half over.
On the day that was precisely smack dab in the middle of the stay, the four siblings were in Susan and Lucy’s room. It was rare that the four got any time alone with one another due to Peter’s studying and Eustace’s need to find out what they were up to 24/7. (Truly it was because he was jealous. He envied the bond the four had.) But Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter had no knowledge of this.
The four sat on the bed and talked about Narnia when they could. One reason they chose this room was because of its privacy and the second was because of the painting on the wall.
It had been a wedding present, but Aunt Alberta hated it. She hadn’t wanted to offend the gift giver, so she stuck it in the guest room. The painting in question was of a ship. More importantly, it was of a Narnian ship. The prow of the ship was a gilded dragon. There was one mast with a large, purple, square sail. What was visible of the sides of the ship were a rich green color.
The ship was most assuredly Narnia, and it reminded the children of their reason for being there.
“The question is whether it doesn’t make things worse, looking at a Narnian ship when you can’t get there,” Edmund asked that afternoon.
“Even looking is better than nothing,” Lucy sighed. “And she is such a Narnian ship.”
“Still playing your old game?” Eustace asked as he walked into the room.
“Go away Eustace,” Susan said.
“I’m trying to think of a limerick,” Eustace told the siblings, causing Peter to groan. “Something like this:
Some kids who played games about Narnia
Got gradually balmier and balmier--
“Well, Narnia and balmier don’t rhyme to begin with,” Lucy said.
“It’s an assonance,” Eustace said importantly.
“No, it’s a slant rhyme,” Peter said.
Eustace said nothing for a few minutes, just continued to smile at them. “Do you like that picture?” he finally asked.
Edmund opened his mouth to tell the others not to answer, but Lucy was already answering.
“Yes, I do. I like it very much.”
“It’s a rotten picture,” Eustace said.
“Then why don’t you leave?” Susan asked.
“You won’t see it from outside,” Peter added.
“Why do you like it so much?” Eustace asked Lucy, ignoring Peter and Susan.
“For one thing,” Lucy said, “it looks like the ship was really moving. And the water looks wet, and the waves look like they’re actually moving.”
Eustace, for once in his life, was unable to answer. It wasn’t because he had none, but rather because at that moment it did look like the painting was really moving. Eustace, who had been sea sick the one time he had been on a ship, began to feel quite ill. He tried to look again. Then all five were staring at the painting.
The ship in the painting was moving, but it wasn’t like anything from a movie. The colors were sharp and bright and real. The pages of one of Peter’s books flapped, then it rose into the air, and sailed over the bed to thud against the wall behind them. Wind was blowing through the painting towards them, bringing the ship closer.
“Narnia,” Susan whispered, a touch of sadness in her voice.
“Stop it,” Eustace said in a high, squeaky voice that reminded Peter quite a bit of Reepicheep. “It’s some silly trick you four are playing. Stop it or I’ll tell Alberta on you – Ow!”
A wave had come through the frame of the picture, soaking all five children and causing them all to cry out in shock.
“I’ll smash the rotten thing,” Eustace said, taking a step towards the picture.
“Stop it,” Edmund said as he and Peter moved to grab their cousin. Lucy and Susan quickly jumped after them. The five found themselves pulled forward until they were standing on the frame of the painting, faced with a very real ship. The wind and the waves rushed at them and Peter and Susan only had time to exchange a short confused, joyous look with one another before Eustace went mental.
Eustace grabbed Peter and Edmund, throwing the three boys off balance. They teetered dangerously and the girls tried to steady them, but it was too late. All five went tumbling over the edge of the frame into the water.
The water hadn’t looked very cold in the painting, but the reality was that it was quite, quite cold. Susan let out a laugh as she popped to the surface anyways. Up close as she was, the ship was unmistakably Narnian. Peter’s head broke the surface not far from her.
“What do you think’s going on?” he asked her. “We weren’t supposed to come back. He told us.”
“I don’t know,” Susan admitted. “But I’m going to enjoy this for as long as I can.”
They glanced around as someone from the ship hit the water. A dark head bobbed up from the water and began swimming to the floundering Lucy and Eustace. It seemed that Eustace had clutched at Lucy and was unknowingly dragging her under. Edmund was heading towards the ship and his elder siblings.
They all managed to reach the ship at the same time. Some shouting ensued from above and ropes were thrown down. The six of them were forced to wait in the water, growing more chilled every second, as they men above ensured that they wouldn’t be smashed upon the side of the ship. Peter was hauled up and over the edge first, followed by Susan. She stood dripping on the deck, making an attempt to wring the seawater out of her hair as the others were pulled up.
“Well, wasn’t that fun?” Peter asked dryly.
“At least it wasn’t a melting, half-frozen river this time,” Susan said.
“That’s three times I’ve gotten soaked within two days of being in Narnia,” Peter sighed.
“I wouldn’t complain,” Edmund said with a grin. “You two weren’t supposed to come back at all.” He glanced at Lucy, who was staring at the dark haired man who had dove in the water to help them. “Blimey! It’s Caspian!”
Both Susan and Peter’s heads jerked up and Susan found that Caspian’s eyes were now locked with hers.
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
It took the Pevensie children a minute to come to their senses. Peter, Edmund, and Lucy rushed to Caspian and shook hands with him, breaking his eye contact with Susan. She was well aware of what happened the last time she saw the man. She was also suddenly aware of exactly how wet he was and how his tunic clung to his shoulders and chest.
And man he now was. He couldn’t be more than a year or two older than Peter, but he was a man. She dimly remembered that Peter had matured greatly in a few years as King. Caspian looked more like a man too. No longer was he an awkward teen, uncertain as to his place in the world. He had also apparently gained a fair bit of muscle in the interim since she had last seen him.
“Let me go. Let me go back. I don’t like it.”
Susan was distracted from her internal musings by Eustace’s shout. The poor boy was distraught, sobbing quite hard.
Eustace rushed to the side of the ship, his gaze darting across the ocean’s expanse. There was only water and sky, no traces of the bedroom they had come from. He promptly threw up over the side of the ship.
Susan hurried to his side and began to rub his back soothingly. He didn’t seem to notice.
“Rynelf!” Caspian called. “Bring spiced wine for their Majesties.” A sailor headed down into the ship. “You’ll need something to warm you after that dip.”
Eustace shoved off Susan’s hand and grumbled under his breath. Rynelf, or who Susan assumed was Rynelf, returned momentarily with two flagons of the steaming wine and cup. As Susan and the others sipped it and Eustace sputtered and said it tasted funny. He rushed to the side of the ship and heaved. Susan hastily drank the rest of the wine, feeling it spread warmth through her veins, and recalled that it did take some getting used to. And truly, Eustace had never had anything like spiced wine before.
Eustace was merely dry heaving and coughing, but he made quite a show of it. Susan wished to roll her eyes at his antics, and nearly did, but she knew all too well how disconcerting it could be to arrive in Narnia for the first time.
It was certainly disconcerting now, with Caspian’s eyes burning holes in her back.
“Isn’t there any Plumptree’s Vitamized Nerve Food?” Eustace asked piteously. “It can be made with distilled water. And I demand to be put ashore at the next station at once.”
Now Susan did roll her eyes.
“This is a merry shipmate that you’ve brought us,” Caspian whispered to Peter, Edmund, and Lucy.
“Oh! Ugh! What on Earth is that? Take it away, the horrid thing!” Eustace shouted.
Reepicheep was walking towards them. Lucy dropped to one knee and Reepicheep kissed her hand.
“My humble duty to your Majesty. And to Queen Susan and King Peter and King Edmund.” After each name he bowed, bringing a smile to Susan’s face.
What Eustace said next turned the smile into a scowl.
“Ugh, take it away,” wailed Eustace. “I hate mice. And I never could bear performing animals. They’re silly and vulgar and – and sentimental.”
Reepicheep stared at Eustace for a long moment. “Am I to understand that this singularly discourteous person is under your Majesties’ protection?” he finally asked. “Because, if not—,”
Susan said, “Eustace is new to Narnia and is unaware of the rules of conduct,” just as Lucy and Edmund sneezed.
“What a fool I am to keep you all standing here in your wet things,” Caspian said. Susan suddenly felt very self conscious of how her wet blouse was draped on her. “Come on below and get changed. Lucy, Susan,” only Susan seemed to notice the stumble in his voice when he said her name, “I’ll give you my cabin. It may be a little tight.”
“We’re used to it,” Lucy said with a wry smile.
“Well then, that solves one problem,” Caspian said. “But we don’t have any women’s clothes on board.” He seemed to be purposefully avoiding looking at Susan now – and it also seemed that Peter had finally noticed. “You’ll have to make do with some of mine I’m afraid. Lead the way, Reepicheep, like a good fellow.”
“To the convenience of a lady, even a question of honor much give way – at least for the moment,” Reepicheep said, looking very hard at Eustace. Caspian hustled them along and Susan and Lucy soon found themselves in the stern cabin.
Caspian pulled a side door open in the large room and began rooting through a locker at the bottom of the closet. “I’ll just get some dry things for myself and Peter – Edmund and Eustace can make do with a smaller size – and then we’ll leave you two to change.” Susan was certain that there was a trace of a blush on Caspian’s tan cheeks. “If you’ll fling your wet things outside the door I’ll get them taken to the galley to be dried.”
The boys then left, leaving Lucy and Susan in the room alone. Susan sat down on the bunk – which was honestly going to be a bit tight – and took in the room as everything crashed down on her.
She had been tossed into an ocean from a picture frame. She was in Narnia again. She and Peter had been allowed to return. It wasn’t thousands of years after they were there the last time. Caspian was here. He had spoken her name exactly once.
And Susan was still hopelessly infatuated with him. And she still vividly remembered the press of his lips to hers.
In a way it had been her first kiss. As a Queen of Narnia she had plenty of suitors, many that she flirted with. But in her life as Susan Pevensie, she had no real suitors.
Something dark blue obstructed her view, breaking her out of her thoughts. It was Lucy, holding one of Caspian’s spare tunics in her face.
“Are you all right? Being here with him, I mean?” Lucy asked once she had Susan’s attention.
“I don’t know,” Susan said, taking the garment from Lucy and beginning to peel her wet clothing off.
“I’m certain Aslan wouldn’t rub him in your face,” Lucy said after a moment.
“What?” Susan asked, her voice muffled by the fabric.
“You and Peter weren’t supposed to come back, I mean. Aslan said so. And you almost didn’t. Peter was to stay with the Professor and you were to go to America with mum and dad,” Lucy said. “But you both came with us, fought with them about it too. And now we’re here. You can’t possibly think that it’s not destiny.”
“I’m not sure about all that,” Susan said.
“You’re kidding,” Lucy said. “You two kissed when we left.”
“And he’s probably got a princess back home,” Susan said. “We can’t stay here. You know that. So anything … wouldn’t last.”
“You don’t know that,” Lucy said. “I know we’re here so you and Caspian can be happy. You were miserable for days after we got back last time. And I know for a fact that Phillip Rawling asked you out and you said no three weeks after we got back. Three weeks before we left you were mad about Phillip Rawling. And you didn’t see how Caspian was staring at you when you weren’t looking.”
Susan sighed, though a corner of her mouth lifted. “You have to be the most precocious younger sister that ever lived.”
And with that the sisters headed out of the cabin.