The world itself didn't change.
Later, much later, when Lucy thinks back on those moments, she wonders why she ever thought it would. Of course, the world didn’t look any different, of course nothing had changed; they were different; they had changed. However, the world hadn’t. For the world itself, nothing had changed; no time had passed; for everyone in it. They, the four of them, were still the same children they had been before, except of course that they weren’t. But somehow, despite the evidence, it seemed like the world had changed, that somehow everything was different. Maybe, Lucy though many years later, it was just her perspective on the world that had changed.
The messenger came the day after.
He came the day after it all happened, after they entered and left the wardrobe (Narnia); somehow it still seemed strange that so much time could actually elapse – years and years that they had lived – and at the same time no time had actually passed at all. It almost seemed at times like the life they lived in Narnia had been some kind of dream, something other people lived. However, it had been real; she was sure of it; she had been queen of the most beautiful land imaginable, and although it had disappeared in the blink of an eye, she knew it had been there. At the moment, the messenger arrived Lucy had been sitting in the room with the wardrobe, just another little girl in the world (oh, how she sometimes wished she was); just the same as before.
There are moments, when the pain becomes too much, that she wishes she could turn back the clock. That somehow she could change everything back and turn back into that other Lucy, the one who didn’t know what she could have; she wanted to be her, the girl who lived in the before, the girl who’d seen Narnia, the girl who’d loved Aslan. That’s who, in her darkest moments, she wanted to be, the girl who didn’t know, the girl who hadn’t lost; the one who had never known there was something she could lose. Her life (their lives) might have been better if she (they) had never known; it would definitely be an easier world to live in.
Lucy had not seen the messenger nor had she heard the message.
She had been hiding in the room all day, just praying hoping that in some way Aslan would allow them to go back; however, nothing happened; the wardrobe stayed just a wardrobe. The back never vanished, there was no forest to walk through, no Mr. Tumnus to have tea with; it was all gone. It was Susan who came to find her; she was the one who told her what was going on: that their father was coming home, after many years of not visiting he had finally deemed them important again. Susan, to everyone around her, appeared to be happy about this news, grateful that their father was finally coming. However, Lucy had seen Susan when she was truly happy, and she could see the sadness that lingered in her eyes, the same one she could see when she looked in the mirror.
Lucy took Susan’s hand without thinking and followed her out, leaving the dream behind. It was Susan who closed the door.
It was Susan who locked it.
The servants were running around working so fast that Susan was completely amazed that they hadn’t hurt themselves yet. Or each other.
Truthfully she didn’t think that her father would truly care what the kitchens or the unused rooms looked like, but she dared not to say this out loud; after all what did she know (just a girl after all), she had not seen her father in years, he might care after all. Besides pointing this out to the servants, whom she liked, would do her no good, they would not stop long enough to listen to her; right now, they are all afraid, afraid to be dismissed if their Lord thought, even for just one second, that somehow his children were not cared for probably. Like that had anything to do with the unused rooms. Susan wanted to reach out and help them, like she would have helped the Narnians (she was the gentle after all); however, they would not let her help, despite her protest. It would be one thing, after all, if their Lord came home and found the house not probably cared for, another entirely if he found his oldest daughter doing chores. She would not be punished; it would be unbecoming (she would be but not severely), but others around her would be; perhaps the nurse who should have taught her better, perhaps the servant who had the bad luck of standing by her side, whoever it was would be immediately dismissed.
So Susan stood and watched in silence for she did not wish to be the reason that somebody lost their income.
It gave her time to think, think about the father she had not seen in years; the one she could only remember very vaguely, she had spent years building an image of him in her head, of the man, she wanted him to be. She’d slowly build the image of a loving and caring father (despite the evidence, to the contrary) a man to whom the sex of his children had never mattered, one that would walk into the room and hold out his hands, so they could hug him. It was wishful thinking; she knew this (a way of ignoring the way of the world).
The man who walked through the door was nothing like she had imagined him to be; he didn’t even look like the man in her memories.
It was Edmund who heard the horses, and then he was suddenly there, feeling the room with his presence. He was large, far larger than she could remember he was; he was in a way too large. He was also distant, proving he was a man of his time, one look into his cold eyes, and she knew this was not the man she dreamed he would be, not the kind of man she could ever hug. He did not care for them (perhaps he never had); he cared for what they could do, for the honors that would be bestowed on them (and him in extent).
He looked over the four young children standing in front of him, part of him amazed by how they carried themselves under his scrutiny; he was unaware where they had learned this, but he could only congratulate the person that had taught them, to him, they did not seem like children anymore, which would only help them when they entered the court of their king. He did not know that a day ago these four had been kings and queens themselves; he did not know that a whole nation had bowed for them; truly, he did not care about them at all. With a simple hand wave, he dismissed the servants in the room, making sure there was nobody left to ease drop on is conversation. He allowed his children’s nurse to stay behind, that was after all her jobs, to always be there to help and care for his children.
For a moment, before he spoke, he took in the appearance of his children and allowed himself to think about how grown up, they looked.
Then he spoke, business as usual, his voice cold and distant, his eyes sweeping over his children as if they were nothing more than any other person he met over the years, just there to advance his stand in the court.
‘Children, I have been searching a long time, and I have finally managed to find places, for the four of you at the court of our good and gracious King Henry. To be offered these places is a great honor, and you will act accordingly while at the court for I will not shrink away from dismissing you from court immediately and if I do, rest assured, you may never see each other again.’
His voice was strong and loud, caring across the room to the nurse in the corner, and it left no argument; not even to these four children, who had been kings and queens, and they shrank away from him, none of them moving, none of them saying a word. He turned towards his oldest son; Peter named after him and looked at him with a calculating stare. Peter himself had to fight the urge not to tell him he was king, not to speak as if he was the boss; here he was nothing, and he had to remember that. He could remember his father from before, he was not surprised by his harsh tone or distant stand, but he knew his siblings were; he had not thought to warn them what their father would be like.
Talking back would only make everything worse for the others, so he held his tongue.
‘Peter, for you I have found a place at court in the entourage of your king; you will accept your position as a great honor and make sure you serve our king to the best of your abilities. I’m sure you will do nothing to disappoint me.’
‘Of course Father, this is a great honor for me.’
Satisfied with his son’s response. he turned away, passing his oldest daughter without a second glance and instead focused on his youngest son. Like many others of his time, he believed that sons were the only ones that truly mattered, daughters were only good to be married off, and they would in the end still cost him money, and for this, he ignored her. But she, who had long since awaited her father’s return, was hurt; fighting the tears that threatened to escape, she turned away, determined that he would not notice that she was about to cry. Peter’s hand, strong and comforting, suddenly took a hold of her and squeezed softly, before letting go.
Suddenly, she could feel – as if he was standing right next to her – the calming love that always emerged from Aslan himself.
‘Edmund, son, for you I have managed to find a place in the household of his Eminence Cardinal Wolsey. It is not as important as a place with the king, but I assure you that to be the Cardinal’s good servant is to be the king’s good servant. So you will serve him to the best of your abilities, in the same way you will serve your king, and I will accept no less.’
For as long as he could remember Edmund had looked up at his father, idolizing the little he knew off him; and when he had left them so many years ago had angered him so much that it had turned him into the traitor of Narnia, though that – for him – was a long time ago. But still he had awaited the return of his father for so long, and now he was here and for the life of him, he could not find the man he had once idolized, the one he had loved for so long. Still he could hardly argue with him, hardly jump up to defend his gentle sister, he couldn’t say ‘I know so much more than the Cardinal and you father, I too, like Peter and our king, am a king in my own right. However, he knew anything he said would mean that his father might leave him behind and take his siblings, and if they were going to court he was going with them. No matter what.
‘Yes father, this is a great honor for me. Thank you.’
Then, and only then, did he, Lord Pevensie, turn towards Susan, his oldest daughter; the harshness never leaving his eyes. Susan wondered if this was the same man who once, she could remember it so well, had carried her in his arms because she had hurt her foot back when she had been just a small child. She could find nothing of that man in this one and for the first time she wondered if that other man had even existed. Still, there was nothing she could do, and she was grateful that despite his dismissive attitude towards her because of her sex, at least he had found her a place in court, so she could be near her siblings. She looked up and smiled softly, not giving away anything of her inner turmoil; she was high Queen of Narnia and she would not act like anything less even if this world never recognized her.
‘For you, Susan, I have a place as maid-in-waiting in the household of Queen Catherine. You will serve her with great modesty that a lady of your standing must always show. She will teach you everything you need to know and in time she will help in finding you a good husband, who will be in good standing to both the queen and the king. If you even think about acting like anything less than honorable, I will immediately send you home, and you will not return to court.’
Susan looked at the floor and made a small courtesy, knowing this was what her father expected, and clearly said the words he needed to hear.
‘I will do as you wish father.’
Lucy, young and almost insignificant in her father’s eyes, watched the entire exchange in a way, almost fearing her father would forget she was even there and thus not taker her with him. She had never met him before, or if she had she could not remember it, and she had never been able to imagine it clearly. However, the way he acted, the way her older siblings – who had stood tall against enemies and allies alike – just took in his words and did not argue, scared her. They, who had for fifteen years led a country away from a hundred-year war towards a Golden age, were afraid of this man; and if they, older than her, were afraid than so was she, and if they did as they were told than so would she.
‘For you Lucy I have found you a grand place at court, though normally you are far too young to go to court. The king has decided that his daughter, the Princess Mary, is in need of a companion. And he has decided to honor you and me with that appointment. You will help her and stand by her, treat her with respect and courtesy and never forget your place. You will learn everything you need to learn. Do you understand?’
‘Of course I understand, father.’
She mimicked her sister’s actions, making a small courtesy and that seemed to satisfy him. He then turned away from them, as if that was all they were good for, and ordered the servants to start packing the stuff of their masters for they were leaving early the next morning.
And so it was that after a sleepless night, the four kings and queens of old rode away from their childhood home (and from the wardrobe that had brought them such happiness) towards a very uncertain future.
But it would be okay, for as long as they were together they would be strong.