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The Uneasy Path

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Brothers and sisters are as close as hands and feet.

- Vietnamese Proverb


            Eustace had long since left Edmund alone in the room, the silence that spread between them once Aslan had sent them home-for Edmund, his final trip home-too thick and cloying for the younger youth to stand.  While it was sound, not scent, it reminded Edmund of the Calormene incense they had so briefly choked on in the slave market. There was nothing to say to break it, nothing to do to comfort either of them.  Thankfully, Eustace had grown in the months in Narnia and on the ship, and he was now able to understand that his cousin's pain was far greater than his own.

            So he had left the older boy, gone downstairs quietly to make tea.

            Alone, Edmund sat and stared at the painting, the painting he knew he would somehow take with him when he left his aunt and uncle's home. The painting of the ship his sister was still on.

            Salt burned his eyes, but the tears refused to fall. No matter how badly he wished they would, they clung to him, and all he could do was stare at the ship and wonder at the appearance of a small blonde figure near the stern.  He was sure that before they had fallen into the painting there had been no such figure there.

            He needed to start to think of what they would tell the family. Edmund knew that, and he knew it was urgent; he and Eustace would have to come up with something, a story they could know by heart and stick to.

            Yet all he could think of was the conversation he had had with Lucy in the cabin.

            "Ed-please, please don't." Her eyes, pale green like spring grass-and how right that had always seemed, after Narnia-were shedding tears for both of them after his outraged protest. "You don't understand, and Lion help me, I can't-I can't explain. But I need you to believe me on this, Edmund. If nothing else, believe this: Aslan was here. And what I do, I do for Narnia-and for you. And for Peter and Susan, and mother and father and England, too! I can't explain the details, and I don't really know all of them. But this is something-do you think I don't know what it will mean?" And even in his pain and rage, Edmund's heart shattered a little to see the despair in his little sister's eyes. "I know. I know what this will do to our family. But I also know that this choice...oh, Ed, so much hinges on it.  I can't know all of it, but the little I do-there's a story. About a cup and a tree and a green hill and-oh, I can't explain that, it was something in the Magician's book. But that's part of this, too."

            "You're speaking nonsense, Lu," Edmund had replied, coldly, but his face was concerned now.

            Her laughter was both choked and mixed with tears. "Am I? Perhaps. Perhaps it all is nonsense. But you trusted me once, Edmund when no one else did, when I saw Aslan in the gorge the last time we were in Narnia. Please. This last time," and Edmund's heart froze, knowing that for Lucy to say that her mind truly was made up, "trust me again."

            She was, after all, his little sister, and she was Lucy.

            She had always seen more than the rest of them.

            So he had done the only thing he could do. He had slowly moved to wrap his arms around her, planted a kiss to her forehead, and whispered, "All right," as he felt his world begin to end.

            Edmund breathed in and out, staring at the painting and surprised to find that he had approached it.  His fingers gently tracing the small blonde woman's hair before his hand dropped limply to his side.

            "I trust you, Lu," he whispered finally as he made himself turn and head toward the door, forcing himself to go seek out his cousin and begin to prepare for the hell that was to come. "I just pray you have someone to trust, too."

            He shut the door firmly behind him and pretended that the blur in his vision was from moving too quickly, rather than from the tears beginning to break forth like they would never stop.