Coombe, Cornwall, U.K. July 26, 1940.
They were home. Whatever that meant.
Susan did not know what home was anymore. Currently, Professor Kirke’s manor house held the title, as it had once before—fifteen years ago or last week, pick one. Her real home, the home with Mother and Father and Peter and Edmund and Lucy in Finchley…that had not been home in fifteen years or one month, pick one. And Narnia…
Susan sat up from her prone position on the overstuffed chaise, twisting her back with a satisfying crack. Seeking privacy and solitude, she knew she would find it in the last few hours of this beautiful summer day in the quiet library, while everyone else enjoyed the late sunshine of the outdoors. So, instead of pacing the rose garden with ever-restless Lucy at her invitation, Susan chose to take refuge on the tufted Edwardian piece in front of the window that offered the best views of the sprawling estate, with its rolling green hills, the small patch of woods, and the lazy windmill in the distance, slowly turning in the late afternoon breeze.
But she just hurt too much—in more ways than one—to enjoy the English countryside.
And at this moment, she was physically aching. She had not suffered from her monthly courses here in England, before they had left through the wardrobe. But, of course, almost the very moment she had returned, they had rushed her entrance into womanhood with a vengeance. Had she suffered in those early days in Narnia? And for so long? When they—
Another cramp interrupted her thoughts, and she collapsed back onto the chaise, pulling the old ceramic hot water bottle that Mrs. Macready had dug out for her the day before. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw movement through the window… it appeared Peter had somehow fashioned a sword out of branch from the nearby wood. And… was that…?
She glanced up and saw the empty space over the mantle. Yes. Edmund had acted on his idea and had managed to nick the sword that had previously been on display above the fireplace in the library. Though it was much smaller than Edmund’s own sword, Skar—
Susan frowned. Skarden? Skarpen? For the life of her, she could not recall its name. She dug around her mind trying to remember the day Edmund had named it, when he had first took it in the practice field, just a few weeks after he had received it during recovery, and he had gleefully tested it out while sparring with—
No, do not think that now.
She focused her attention on the action outdoors for awhile. While she had been lost in thought, Edmund seemed to have given up trying to manage the ancient sword, and he instead appeared to be coaching Peter through his exercises from the seated comfort of a fallen log.
She turned her attention to her elder brother. Though younger than he was a mere week ago, Peter’s fighting form was still magnificent. Naturally. She expected nothing less.
She envied Peter’s reaction to their return. He was always one to keep things in stride in front of others. After they had all found themselves tumbling out of the wardrobe, and falling into a pile of gangling limbs of their youth and the dull, scratchy fabrics of war-time British children’s wear, Peter merely had stood up, brushed the dust off of his elbows and knees, assessed the state of his siblings, and said, “Well. There’s that, then.”
And he had been at outermost appearances a rock ever since. Comforting Lucy and her sniffles that she bravely refused to hide, patiently listening to Edmund’s endless theories of what had happened to them and possible solutions to get back, and respecting Susan’s solitude… for the most part.
But Susan knew better. Deep down, she knew Peter was angry and lost. Perhaps it was a different kind of anger than hers, but definitely a much more vocal kind than she ever had when in expressing any frustrations.
And, as they were the eldest, he was aching to reach out to her, she knew. Just as he had before they left England, just as he had while they were in Narnia, and just as he wanted to upon their return.
Normally, Peter was a fixer, and had it been just a few years earlier, Peter would have tried to get Susan to open up at every chance he could to discuss her problems with him. He did, indeed, on that first night upon their return, softly knock on her bedroom door, craving a chance to talk with her. She indulged him that first night, though she offered very little to his venting. He tried to do the same each night since, approaching her door after Edmund had retreated to his room to scribble in his journal and Lucy to catch her dreams. But she feigned sleep every time. He had stopped knocking two nights ago, much to Susan’s guilt-ridden relief.
But Susan believed that he didn’t need her, not really, and he didn’t even bother trying to speak with her during the daytime, although she would occasionally catch him looking at her with a worried expression. After all, he had Edmund and Lucy. And now that their host knew, he also had Professor Kirke. But he knew better than to try with her anymore. Or, at least, for the time being.
That’s what 25 years of sibling-hood taught you, Susan supposed. But as thankful as she was for his polite distance, there was an ever-growing part of her that was ever-much the 13 year old innocent girl from before they left who did crave both his advice and his shoulder.
And he would always be High King Peter the Magnificent who would never rest well until each and every one of his subjects, his siblings included, had more comfort than himself.
And for that, Susan was so proud of him. She missed the man he had become back in Narnia. And she had missed the adult Edmund, and the young woman that Lucy had become, but most of all—
No, do not think that now. Do not think that ever.
Susan smoothed the crinkled seams of the patchwork quilt she had draped over her legs despite the summer heat. Perhaps if she chose not to think about it, any of it, at all, the memories would all disappear, fade away into the nether. They had already started slipping, like her siblings had forgotten about England back in… back in that other place, while Susan had fought against it.
And now, she wanted nothing more than to forget everything, everyone that she had just left.
No. No, do not think that now. Do not think of him.
Susan blinked back the unwanted tears that came. She had not let a drop fall since their first night upon their return, and definitely not in front of anyone else. And she was determined to keep it that way. If Peter were to change his mind and come knocking on her door again tonight, she would not give in. She could not.
She adjusted the hot water bottle that she clutched to her middle as another pang of pain hit. Once she pulled the worn quilt up to her chin, Susan let her head fall back again to watch the marvelous, courageous, and brave High King slay whatever invisible Giants with a makeshift Rhindon he could before the Macready rang the dinner bell.