Jill Pole was certain that she was in love with Edmund Pevensie.
She had never been in love before and she was quite glad that she had chosen Edmund to be her first. If her girlfriends had asked her about it, she'd imagined how proud she would be telling them about him. He's nineteen, intelligent, handsome, and could spin words on their heads like no one else she had ever met. To her, he was so tall and grand, and she, little and inexperienced, as insignificant to him as she could possibly be.
Edmund was different. Jill noticed this since the first Friends of Narnia meeting that Eustace took her to. Peter was all warm and golden, like the sun enveloping you. Edmund, however, was dark and brooding. Jill hardly ever saw him laugh.
She never had to try with Peter; she already felt welcomed and accepted. With Edmund, she dressed up. She read on topics to discuss with him. She sought him out in conversations and looked for his approval. He was polite, but always distant. Jill, however, never gave up. She was never the sort.
One day, during one of their dinners, Jill's comment to Edmund fell flat. He hadn't been listening and after she was forced to repeat her statement, he merely acknowledged it with an indulgent smile.
"Well, that's interesting," Edmund had said, in a tone which suggested nothing of the sort.
Later, while she was bringing the empty plates back into the kitchen, Lucy followed her.
"Jill, dear," Lucy began, stopping her with a touch on the arm. "A second?"
"Of course, Lucy," said Jill, smiling unconvincingly. "What is it?"
"Just be careful."
"I don't know what you mean. These plates.."
"Be careful. With Edmund."
"I don't know what you mean," Jill repeated, her smile frozen. "I don't fancy Edmund."
"I've noticed things, that's all."
"I'm sure you're wrong."
"Just be careful, Jill," said Lucy, and she looked almost sorry for the younger girl. "I know my brother. He is... Let's say he's complicated."
"Complicated is no bad thing."
Lucy sighed and reached out to tuck one loose curl behind Jill's ear.
"Jill, dear," she said again, in a tone Jill recognised as the one the Pevensies reserved for their younger counterparts, "there is no point in climbing up a mountain you can never reach. Sometimes, it is better to see things just as they are."
Jill felt the heat rising in her cheeks. "Which is?"
"That you are not what he is looking for," said Lucy, "Nor are you what he is missing."
Jill pretended not to understand.
She noticed Edmund slipping out late in the evening. Lucy had already gone up to her bedroom while Eustace, the professor and Peter were holed up in his study. Polly was in the kitchen baking. From the windowsill in her bedroom, Jill saw Edmund leave the house. It was raining mildly, but he did not carry an umbrella. Jill bolted from her seat, put on her coat and hurried after him.
She kept her distance and followed him to the pub around the corner. He took a seat by the bar and ordered a drink. This was when Jill came up to him.
"Hello," she said.
Edmund looked up. "I was wondering when you would show yourself."
"You knew I was following you?"
He shrugged. "You weren't being very discreet."
"Oh," said Jill, a little disappointed. "I didn't want to run up and intrude."
"And you're not intruding now?" he asked, amused.
Jill smiled. "So can I sit?"
She pulled up a chair and ordered a soda. She sipped on her own drink and watched him nurse his glass of whiskey. He was a slow drinker, she noticed, but he drank like someone who knew how.
"You look sad," she noted. "Are you thinking of...you know...?"
"What do you think?"
"What does it feel like?" asked Jill, unable to stop herself. "To know you can never go back? I miss it like crazy, but I know Scrubb and I will have the chance again. But you and Peter and Lucy... it must be horrible."
At first, Edmund didn't answer. He merely took another drink. Then, he turned to look at her. Something strange stirred within his eyes.
"Have you ever been in love, Jill?"
"I think I have."
"Did it hurt?"
She swallowed. "Yes, I suppose."
"Well, it feels like that."
Edmund turned back to his drink and Jill could feel her heart beating faster in her chest.
"Did you have a woman when you were there?" she asked.
Edmund did not reply.
"Do you have a woman now?"
Edmund still did not answer and so she ploughed on.
"I've never had anyone. I've never even kissed a boy. I can't imagine what it must be like for you to miss everything there and then miss someone special as well. The three of you never talked about it and I always thought that -"
"Jill," interrupted Edmund as he was putting down his glass, "what do you want?"
This time, she had no answer.
Edmund sighed. He threw some coins down on the counter and picked up his coat.
"I'll see you back at the professor's, alright?" he said. "Whatever this is… sort it out, alright?"
Jill watched him leave. But as the door banged shut behind him, something seemed to snap within her. She grabbed her own coat and rushed after him.
The rain had gotten worse and Jill caught up with Edmund just before he reached the crossing. She called out his name and he turned around.
"Jill, this is not-"
"You," said Jill, and her voice broke. "You asked me what I want. I want you."
The moment dragged on and the rain just fell.
Finally, Edmund smiled sadly.
"Jill, you don't know what you're saying. You don't even know me."
"I know that you're marvellous and amazing," she said in a rush, "and I know that Lucy thinks it's all too complicated, but if you can give me half a chance -"
"Jill, listen to me."
He grabbed both her arms and looked straight into her eyes.
"You're just a girl. And I'm..." He sighed again. "I'm sorry, alright?"
Her breath caught in her throat. For the first time, she finally saw herself through Edmund's eyes. He was not nineteen. He was a king who had lived many lives and here she was, a little girl too big for her adult clothes, all jammed and jutted and too wrong for him in so many ways.
The rain felt hot on her face, but it could have been her own tears; she wasn't sure.
"Listen, I don't know how to do this," said Edmund. "Peter is much better at these things than I am, but I don't want to be unkind to you. You're nice and I like you."
"But not like that."
"Not like that," he repeated. "But someone else does."
Jill laughed bitterly. "Who?"
Edmund smiled wisely and Jill thought he looked very old - old and grave.
"Ah, wouldn't you like to know," he said and a twinkle returned to his eye.
Suddenly, Jill felt incredibly stupid and turned away from him.
"I made a complete fool of myself. I thought that I had a chance."
"Not many do," said Edmund. "It's not just you."
"Is that supposed to make me feel better?"
"I don't know. Does it?"
"Not really," she said miserably. "I must seem so juvenile to you. And to Lucy. Oh God, she warned me and I was so embarrassed, I ignored her. This has turned into a complete mess!"
Edmund burst out laughing and the sound was such a surprise to Jill that she looked up.
"You're still so young, Jill," said Edmund kindly. "One day you'll look back on this and you'll understand that being in love with me is not all that it's cracked up to be. Then, you'll laugh too."
"I still feel horrible."
He chuckled. "Well, is there anything I can do to make it up to you? Ice cream? Umbrella?"
Jill's face widened into a mischievous smile.
"How about a kiss?"
"A kiss." Jill grinned. "I've never been kissed before."
All Edmund could do was gape at her.
"I've already made a complete fool of myself," said Jill. "The least you can do to make me feel better is give me my first kiss."
"Eustace would kill me," was all Edmund managed to say.
"What does Scrubb have to do with this? And who says Scrubb needs to know? I've already made up my mind. How about you?"
Edmund crossed his arms. "You are a strange one."
He smirked. "Alright then."
"Good!" Jill crossed her arms as well. "Now what?"
"Just stand still," he said. "I'll do the rest."
Edmund rolled his eyes, but she could tell he was slightly amused. He stepped closer. With his eyes on hers, he took both her hands and brought them down to her side.
The smiled slid away from Jill's face. She felt as if her heart had stopped and her breath was now stuck in her throat. Edmund was close. Very close. And he kept getting closer and closer. She slammed her eyes shut and then she felt his lips touched hers.
Something exploded within Jill - something light and soft which shot through her entire body and made her feel like she could fly. So she opened her eyes and kissed him back.
It was safe to say that the kiss lasted much longer than Edmund had intended.
When he broke it off, Jill had a huge grin plastered on her face.
"You are a strange one," he repeated, but he was smiling as well.
"Thank you," she said. "I feel less embarrassed now."
"Good! Can we get out of the rain now?"
"You go," said Jill. "I don't think I can walk in awkward silence with you for the next three minutes."
Edmund laughed and Jill thought it was such a nice sound, it was a shame he didn't laugh more often.
"Alright then," he said. "I'll see you back at the house."
Jill nodded. He gave her a mock salute and spun around. She watched him cross the road and turned back towards their street. He looked back once and raised his hand again in acknowledgement. She smiled back and stood there in the rain until he was out of sight.
Happiness bubbled up inside her. She was glad she had chosen Edmund. Complicated be damned.