The fourth time was when Edmund realized he had not, in fact, gotten over it.
The painting in Lucy's room felt like a cruel joke.
It was a very Narnian ship, as they had both observed upon arrival, and Edmund was not sure whether he would rather sit looking at it all day or avoid it at all costs.
For in addition to its very Narnian-ness, it reminded him of a conversation he had had with Caspian.
"Were the Lone Islands a part of Narnia?" Caspian asked. The challenge to Miraz had just been drafted and Emperor of the Lone Islands had been among Peter's titles.
"Are they no longer?" They stood in one of the many passageways of Aslan's Howe as Edmund waited to leave to deliver the challenge.
Caspian shook his head. "Telmarines have always feared the water. That is why the castle is built inland and the forest was allowed to grow wild. No one has gone out to sea in... years.
" He looked pensive.
Edmund sensed there was a story there. "Who were they?"
"Seven of my father's closest friends and allies," Caspian said. "Miraz sent them out to sea to get them out of his way. None of them ever returned." He smiled sadly.
"Even so, I have always been intrigued by the idea of sailing."
The look in his eyes after he said that was how Edmund imagined he would look on a ship. Eyes focused on a faraway spot, slight smile on his face.
So when, after being barged in upon by Eustace, the painting began to move, Edmund thought he was imagining things. Until Lucy gasped.
Until sea spray hit him in the face, bringing him farther back in his memories, to sailing on the Splendor Hyaline.
That was when he began to hope. As the bedroom was engulfed in water and slowly transformed into open ocean, he hoped that this time, Narnian time would be kind to him.
Then the ship was bearing down on them and several sailors had dived into the water and Edmund realized, at about the same time as Lucy did,
that there was a possibility they did not wish them well. He swam desperately, pulling his arm out of the grip of a man he didn't recognize.
From somewhere to his right, over the splashing of Eustace, he heard Lucy's surprised voice, "Caspian?"
His heart stopped as he heard Caspian's response, clear as day. "Lucy?"
"Ed, it's alright," Lucy called out, although he had already stopped resisting his rescuer. "It's Caspian!"
He didn't get a good look at Caspian until they were on deck.
His soaking clothes clung to his skin, his shirt especially leaving nothing to the imagination, so much s that nearly made Edmund look away in modesty.
He looked more than a year older than the last time they had seen him. Edmund suspected that more than a year had passed in Narnia.
Caspian had never been a particularly shy or overly uncertain person, but he was much more comfortably confident now.
As they went through introductions and explanations, he saw how Caspian interacted with the crew and felt that surge of pride again. Caspian had grown into his title, and it fit him perfectly.
In days, it was as though Edmund and Lucy had been on the voyage all along. There was no stiffness or awkwardness with Caspian, Drinian or the rest of the crew.
And Edmund decided that he liked peacetime Caspian.
While he had admired Caspian's strength and determination in wartime, this Caspian laughed more, an utterly joyful sound that sent a nervous stutter through Edmund's chest.
It was some of the most relaxing time Edmund had spent in Narnia.
He and Caspian sparred, bodies close and hearts thumping, and swam in the waves, wrestling and trying to push each other under, and when the sun set, they looked up at the stars.
He and Caspian soon found that the Telmarines had created new constellations which were different from the ones he had been taught as a young king.
They stayed up into the early hours of the morning, exchanging the legends they saw told in the skies.
And so, they would lay, side by side on the deck of the ship and on various beaches, not touching, but close enough that if either shifted they would briefly brush arms.
Edmund would stare very deliberately upwards, and a moment of silence would pass between them before their conversation continued.
When they finally went to bed, hammocks swinging next to each other, Edmund would try not to overanalyze everything that had happened since arriving.
"And have you managed to find a wife in those three years?"
"No, I have not," A small, maybe coincidental, possibly entirely imagined, glance at Edmund.
Drinian's knowing looks following them, as though he could see into Edmund's heart.
Lucy's ever cryptic observations springing up when Edmund least expected them. "You seem different, Ed."
"Well, we're in Narnia," he said quietly. "We're always different in Narnia." She had always been observant, good at reading people.
She nodded. "It's a good different."
And every look Caspian gave him, every word they exchanged, was locked in Edmund's memory,
pieces of evidence in the essays he composed to convince himself of the thing he didn't believe possible.
He wished it were like a puzzle or a math problem that if he got all the pieces he needed in the right spots, he would see the answer, the big picture.
"What is the name of your country again?" Caspian asked one evening as he, Edmund, and Lucy sat around the uncompleted map of the Eastern Ocean.
"England," Edmund said.
"What's it like?" he asked.
"Boring," Edmund said at the same time as Lucy said, "Different."
Lucy smiled. "What Ed means is that there isn't a lot of sword-fighting or sailing ships."
"Are there different weapons?" Caspian asked. "Or is there simply no need for them."
Edmund and Lucy exchanged a look. "Oh, they're needed," Edmund said. "We have guns," he said with some distaste. "They can kill a man from a distance and do more harm than arrows."
"I'm surprised you speak of them like that, Ed," Lucy said. "Given that you tried to lie your way into the army."
Caspian looked at Edmund. "Why would you have to lie your way in?"
"Because our dear Edmund," Lucy said teasingly. "is not yet eighteen."
He rolled his eyes. "Shut up, they would've let me in had you not busted me."
She sighed. "Honestly, you're almost as bad as those boys who only enlist to impress their sweethearts."
"Well, there's nothing like a man in uniform," Edmund said.
"So, no sweetheart to impress then?" Caspian asked, his gaze a bit more intent now.
Edmund realized with a start that it was very important how he answered this question. So, of course, he stammered his way through it.
"Well- I am not really, erm, interested in the girls back home."
Lucy looked at the two of them. "Well, if you two are going to spend the rest of the evening discussing the pros and cons of Narnian versus English girls, I think I'll take my leave."
Caspian was still looking at Edmund and panic overtook him as he realized he was - once again - not ready to answer the question in his eyes. So, he rose quickly, with Lucy. "It's getting late."
As if to mock him, the clock struck seven. "I should get to bed. Goodnight, Caspian, Lu."
He tried to keep his pace reasonable as he exited and hardly breathed until he was lying in his hammock. He groaned and pressed his pillow over his face. Wonderful, he thought.
When Caspian came in, some time later, Edmund pretended to sleep. He heard his footsteps stop at his side and stay there for a long moment.
After a long moment of silence, he heard him sigh quietly and then murmured, "Goodnight, Ed."
It took everything in him not to open his eyes to see Caspian's expression right then. And as Caspian walked to his hammock, Edmund regretted not having done so.
Maybe that had been the final piece of evidence he needed.
Caspian's boots hit the ground with a thump and his hammock creaked as he lay down on it.
Only then did Edmund risk a peek through his eyelashes, and he saw Caspian looking up at the ceiling with his brow slightly furrowed, and an odd mix of sadness and hopefulness in his eyes.
And as Edmund drifted off to the swinging of the ship, he wondered if perhaps his wishes had been right after all.
He and Caspian kind of danced around each other after that, only speaking when in larger groups and never interacting with only the two of them.
Edmund hated it, but he wasn't sure what to do about it. A layer of awkwardness had come between them as they both watched each other carefully.
Lucy noticed, because of course she did, and after a few days, decided she had enough.
She dragged Edmund from a conversation with Reepicheep ("Sorry, Reep,
important family business") and Caspian from his daily exercise routine - which Edmund had been both avoiding and finding excuses to witness.
Lucy, displaying remarkable strength, pulled them into the captain's cabin and shut the door.
She turned on them, hands on her hips. "Have you two had an argument or something?"
"No," Caspian and Edmund said at the same time. Then they glanced at each other and quickly looked away.
Lucy narrowed her eyes at them. "Well, whatever this is, you two need to sort it out, and I will sit outside the door until you do."
"Lucy, please be reaso-" Caspian said.
"No, Cas," Lucy interrupted. "I am being reasonable. You two need to be on good terms with each other for this journey to succeed."
She spun on her heel, left the room, and closed the door behind her.
[To be continued...]