I found this, going through email trying to piece together a document. I wrote it in 2008, thinking about how life went for Susan Pevensie. I always thought it was cruel and unusual for C.S. Lewis to subject her to the loss of her entire family, for the sin of preferring makeup, stockings and boys, to Narnia. I loved Susan. She and Jill Pole were my favorites.
“Su,” a timid voice broke through the giggling huddle of girls crowded together as a wall of shoulders and backs, trailing a tangle of long legs and stockinged feet from all sides of the bed. “Erm…Susan Pevensie?”
There was a sigh, and then the dark head of the eldest Pevensie girl leaned back away from the group with an amiable smile under the arched brow of her laughter flushed, beautiful face. “Yes, Gretchen?”
Gretchen was in the first form, new to the school, but given privilege for her marks and manner. Privilege in some
cases, but not today. As soon as Susan’s bright eyes met hers, Gretchen burst into tears. It was just a moment later that Mrs. Drawbore came hurrying down the corridor.
By that time, the older girls had gathered around the younger one, worried and clucking, trying to discern what was the matter. Was it a boy? Was it a professor? Was it bad news from home?
“Miss Pevensie,” Mrs. Drawbore said quietly, tugging at Susan’s elbow to pull her away from the mothering mass, “come with me.”
Confused, but never given to showing it, Susan drew herself up into her best posture and nodded. “Yes, Mrs. Drawbore.”
The administrator’s face was a closed door, no expression to it save a tightness around the mouth. Susan followed, feeling her heart in her throat. Had she been found out? That bit of harmless fun with the boy from Dawes? Had her parents already been called? It was harmless, she told herself, chin rising defiantly. They hadn’t done anything wrong. Nothing half her form hadn’t already done, or worse.
As they walked the darkened halls toward the main office, Susan readied her defense. She could say it was a lie, unless there was an eye witness. Was that what had troubled Gretchen? Had she carried the tale? If there was no witness, she could say it was jealousies being played out against her. She was one of the few girls who had been allowed to stay on over the holidays, preparing for a debut of sorts. A rumor that she wasn’t a proper lady could keep that from happening. How could she discern if there was a witness, she wondered?
These were her considerations as they turned into the Headmistress’s suite, and these were the thoughts that furrowed her brow as she realized not only was the Headmistress there, but also the school nurse, an officer, and her dearest friend Victoria and her family. “Why… What is the matter?” Susan asked, hearing her voice pitch high.
Victoria and her mother were in tears. The nurse was looking most sympathetic, and the officer nervous. This was worse than she thought. Had kissing a boy become a crime? Was she being expelled? But then why was Victoria there, brought back from holiday? Unless Victoria had been forced to share their secrets with her parents, and now… Susan squared her shoulders, ready for anything.
Speculation meant nothing in the heat of battle. This she knew better than anyone in her school, possibly better than any other teenaged girl in London. And once a queen of Narnia, always a queen of Narnia. Aslan himself had said it, and whether or not she’d been banished by her advancing age, she maintained a regal bearing that carried her head and shoulders above her peers.
“Oh, Su,” Victoria cried, throwing herself at Susan. “I am so sorry! It’s so horrible!”
As Susan tried to comfort her friend, and grasp some meaning, Victoria’s father drew her away with a firm hand, as the nurse bade Susan sit. “My dear,” the Headmistress began, and then Susan realized her eyes were wet, “there has been an accident.” She nodded at the officer, who finished out the statement.
Susan’s head swam. She heard the words, but little registered. At first she was relieved. Her secrets were safe.
There was no need to fear. She nearly smiled. But then, like a small wind, understanding fanned away the haze and she sat open mouthed. Peter. Edmund. Lucy. Her mother and father. Her cousin Eustace. The professor.
A sound escaped her throat, then she clenched her jaw and shook her head sharply, inhaling past the prickling needles in her nose, sniffing back sudden tears. “This can’t be true,” she shook her head again, careful for the crown that once sat there. She had learned to move so that the heavy, slippery thing would not slide down over the bridge of her nose, or down the back of her hair. Lucy had called it a vanity. Susan had argued that she wanted to maintain her propriety. Not everyone could carry off the cock-eyed angle of Lucy’s circlet. Not everyone was forgiven everything, as Lucy was. Susan bit her lips together, shoulders still. The trick was riding a horse while wearing one of the ruddy things. “There must be some mistake.”
“No, dear,” the Headmistress’s eyes were deep with sadness. “There was a rail accident. Two trains collided. Everyone in the trains and all those waiting at the platform… There were no survivors.”
“I’m so sorry, Su,” Victoria launched herself forward again, this time falling to her knees and wrapping her arms around Susan’s waist, head cradled in Susan’s lap as the pleats of her heavy wool skirt drank up Victoria’s tears.
Mindlessly, Susan stroked Victoria’s golden hair. Gold like Lucy’s. Lucy had cried this hopelessly when Aslan died, and Susan had held her that night, had stroked her hair, had whispered as much comfort as her own broken heart could offer. “Shh,” she murmured now. “There, there.”
“The Martins have come to take you home with them,” the Headmistress said. “You will stay with their family until other arrangements can be made.”
Susan nodded, dumbstruck. She had lost those she had loved before. She had lost the love of her life in a day–the day they followed that damned white stag out of Narnia and back through the wardrobe. A part of her had never forgiven Lucy for leading them on that last merry chase. Queen Susan the Gentle, made so for love of the
Archenland ambassador, whose easy smile and quick wit had won her heart completely. And then he was gone.
Or she was. There was a hole in her heart, worn through with worry of what he would have thought and gone through. She had simply disappeared that day. All of them had. There would have been great pain in his black eyes, for he had loved her as completely. She wondered if he had married. No, she wondered whom he had married. Aurelia, perhaps? Nive?
The memory of his kiss on her lips turned her thoughts to the day she and her siblings had returned to Narnia, not knowing where they had landed, having been dragged out of the train station by Susan’s own magical horn. Peter had recently told her that there was a magic in the air, that he believed someone had blown the horn again. She had dismissed him. Even if there was a call, Aslan had been clear that none of the Pevensie children would ever return to Narnia. They were too old for allegory, and were at the ages of reckoning, now to choose to seek Aslan in their reality.
And whether she believed them or not, whether Lucy’s pleading demands had registered, Susan could not shake that memory. She could not move herself past the paralyzing moment of realization that everyone they once knew, everyone they had known and loved, Mr. Tumnus, the Beaver family, those silly chittering squirrels, their regents and court, ladies-in-waiting and men-at-arms, and Evram, Oh, Evram–all of them were dead. Long dead, long buried, lying alongside their loved ones in graves left unmarked by disrepair, remembered only distantly by the remnants of a nearly extinct people. That moment had broken something inside her, and it had never yet been fixed.
Peter had nearly died that time. They had been afraid he would. They had been much more afraid then than they had been at the Battle of Beruna. Then there had been no time to think, and even when they found Edmund covered in blood, his mouth open, his face a nasty green, Aslan was with them in body and Lucy’s cordial was in her hand. That had all happened so fast, there was no time for fear.
It was the adrenaline rush of Aslan’s death and resurrection, and the surging, singing hope and glory of their ride on his back as he restored and set to right an army of those petrified by the White Witch. It was all pulse and pounding and passion, and the climactic end of evil.
But when Peter, so much more her nagging elder brother than the High King, had crossed swords with Miraz the Pretender, it was slow and horrifying. Peter had been very mortal, sweat and pain on his face in equal measure. He could have died.
She did not want to face that again. Where Narnia had always been delight and fancy for Lucy, where it meant redemption and rebirth for Edmund, where it was a proving ground and reward for Peter, it had only been work and worry for her. Worried over Lucy’s mental state and the constant bickering between her and Edmund. Worried over Edmund’s foolishness and lies. Work to get the family together and trekking away from the Beaver’s dam. Even her gifts meant work.
Peter was given gifts of honor. Lucy was given gifts that would defend and save. Susan had been given a gift that could call her out her own skin, and force her into someone else’s nightmare. She had seen both her brothers nearly killed, and witnessed the most horrible torment and murder of her, yes, she could call him her lord. Resurrection notwithstanding, she watched him tortured, and crouched helpless behind a rock, cold seeping into her very bones, unable to console Lucy, and afraid to try.
Now she felt tears sliding down her cheeks.
They had said she was no more a friend of Narnia. Peter had nastily accused her of preferring lipstick, and stockings, and invitations to parties over the glory of their once-royal days. But how long past were those days? How many times did she have to grow up? She had done it once in Narnia, and had been very afraid she might be forced to do it there twice. She had blossomed and loved, and she knew the first blush of it on Caspian’s cheeks when he managed a smile her way. Fall in love again in Narnia, only to have her heart ripped from her chest when someone stumbled back through the wardrobe door? In truth, she felt Narnia had never been a friend of hers.
Edmund understood somewhat. He had kissed her goodbye. Lucy had refused, sniffing dramatically and calling her a traitor. That had made Edmund angry, the only one of them who really knew what that word meant, and how far one would go to advance his personal agendas. Or was he?
Susan covered her mouth. She would never see Edmund again. Never watch the breeze stir up the cowlick at the back of his hair, the one she had tried so vainly to tame as she played Little Mother to her younger siblings in the evacuation.
She would never see Lucy again. Never hear that gay, slightly insipid laughter, or Peter’s patronizing acknowledgements. Never see his handsome profile again, and never wonder if the girls were gathering around her for her own company, or to bask in his. Never seeing Eustace again was not such a great loss, but she worried suddenly for Harold and Alberta.
“Oh, the Scrubbs,” she mourned aloud. “And the parents of that girl.”
“What girl, dear?” Miss Drawbore asked. The officer had opened up his writing pad.
“My cousin’s friend. She was to go with them. Professor Kirke, my brothers and sister, my cousin, Eustace Scrubb,” she looked at the officer, seeing through him, ” and another girl. They called themselves the Friends of Narnia–it was a…club. What was her name?”
Susan racked her brain. It was the least she could do. A sharp, bitter pang twisted her stomach and she nearly sobbed, but there was a battle to be fought here, and she would not cry and wet her strings, so to speak. “Jill Pole,” she nodded.
“Would you be able to identify her body?” The officer asked, almost apologetically, choking on the last word.
“Yes,” Susan composed herself, taking a deep breath, her fingers still working through Victoria’s heavy locks as they had once stroked through the mane of a great lion. Victoria’s hair was softer, like silk. The lion’s fur had been coarse and tangled. They were equally as comforting, though, and she was loathe to let go of her friend. Still, as always,
Narnia meant work for Susan to do, and worry.
She gave Victoria a pat and rose when the other girl lifted her red, wet face. There was a dark patch on Susan’s skirt, gray wool turned nearly black with tears and sniveling. Work and worry. Someone would have to take care of the bodies and the arrangements. She had seen to the dead before, war-wounded, diseased, or aged. It was all part of having been grown-up once already. And having been grown-up, she knew that there was no time to wallow. The deaths, the emptiness, those would be there always, and grief would be more than happy to wait for her.
For now, onward. She pushed herself up from her chair. Once a queen of Narnia, always a queen of Narnia. Friend or not. Onward and upward. “What do you need me to do?” She asked the officer. “Whatever it is, I am ready.”