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It happens nearly every time she passes a lamp post, but especially on winter nights when the snow is swirling down, and the flakes catch the light: a pang between her ribs, and then a cold, cold feeling, like she swallowed a block of ice. She pauses, closing her eyes, and waits to feel something more. Just what, she doesn’t know. It’s been so long that she can’t remember exactly how it felt the two times she was pulled out of this world and into another. And maybe that’s the problem, she thinks as she waits and waits, growing colder, growing frustrated. Maybe if she could just remember, that would be it, the thing she needs to do to find her brothers, her sister, her cousin, and her friends.

It’s stupid. Aslan told her she could never return to Narnia. The only way to cope with her disappointment had been to convince herself that it had all been a delightful, elaborate game she played as a child.

Now that she’s grown, now that her family is gone … she doesn’t know. If that place was real or fantasy. If the chill in her heart means anything. If she’s losing her mind, one lamp post at a time.

The moment never lasts for very long. She begins to attract the stares of passersby; a couple of times, people have touched her arm, startling her out of her reverie, to ask her if she’s all right.

Yes, she always says, shaking herself slightly and forcing a brittle smile to her lips. Yes, I’m fine, thank you.

And, the spell broken, Susan readjusts her purse strap and continues on her way. She’ll warm herself up with a cup of tea, she thinks, or phone up a friend. There are a million things she can do to make herself feel better, to help herself forget. This is the real world. She can feel it through the soles of her shoes, every slab of cement, every pebble. If the wind tugs at her hair or the hem of her skirt … it’s just the wind, nothing more.

07/16/2011