Chapter 1: Adiemus
1. Karl Jenkins - Adiemus
The Lion paced on, head lifted up and singing the most glorious tune, and animals soon peeped out of the earth to follow. A tiny hummingbird, its wings whirring, darted to check out each flower on the way. A pair of jackrabbits leaped and hopped, sniffing at delicious-looking leaves that had appeared only moments before. A cheetah bounded forward, tumbling somersaults for joy and running a circle back behind and around so not to run ahead of the Lion.
Digory held his breath, watching the ground roiling as it burst and the animals ran out. He glanced over at Polly, face flushed. He felt the sudden urge to go hug her, to grab her hands and twirl around. She grinned back at him, and it looked like she was having the same reaction to the song. But the animals emerging from the ground were too fascinating, and the children simply watched in wonder.
Back in England, at the country house, the children would sometimes close their eyes and remember the Creation Song, as they called it, and link hands, twirling until they collapsed in a breathless heap. No matter how rotten the day had been, the memory of that tune never failed to fill their hearts with an overflowing measure of joy.
Once, years later, a scientist and friend of Digory's came to visit. When the conversation got around to the story of Creation, the friend had to laugh. "Don't tell me you still believe in a literal creation, my friend!"
Digory smiled, a smile that reached beyond his head and down to his heart. "I don't have to believe. I know."
Chapter 2: Adiemus
2. Nickel Creek - Alive
I'm alive, I'm alive, I'm hearing and seeing, I'm alive
Just lying in a field, only breathing and feeling so alive
Cleansing my face, breezes blow
I don't even race 'cause I know that I'm alive
The first glimpse of the nearby meadow the day after coronation drew Lucy out in an impromptu dance. Twirling, dancing, she finally collapsed in a breathless heap. Turning her attention to the sky, she watched the clouds drift by. When Edmund came looking for her, she regained her breath and led him on a wild romp for the sheer joy of it. He asked why? and agreed when she told him that being alive was reason enough to celebrate. They romped until late afternoon, and fell asleep to the tune of the wind, cushioned by the soft grasses.
Chapter 3: Misere Mani
3. Era - Misere Mani
I'll stay up in the night
Looking on shooting stars
To tell you how magic
Is the all universe
Lucy's eyes fairly danced, and her legs certainly did as she raced to find Susan. "Wake up! You've got to see it! There are stars falling!" She tugged at her sister's arm until Susan sleepily rubbed her eyes and swung her legs out of bed. "Come to the balcony and see!" Lucy didn't wait for Susan, running down the hall to find Peter and Edmund.
A few minutes later the four of them emerged onto the balcony off of their rooms. The sky was dark, but was lit up briefly by streaks of light as what looked like stars tumbled down toward the horizon. "I wonder if they like falling," Lucy thought out loud. "I think I would." She didn't notice the amused glance Peter gave Susan. She watched one particularly bright streak and pictured herself soaring through the sky down, down, down . . .
Peter caught Lucy a few minutes later as she started to fall backwards, and carried her to her bed. A delighted smile turned up the corners of her mouth until morning.
Chapter 4: Aurora
4. The Carpenters - Aurora
Morning opens quietly
A shadow vision over me
I know you well
Hidden by the window pane
And all my sadness gone charade
Begins to fade
How long it stayed
Edmund stretched, yawning. He would have slept well, except for the nightmare. He shivered; no matter how he knew the White Witch was dead in the daylight, at night it sometimes felt like she was alive, ready to catch hold of him again. Is it always going to be like this, he wondered. Once again he wished he had never become the beast he was when they first entered Narnia. Even at the coronation, a tiny tendril of this thought lurked beneath his happiness.
A quiet sound from across the room caught his ear and he glanced over. His older brother sat in the window seat, napping upright. "Oh, Peter," said Edmund softly, and he swung his legs out of bed to go sit next to the older boy.
Peter's eyes cracked open when Edmund perched himself by his side. "Morning," he greeted Edmund.
There was a small awkward silence for a few seconds, before Edmund spoke. "You don't have to watch me sleep, you know," Edmund said quietly.
"I know," replied Peter.
Edmund had to blink quickly so Peter wouldn't see the tears that had suddenly appeared in the corners of his eyes. He turned and gave Peter a quick hug, pulling back rapidly as if he would be burned. Peter simply grinned and tousled Edmund's hair. "What say you we go find something to eat?"
Edmund grinned back. "I like that idea."
Peter slung an arm around his brother's shoulder as they headed out of the room and down the hall. And for the first time in a very long time, Edmund felt nothing but happiness in his heart.
Chapter 5: Aslan
5. Caedmon - Aslan
A piercing scream, the silence dies
See the hate in a thousand eyes
The witch stands gaunt against the sky
Her army there, her wand raised high...
The witch’s wand moves round and round
Casting fear in Narnian eyes...
Aslan’s call now gilds the air
A call to Narnians everywhere
The White Witch falls, the Lion is King
No matter how many battles he fights later in his reign, Peter doesn't think he could ever forget that first one. The bloodcurdling cries of the Witch's followers, the sight of the horrific creatures pouring down the hillside toward them, his arm shaking as he drew Rhindon to meet them. He closes his eyes, and is there, watching in despair as one after another of his army is frozen in stone on the hillside. He fights off a hag and a werewolf, and out of the corner of his eye, sees Edmund's charge to meet her wand. He parries a thrust from a minotaur's spear, and is nearly killed when he sees Edmund being stabbed (he freezes entirely, sword arm and all, one moment of absolute panic before fear and grief overwhelm him). He hacks and stabs his way across the valley to reach his brother, lost in blind rage and grief. Then . . .
"Peter," calls a voice, yanking him back to the present, and he blinks back a few tears to see Aslan standing in his doorway.
"Oh Aslan," he exclaims, burying his face in the golden mane. "You always come, don't you?" He lifts his head up to gaze into the deep eyes.
"I will always come when I am most needed, dear one. But that battle is over now. Should you not move on to happier times?"
Peter bows his head in acknowledgement of the Lion's wisdom. "Then I will remember the second half instead." Aslan smiles at him, turning to leave.
So he remembers that moment when, instead of a grief-colored fight to the death, there was a sudden awakening, as if a breath of fresh air had just swept into a dusty passage. He closes his eyes again, and sees Aslan bounding across the landscape toward the White Witch, meeting her with one swift pounce. Gladness fills and echoes in his heart, as if bells are ringing across the battlefield. "Aslan . . ." he breathes a sigh of deep joy to the empty doorway in front of him.
Chapter 6: Queen of the Sun
6. Angels of Venice - Queen of the Sun
Susan clutched the railing and leaned over it, craning her neck for a first glimpse of Calormen. The air was warmer than at Cair Paravel, and the salty ocean breezes were refreshing. The sun burned down, harsher, and she was glad for the headdress one of her maids had packed for her. They slowly rounded one last curve, and she gasped to see the silver dome of the Temple. It gleamed in the sun, nearly blinding her. "Why, it's beautiful!" she called to Edmund, who was discussing battle tactics with Lord Peridan.
The sound of footsteps running turned her head, and she saw Corin running up to her. "Look at all the buildings!" he exclaimed with wide eyes. Susan gave him a fond look and turned back to the view of the city. After the open and scarcely-populated areas of Narnia, it was a distinctly foreign sight to observe thousands of roofs all narrowly packed together. Buildings were even balanced on the sides of hills, and roads wove back and forth to connect everything. She felt an odd thrill run through her. Could this be my first glimpse of my new home, she wondered to herself? The thought neither thrilled nor dismayed her, rather leaving her with a strange sense of anticipation. She remembered Rabadash's kind words and attentions, and longed for more opportunities to walk with him, perhaps in one of his gardens with orange and lemon trees. She could almost smell them now, as they drew closer to the harbor.
Edmund came up behind her and laid a hand on her shoulder. "Are you ready to meet this suitor of yours, sister?"
Susan turned to him and smiled. "Yes."
Chapter 7: Bless the Beasts and the Children
7. The Carpenters - Bless the Beasts and the Children
Bless the beasts and the children
For the world can never be
The world they see...
Light their way
When the darkness surrounds them
Give them love
Let it shine all around them
Edmund watched his little sister as she sat next to a tree in the park. She whispered something to it and patted its trunk. He had to smile. Lucy might have been a grown woman in Narnia, but she was still very much a child as well. She still invited the songbirds in the tree outside their window to come in and share the news, and he'd found her the other day asking a stray mouser how she was faring that summer.
Edmund glanced around to be sure no one was nearby. A child might be able to get away with talking to trees, but Lucy was just old enough that someone might say something. The last time they had, he had demanded that they apologize, which had landed him in a fair bit of trouble himself. (He had forgotten that, not being twelve yet by England's reckoning, people weren't likely to listen to him.) Even Peter wasn't old enough to stand up to most adults, and Susan seemed to side with them half the time anyways. The worst part was that Lucy had heard that time, and though Edmund knew it wouldn't change her behavior, he could tell it had hurt her. The look on her face had cut him to the bone, so he had taken to guarding her play.
Once, he asked her why she talked to the trees when they weren't dryads. Her response was immediate and clear. "I think that maybe, once, they were." She gave him one of her smiles that always seemed to infect him with a sense of sheer delight at being alive. "And anyway, it helps me feel like I'm not so far from Narnia."
He smiled back and kissed her on the forehead. "Go on, then. I'll watch you."
Now he settled back on the park bench and watched his girl/woman sister connect with the trees and squirrels, eyes ever alert for anyone who might misunderstand.
Chapter 8: Sorrow
8. Hans Zimmer - Sorrow
Not come back. Peter turned those words over and over in his mind as Aslan walked away. He could not imagine never returning to Narnia. In the prior year he had spent many hours fearing that, but he had always had some hope of going back, of someday stepping through a door and finding himself among friendly trees, with a warm beautiful sun overhead, and the smell of salty air wafting on the breeze. Never more would he see this land, he reminded himself, and he let his eyes wander over the scene in front of him. He ignored the Telmarines, and fondly watched a pair of Talking Mice (he wondered if they were relatives to Reepicheep) scold their wriggly youngsters, and chuckled at a Bear who kept sucking his paws then hastily pulling them out of his mouth a few moments later, hoping no one had noticed. He would truly miss Narnia, he knew. He would just have to search for the little bits of it he could find in England.
Too old. Susan couldn't understand how that could be. She had already been older; there wasn't much difference, except she was allowed to do a lot more than she could in England. How could her age be a reason to separate her from her home? She had tried to adjust last year, to gloomy skies, air raid sirens, and endless orders from those whom she privately thought of as "other adults". She had instead found herself missing the sun, muttering Narnian curses upon hearing the dreaded wail, and had to bite her tongue not a few times at orders that would have been unheard of when she was a queen. Now she had no choice. Narnia was closed to her, and England was all that was left. She would just have to adjust; there was no other option.
The two older children took their places in line to head back home. Peter's eyes nearly filled with tears as he gave the glade one last look, then he straightened his shoulders and walked as a king, head held high. Susan had to blink rapidly, and it was a couple seconds before she could put her thoughts of Narnia out of her head and march through, focusing on the excitement of the trip to America. Their time of kings and queens had come to a final end.
Chapter 9: Floating Over the Past
9. Mickey Erbe - Floating Over the Past
Steadily ever eastward, the Dawn Treader fairly glided along the top of the water. Almost like a ghost it was, the crew silent and faces turned to the light. The sun was somehow still the sun, yet more, more than ever before. Lucy drank a dipper of sweet water, and felt she was expanding as well, to take it all in. Aslan . . . she breathed in delight. If this were what traveling to his country was like, she could have spent her whole life on the journey and had the most overwhelming contentment in it. She quietly found Edmund's hand; Eustace gripped hers on the other side. Eyes met and mouths curved in serenity; they turned back to gaze into the sun.
Chapter 10: Veni Sancte Spiritus
10. George Fenton - Veni Sancte Spiritus
Veni, Sancte Spiritus,
et emitte caelitus
lucis tuae radium.
Come, Holy Ghost, send down those beams,
which sweetly flow in silent streams
from Thy bright throne above.
When Lucy and Edmund told him about their adventures with Eustace in Narnia, Peter remembered Aslan's last instruction to him and Susan. "Find me in your world," the great Lion had said. Peter had tried right after they got back, spending hours in the library. He garnered some strange looks from the librarian the first time he asked for books about lions, but the man hadn't raised an eyebrow after he returned the third time on the same search. Lions were symbols in Ancient Greece and Rome, he discovered, and they appeared in Indian mythology. He even investigated Richard the Lionheart, but there didn't seem to be much of a parallel. When it didn't seem that the lion motif was getting him anywhere, he tried parallels between Aslan's actions and actions attributed to various beings. Creation myths abounded, and he soon lost track of the number he came across, none of which seemed to have anything to do with song. He found name after name of gods who had died and were resurrected or came back to life; it seemed every culture had one. He finally gave up searching for a month, frustrated and disappointed.
The day before, he had been in the study with Professor Kirke, who asked him what he was pondering. When Peter shared the tale of his search, Professor Kirke had simply smiled at him, and silently crossed the room to pull out a leather-bound book from one of the shelves. Peter took it into his hands, and then he spotted the title. The Bible? He had considered trying the Bible long ago, but couldn't find much beyond Jesus, and even HE didn't seem to be much different from the other gods who'd died and returned to life. He was sure the Bible wouldn't be much help in the search, but Professor Kirke just smiled even more, eyes twinkling, and told him to read. "Start with the book of Matthew. Read all of it and see what you think." The older man then turned away, found his seat at the desk, and picked up his pen to write. Peter quickly got the hint and took the book with him to his room.
The afternoon and evening flew by, and Peter hardly noticed the time except for Professor Kirke's insistence that he at least eat some dinner. He did that quietly, still thinking over what he had read, and went straightaway back to the reading when the meal was finished. (Professor Kirke wisely did not try to make conversation that meal.) The birth story was interesting, but it didn't compel him. He decided he agreed with pretty much all of Jesus' teachings, as he noted them appearing. By that time, Peter had paper and pencil and was jotting down thoughts as he read. The healings reminded him a bit of what Lucy did with her cordial, which, Peter remembered, was a gift from Father Christmas. Not quite the parallel he was looking for, he thought, and kept reading. The stories intrigued them, and he wrote down summaries to share with Edmund later. He would enjoy Jesus' position on some of the legal matters, Peter decided. But it was the twenty-sixth chapter where he found himself making note after note, reading with a dawning excitement. By the end of the next chapter, he had to wipe tears away, and by the end of the book, he was grinning ear to ear. Before he was absolutely sure, however . . . He had to read more.
The second book seemed like it told the same exact story, but it was just a bit different, so he settled down to read it, checking against his notes from Matthew. Soon after beginning the fourth, however, he stopped with a start, leaping off the bed and hurriedly digging out a box in which he kept letters from his family. There it was! the latest letter from Edmund. He opened it again, scanning down to the end. What was it Edmund said Aslan appeared to them as? There-he paused his finger underneath-a lamb. He looked back at the open book. "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." Perhaps the lamb motif was more prevalent than the lion in England? Peter chuckled out loud. "Naturally, since England has many more sheep than it does lions!" he laughed. But it wasn't quite the confirmation he was seeking. There was still the rest of the book.
The hours ticked away, and Peter lost track of all time, as the world shrunk to a single room with one book, a pencil, and paper. Book after book went by, and page after page of notes piled up. Despite the man's early lack of courage, Peter decided his namesake was a man of great honor and integrity. He was disappointed not to find any of his siblings' names inside, but names were merely labels, and changed with the world. He reached the last book and paused. Maybe he had just been wanting to find Aslan so badly he was jumping at the first chance. Could this really be it? He noted the title-"Revelation"-and began reading. This book was definitely more symbolic than the others, he decided right away, as he came across through beasts that spoke (he laughed at the irony of deciding talking beasts were symbolic only, but unless the writers of the Bible had been to Narnia, he didn't suspect they meant it literally). He did pick up the lamb motif again, referring once more to Jesus in regards to his sacrifice, but the seven stars and churches didn't mean much to him, and the one lion reference he ran across was a mere beast at the foot of a throne. Suddenly, he froze. Slowly, he read the line again. "Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed . . ." The Lion of Juda has prevailed, has conquered. "Conquered over death," Peter whispered, "for 'death itself worked backwards,'" and he remembered a cracked table of stone. He put down the book and papers, and lay down to sleep, but his eyes were wide open and his mind took many more hours to slip into slumber.
The next day, Peter stepped through the door of the village chapel. It was the middle of the afternoon, and the building was empty, but Peter didn't think he needed the other people. The beautiful stained glass images of the Crucifixion story adorned each wall, and Peter could almost imagine a Lion, shorn of His mane, lying on a great stone table. He walked to the front of the church and solemnly knelt down. "Aslan . . ." he began, lapsing into the familiar speech they had used in Narnia, "I have done Thy bidding, and found Thee here as Thou asked." There was no audible answer, but something inside him shaped itself into a quiet "well done", and he remained kneeling in reverence for several minutes before standing up to leave.
Chapter 11: Untame Lion
11. Michelle Tumes - Untame Lion
I love an untame lion.
He's calling me to come.
My cold heart, how it hesitates.
I want to turn and run.
His power is dangerous.
His power is endless love....
I try to hide in sleeping.
His music fills my dreams.
The hardest thing about never going back to Narnia, Susan decided, was that she kept seeing things that made her think of Narnia. While in America, her mother took her on a trip to the country, and the blue sky with the fluffy white clouds looked just like one of the Narnian summers she had loved. She couldn't sit by a swift-flowing creek without thinking about what the nymph living in it would look like. Every morning as she dressed herself, she remembered silk gowns and beautiful yet comfortable shoes, and she could never look in the mirror without being reminded of how she would look in fifteen years.
It was cruel, she thought, for Aslan to send them back and not let them move on entirely. He had abandoned them to England, but He kept teasing them unmercifully. 'Susan,' she would hear in her heart; she wanted to scream. Once she asked Lucy whether she ever heard Aslan call her name, and Lucy just beamed and told her yes, and wasn't it wonderful? Susan never asked Lucy about Aslan again. Lucy had given herself entirely to Aslan, abandonment or no, but Susan couldn't think of loving Someone who had exiled her.
She welcomed the night, because it brought fewer reminders of Aslan. She stayed up reading books, adventures with pirates and new countries, and went to sleep hoping to dream of them. But each night she closed her eyes, she saw deep golden eyes and heard a Voice call her name in rich tones, echoing across the seas of her heart.
Chapter 12: Frail
12. Jars of Clay - Frail
Convinced of my deception
I've always been a fool...
If I was not so weak
If I was not so cold
If I was not so scared of being broken
I would be...frail
When she learns she can never return, Susan cries for hours each night when she thinks everyone else is asleep.
They don't understand, she thinks to herself. They don't understand how hard it is to be ripped away from everything you loved, shoved back into a body and a world that's just a bit too tight, too small, and pinches when she moves.
She can't maintain this fiction for long; she knows they understand it perfectly well.
It's easy for them, she thinks to herself. They were closer to Aslan and each other and they support each other better. She is disadvantaged in this un-battle that is her daily existence. She doesn't have Peter's strength, Lucy's faith, Edmund's determination.
At night she privately admits to herself that this is no excuse; she is only as alone as she allows herself to be.
It's not worth it, she thinks to herself. Narnia was beautiful and magical, but England can be just as wonderful. Her siblings are just closing their eyes to the possibilities. There are dances and music and adventures to be found in London too.
A tiny corner of her mind whispers that England could never match up to the beauty of a golden mane and the majesty of an echoing roar forever in her memories; she slams the door on the whisper, and it trembles from the violence.
Susan doesn't let herself cry at all now; she isn't sure she could dam the flood once the gates were opened.
Chapter 13: Reasons Why
13. Nickel Creek - Reasons Why
I don't remember one jump or one leap
Just quiet steps away from your lead...
I'm calling this home when it's not even close
Playing the role with nerves left exposed
It was rather easy, she remembers now. She just threw herself into the trip to America. The food wasn't rationed (chocolate was gloriously delicious, and she relished the milk in her tea), the parties were lively, and a foreign country, even in the middle of a war, was an adventure any English child would love. There was no point in reminiscing about Narnia-there was no one around to talk about it anyway. When Peter and Edmund and Lucy wrote her letters, she skipped the Narnia sections and replied to the rest. In Washington, D.C., Narnia seemed very, very far away, and Susan lived in the here and now.
Returning to England was harder. The first night Peter came for a visit, she was jarred by his reference to her as a "queen". She looked at herself in the mirror, seeing a half-formed chest and child-angles lingering on her face. There was no queenliness about her, she decided, therefore she wasn't a queen. I'm just Susan, she reminded him, and felt very uncomfortable as he watched her curiously. She breathed a sigh of relief when they moved onto other topics.
Lucy was another matter. When she had her next break, she spent a full five minutes chattering excitedly about Narnia and her latest trip there until Susan had to ask her to stop. If she wasn't to go back, she didn't want to hear about it from those who still could. She was dead to Narnia; it would be easier if Narnia were simply dead to her. Lucy's shocked expression caused a twinge of pain, but she held firm, and it eventually went away.
Edmund was the worst. He listened to her request and simply accepted it. He didn't protest or plead, but gave her a look of such understanding and pain that she had to turn away before her eyes clouded over. He never spoke a word about Narnia after that; he never had to. His eyes were more expressive than his words could ever have been.
Narnia doesn't bother her any more, now. It was just a childish game, after all, she says. She ignores Peter's pleas to join them in storytelling, and half-scorns Lucy when she refers to a talking animal. She dresses up in the fanciest clothes she can afford, layers makeup each night, and finds a new party to join. She still avoids the London Zoo (she can never bear to see the lion exhibit, though she won't admit to herself why), and feels rather strange each time she looks in the mirror and sees a faint shadow of a crown; she does her hair in impossible ways and wills the image to fade. After a while, she doesn't see it anymore.
It was rather easy, she remembers, to forget Narnia.
Chapter 14: Crescent Noon
14. The Carpenters - Crescent Noon
You and I were born like the breaking day,
All our seasons, all our green Septembers burn away.
Slowly we'll fade into
a sea of midnight blue
and a falling Crescent Noon.
The knock came earlier than Digory expected, and he hurried to open the door. "Polly!" he exclaimed delightedly, giving her a hug. "Come in! Come in!" he invited, stepping back to let her in and close the door. "I'm sorry I have nothing ready yet; I planned dinner several hours later." He gave her a quizzical look.
She chuckled upon seeing it. "Of course you did! I decided to surprise you and come early. It's been too long since we've had the chance for a good chat," she chided.
"Hmm, so it has been! I have been most remiss in this regard. Well, do be seated, unless . . ." He trailed off, pausing in contemplation.
"Unless?" she prompted him.
"Well, it is a most lovely day, and there is a park just down the street that reminds me a little of my old gardens. If you wouldn't mind a bit of fresh air and sunshine . . .?" he tilted his head in the question, and was gratified to see her answering smile.
"Why would I ever say no to that?" she asked him, and her eyes twinkled. His response was to raise his arm, and she tucked her hand in as they headed out the door.
The stroll was delightful, as the clouds had dissipated for the afternoon, and the birds seemed to be flocking in earnest. They were seated on a bench, and Digory watched the ducks showing off for their potential mates. He turned to study Polly's profile. Her hair was no longer the golden he remembered from their childhood, and her cheek was wrinkled. She turned her face toward his and caught him watching her.
"What is it?" she asked him quietly.
"I . . . It's been a lifetime since Narnia, hasn't it? It was the dawn then, for us as well as Narnia. And now it's the evening." He felt the ending of his explanation was rather clumsy, but it wouldn't matter to Polly.
"For us as well as possibly Narnia?" she asked to clarify.
Digory nodded. "I wondered . . ." he paused, turning to watch the ducks, then continued after a deep breath, "I wondered how things might have gone otherwise." He stopped, not trusting his voice, and dared a glance over at her.
Polly caught his eyes as he looked at her, and for a moment they spoke without words. "Oh, Digory," she breathed, "I don't know how things might have been otherwise. We only know what has been. But it has been a good life, for both of us, hasn't it?" She reached out and laid her slightly wrinkled hand on his.
Digory quirked the corners of his mouth into a small smile. "It has, at that." He exhaled, sighing contentedly. "In the ways it matters most, it has been good." He fell silent, thinking of an old wardrobe he once owned, and four children he took into his house a few years ago.
Polly left her hand on his until they left the park bench, and took his arm on the walk back. They walked slowly, allowing for stiff joints and tired legs, but it was a steady walk, and the cool breeze didn't chill the warmth in Digory's heart.
Chapter 15: Cry Over You
15. Fiona Joyce - Cry Over You
And you may wake in a stranger's bed
And cover your tracks with those pretty blue eyes
But you can't run forever from what's in your head
One of these days you'll have to
One of these days you'll have to
Cry over you
Susan blearily rubbed her eyes. The sunlight and the action sent stabbing pains through her head, and she collapsed back against the sheets. Where was she? She tried to poke through her memory to find out, but found last night little more than a blur. Probably for the best, she thought, and finally willed herself to sit up, despite the immediate increase in pain.
A brief glance around the room told her it wasn't one she knew. Nicely furnished, but not too wealthy. The man still asleep on the bed was vaguely familiar to her, but she couldn't place his name. "Ugh, where are my clothes?" she muttered to herself. The man groaned but did not wake, and she sighed in relief. She had no desire to talk to whoever he was.
She set about the task of finding the lost articles. The red dress she spotted on a heap on the floor on the other side of the bed, the fancy shoes lying in opposite corners of the room. She reached an arm down between the sheets to retrieve her underthings, thankful they were all on her side of the bed. Dressing was a slow affair as she moved gingerly to avoid jarring her headache into greater flares.
She almost escaped the room when the man grunted and lifted his head up. "Hey Su, where ya goin' in such a hurry?" he slurred, still half-asleep.
"I have to get home now. I'll call you later, all right?" she lied, and he grunted back. She found her purse lying just inside the door and scooped it up as she hurried out of the room. She headed down the stairs and hoped she wouldn't run into anyone on her way out. Stepping out into the sun's glare she winced, both from the headache, and because she didn't know this part of town. The nearest bus station was over that way, she guessed, head down and eyes squinted, and strode down the street.
The worst part of walking was she had time to remember. The voices echoed in her memories: Hey Susan, did you hear about that terrific train accident this morning? . . . / . . . "I'm sorry, Miss Pevensie, but your parents and siblings . . . / . . . If you Pevensies hadn't gotten a hold of my Eustace, he wouldn't be . . . / . . . I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord . . . / . . . We therefore commit their bodies to the ground . . .
She found the bus station and settled at a window seat when the bus came, turning away from the other passengers. She closed her eyes against the sun, but could still see their bodies, lying so still. They had wanted someone to visually confirm their identities, and who else could do it? She had had to identify her parents by their wedding rings; she couldn't bear to look at their faces. Peter's had cuts all over it, and she carefully avoided looking at the right side of Edmund's face. Lucy . . . somehow Lucy's face was untouched; the rest of her was covered neck down, and Susan didn't lift the sheet. The man behind her jotted down each name as she flatly spoke them, and took down her name and address.
The bus lurched to a stop, shaking her out of the nightmarish mental scene, and she recognized the corner shop three blocks from her flat. The walk home was quick; she didn't know how much longer she could keep things at bay. She kicked off her shoes and sat on her bed, pulling her knees up to her chin. She leaned her head forward, and finally let the tears fall.
Chapter 16: Angel
16. Sarah McLachlan - Angel
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie...
It don't make no difference
Escaping one last time
It's easier to believe
In this sweet madness
Oh this glorious sadness
That brings me to my knees
Susan pushed open the gate and willed herself to take another step, then another. Her feet felt like lead, and her head ached. She stumbled to the row of stones, all nine together, and collapsed to her knees. She was grateful the cemetery was empty; she couldn't pretend everything was all right anymore. It wasn't, and it never would be again. She brushed her fingers against the stone nearest her. It read:
1890 - 1949
She never finished reading the bottom of the tombstone, for in the middle, between the dates and the epitaph, was the carving of a lion's head. Her fingertips found it and explored the shaggy mane around the head, and she had to blink rapidly as tears welled up. She remembered, oh, how she remembered . . .
Crouching in the bushes next to Lucy, trying to stay unnoticed, watching a horde of hideous creatures race by . . .
Kneeling in wet grass and crying desperately . . .
Standing in the dawn, not daring to hope . . .
Arms around a golden head, pressing kisses into the soft fur . . .
"Aslan!" she cried. "I'm so sorry . . ." Her voice trailed off, and she rubbed her fingers over the lion's head figure again.
"Susan," a rich voice called her tenderly, and Susan looked up to see Him standing in front of her, head bowed close to hers.
"Aslan!" she exclaimed. "Oh Aslan," she cried again, sobbing. "Aslan . . ." Susan found she couldn't say any more, and simply buried her face into His mane, weeping. It was a long time before she could lift her face to His. "Aslan, I . . .", she took a deep breath, swallowing hard, "I abandoned You." It was a minute before she spoke again, repeating the confession. "I abandoned You. And now . . . Peter, Edmund, Lucy, Mum and Dad . . ." She choked up before she could finish listing the names.
"I know, dear heart," Aslan said gently.
She leaned into His mane for another minute, the quiet punctuated by sniffles. "Aslan?" Susan asked hesitantly. "If I had stayed faithful, would I be with them now?"
"Child, no one is ever told how things might have been," Aslan reminded her, but not sternly. Susan lowered her head in acknowledgement. "The road you will have to walk will not be an easy one," He warned her after a minute.
"I know," she whispered. She lifted her eyes wearily to meet His. "I'm not sure I can do it." Her voice was almost pleading.
He smiled, breathing a soft breath over her. "Courage, dear one, courage." Susan closed her eyes and felt the warmth envelop her body and heart. "Courage," He whispered, and it echoed in her ears.
When she opened her eyes, He was gone. She sat for several minutes, looking at the lion's head again. Finally, she took a deep breath and stroked it one last time. She gave it a trembly smile, then stood up and turned to walk home.