Lucy had been beautiful, once upon a time, not so long ago that she couldn’t remember what it had been like, and beautiful enough that Lucy had seen it herself. Not so beautiful as Susan, of course, no, never. But she’d had suitors of her own.
She’d had long thick waves of curls the color of Aslan’s mane tumbling down her back and large expressive eyes like the midsummer’s sky. She’d been slender from days of running through the woods and fields and swimming in the sea and nights of dancing, but with curves in all the right places and lovely dresses made to flatter her.
On the Dawn Treader, Lucy examined herself in the mirror in Caspian’s cabin. She was not impressed. Her hair had not lost its color, but it hung limply and lifelessly down to her shoulders. Her nails were ragged where she’d bit them in class. She felt like a boy wearing man’s clothing, flat-chested and too thin and angled where she used to be curved, knees bare and bony beneath the edge of the tunic.
Lucy could remember what it had been like, twirling from the arm of one handsome man to the next, beaming to light up the whole room, feeling their eyes on her. She’d felt wanted, admired, in control.
Now she only felt silly. Silly and childish and awkward.
When Caspian hung on her every word, it wasn’t because he might love her, or at least think he did, it was because she was Queen Lucy the Valiant from the Golden Age. He was in awe of her old persona, the woman she’d been but wasn’t any longer. He hung on her words because he loved her stories (she’d always been a good storyteller, she hadn’t lost that) and because he was continually trying to learn and become a better king. Lucy was merely a figure from long-ago tales come to life, a dream more real than most.
Caspian thought her a queen in girl’s form, and he wasn’t wrong.
He didn’t find her beautiful, as she did him.
When she said something to make Caspian laugh, he looked fondly upon her, but it was the same look he gave to Edmund, or to Reepicheep. When Caspian laid a hand on her wrist, Lucy felt it burn through her skin and craved the lost connection when he drew his hand away. She knew it didn’t mean anything to him.
“I would like to see your world,” Caspian said again.
“No, you wouldn’t, not really. It’s nothing like Narnia; it’s dull and dirty and too fast.”
“I don’t believe that. There must be something good in it, if the greatest kings and queens of Narnia came from it.”
Lucy felt his weight against the wood of the rail as he pressed against it by her side. She didn’t look at him, instead watching as the ship skimmed over the clear waters below. “You would be so out of place there. Too beautiful, too strong, too noble. You’d hate it.”
Caspian was laughing again, he was always laughing. Lucy wasn’t sure what he found so funny. “I would not hate it. You think too much of me-- or perhaps too little.”
“No,” Lucy said. “I don’t.”
In her dreams Lucy found she could be anyone she wanted, do anything she wanted. She could spin in graceful circles with her skirts flowing around her, feeling the eyes of everyone upon her. She could rest upon the arm of the man next to her, leaning her weight in closer than she dared in waking life. Caspian’s fingers on her hip, threading through her hair. Caspian’s voice whispering in her ear, more familiar than ever he’d been.
She was a queen again, sitting upon her throne in Cair Paravel, but this time she stood in no one’s shadow.
Lucy liked to lie on the deck at night and gaze up at the stars, recalling all the constellations she’d learned her first time in Narnia, revisiting them like old friends. Sometimes Caspian joined her, his arm pressing lightly against hers, and pointed out new stars, stars that had grown brighter in the hundreds of years since she’d been queen. It was a sobering thought, that not even the night sky remained quite as she remembered.
After a while, Lucy eased up off her back till she was sitting, hugging her knees to her chest. There was a rustle next to her and Lucy realized Caspian was mimicking her position. She turned her face towards him, resting her cheek on her knee. The moonlight made Caspian’s hair glisten in the dark.
He smiled nervously. “What, Lucy? Why do you stare so?”
Lucy flushed and raised her head. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize--”
He laughed. “Please, don’t apologize. Tell me, what were you thinking about, so solemnly?”
Staring up at the sky again, Lucy’s mind struggled to come up with a reply. “Narnia,” she said. Better only a partial lie than a whole one. “Old Narnia, I mean. It’s so different, now, and every time I return it’s even more so. I’d feel like a spirit to walk its forests again, I think. A spirit tied to the earth but no longer belonging to it.”
“You will always belong,” Caspian said, his voice washing over her like a breeze. “A spirit, perhaps, in a sense, returned from the past. But Narnia belongs to you, to you and Edmund and Peter and Susan, and Aslan. You saved it, and me.”
Risking a glance at her companion, Lucy found he’d been watching her the whole time, his expression kind and… something else she couldn’t place. Her eyes fluttered closed of their own accord and she leaned forward slightly. She could remember this, the feel of warm lips against her own, the first tentative brush, but then she was leaning back and Caspian had stood up. He smiled down at her, sweetly, gently, as though he hadn’t noticed a thing (and maybe he hadn’t, the idea of kissing Lucy had probably never crossed his mind) and offered his hand to help her up, and she fought to keep the blush out of her cheeks.
Edmund watched Lucy watching Caspian and he lowered himself to the deck beside her. They sat in silence, just watching, Lucy’s heartbeat quickening whenever Caspian threw a smile in her direction.
“Ed,” she said. “Edmund, do you remember--”
She couldn’t finish, couldn’t say it, but Edmund merely looked at her with his calm eyes. “Yes. I remember.”
And Lucy knew he understood.
When they met Ramandu’s daughter, Lucy started to think maybe it was time to return.
In a way-- many ways, most ways-- Lucy wished to remain on the Dawn Treader forever, in Narnia forever, never returning to the harshness that was England. But when she watched Caspian with Ramandu’s daughter, the sunlight glinting off their golden hair, both so beautiful, more beautiful than she could ever be (but maybe she had been, once), Lucy wanted to disappear.
Edmund rested his hand on Lucy’s shoulder, and she shook her head. “I’m fine,” she said. “I’m fine. Look at them-- aren’t they a sight? I’m glad Caspian will be happy. I’m glad he’s found a queen.”
“No, it’s alright. I’m alright.”
Lucy felt silly for her jealousy, for wishing Caspian would look at her that way. He was a king and she was a star’s daughter, and Lucy could never belong. Dimly she forgave her petty emotions, because she was only a girl.
She was only a girl, even if she didn’t feel like it.
For one wild moment before they made their tearful goodbyes, Lucy thought about staying forever. She couldn’t be forced to get in that boat, could she? She could sail back to Narnia and grow up again, live her life over again, and maybe Caspian would see-- maybe he would forget--
Only for one wild moment and she pushed it from her mind. Instead she kissed Caspian on the cheek and held onto him longer than was quite proper, but she didn’t care and he didn’t seem to either. A picture flashed behind her eyes as though from a dream, but it wasn’t ever to be. Instead she said a silent prayer that Caspian would find his happiness with his star’s daughter, too lovely for words and hopefully less cold and distant than she seemed.
When Aslan told her she was too old, she wasn’t surprised. Lucy only wished that it had shown on the outside.