|The Queen's Downfall
Author: baobabs PM
The ride to insanity is a one-way trip. SusancentricRated: Fiction T - English - Angst - Susan Pevensie - Words: 2,928 - Reviews: 10 - Favs: 17 - Follows: 2 - Published: 12-19-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6570155
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Queen's Downfall
She paints her face in garish, intoxicating colours: red on her lips, white on her face and crimson staining her cheeks. Every line is accented in black, around her eyes, her lashes, her eyebrows. Long black tresses piled on top of her shapely head in the very height of fashion; it doesn't matter whether or not it is becoming, it is à la mode and that is all that is all that is important. Her dress is made of fine grey silk, with a wide, flouncy shirt trimmed with yards of lace and a very thin, very tight bodice that makes it no easy task for her to breathe normally, but one must suffer to be beautiful. And beautiful she will be. It doesn't matter that her shoes are too tight, or that the heels are too high and hard to walk on; it doesn't matter that the pins in her hair are digging into her scalp. She is ravishing.
She pulls on long, elegant gloves white gloves decorated with pearl beads: made out of plastic, but that they looked real, and that was enough.
(And like those beads, for all her splendour and beauty, inside she is nothing but a shell, because appearances are deceiving.)
She curls her fingers in satisfaction. Her hand is thin and shapely, ladylike and feminine, and very agile. The toes of her shoes peep out from underneath her dress, shiny black leather glinting and flashing. The front is very pointed and her feet feel like they are being crushed between two rocks, but no matter. They complement her dress very nicely, and they look wonderful.
She fingers her new fur coat. Made of real minx, and so, so soft. She ignores that small voice in her head that tells her that once upon a time, she would've been aghast at the murder of several innocent animals, just to make clothes for people who had plenty more. But that was before, she tells herself. Once upon a time was a long, long time ago.
It cost her a year's savings, but that is not important. It doesn't matter that she could only buy Lucy a measly birthday gift, it doesn't matter that she had never given Edmund the book she had promised him, it doesn't matter that Peter will not have that cashmere sweater the Pevensie children were saving up for. It will look absolutely splendid with her dress, and she will be danced with tonight, of that she is certain. After all, everything else does not matter.
(Doesn't matter…doesn't matter…It is a mantra she will repeat all night as she sashays and leaps in too-tight shoes and keeps a bright smile on her face when all she wants to do is cry, over the promises she has broken and the love she hasn't earned.)
He screams at her, his words cutting through her soul and driving straight through the complicated, twisting labyrinth of her heart, landing dead center, in that small, secret chamber she has long sealed up. And it hurts so damn much.
So she screams back, yelling for him to understand, that she was right, and would he just grow up, and didn't he realize that he was being unreasonable?
But maybe, a tiny voice says slyly (maybe it is in her head, or in her heart - she doesn't know), maybe you are the one being unreasonable?
She tells it to shut up.
Elizabeth's party invite is irresistible, her being the belle of fashionable society and the daughter of the richest man in England. It will be held in the garden in front of her mansion, and Susan is faint with delight when she hears a description of it. Just think: her, a mere city girl, a common Pevensie, reclining in the company of London's most sought-after society!
She spends three hours in her room on the night, tossing clothes onto her bed and pacing to and fro: because as much as she might try to deny it, her grey silk she has grown out of long ago, and her best dress is not velvet, or cashmere, but made out of coarse, rough plaid, and dyed ugly dark blue; the waist is too wide, the cuffs are frayed and the strings of her corset are near snapping. She has darned it countless times, patching it up with small, painstaking stitches until her eyes ached from the strain, but no matter how careful she is, there is a worn, faded feel to the dress that no amount of sowing can fix.
(She takes care to forget that, long ago, she had wardrobes full of silk gowns and brocades, and whenever one could not be worn, there would always be another to replace it. Because that was all a game, a silly, silly game, and it is reality that really matters.)
A long table stretches from one end of the garden to the other, quite an impressive feat considering the size of the terrace, and covered in an embroidered white cloth. Plates of food and crystal goblets sparkle under the moonlight, and she feels almost dizzy at the rich smell of roast duck and gravy and sizzling pork and delicacies such as swallow's nest and rice balls-
And she remembers feasts like this in a land far, far away, except they were even more splendid, and nymphs would dance around, hand in hand with the fauns, and the wind would whisper secrets in her ear, its voice soft and girlish and gossipy-
But that was just a game, she tells herself. And she turns her head away and buries those memories deep, deep down, as she walks lightly, elegantly towards a group of beautifully dressed girls, trying to ignore the fact that they are all wearing fine fabrics and gold jewelry, while she has nothing but plaid and a thin silver chain, and even her prized minx fur, now faded and rough, pales in comparison to their stylish scarves and coats. And so she looks at them through her eyelashes, a veil of mascara obscuring her view, because maybe that will make it hurt less.
Somewhere between Here and Not Here, in a land to the east, where the sun lies and there is no such thing as winter, a Lion sighs.
She receives her first proposal at the door of the ladies dressing room.
He is clumsy and bumbling and his trousers are always too short, but he is sweet and kind and helps her up when she slips on a patch of mud and dirties her dress. He is there to help her wash it as well as they can, and he dries her tears when she is refused by one of the most prominent sorority clubs the school can offer; so as she stares uncomprehendingly at the silver ring held out by the red-haired, freckled youth who is kneeling in front of her and takes in his babbled proposal, why does she feel so empty, so dejected when she should be delighted that someone actually wants her, a pretty girl in a sea of pretty girls?
She says no.
And as her mind reels at this empty-headed refusal and his gentle, sad voice sighs and tells her that though he wanted to be more he will still be her friend, she is overwhelmed by his quiet goodness.
Maybe, just maybe, this is because he reminds her of someone else, someone else who was so quiet, but so, so good, and who could make her feel like the sun will shine forever, and fool her into thinking that everything is and will be perfect. Because she is selfish, and that sly little voice (how she hates it!) is whispering, why would you want him, if he isn't a handsome prince with dark hair and chocolate eyes and olive skin, who could give you rubies and diamonds and propose to you in verse, in a magical grove of trees and sunlight? Can he offer you a life in luxury with dryads and nymphs for handmaidens? Can he kiss your hurts and make them better? Can he give you palaces of marble and fountains of liquid gold? Is he good enough?
And she hates herself, because she answers, no.
(Because she remembers a lifetime long ago, where she was queen, and she was happy, and she had everything she wanted. She knows that it is not his fault that she can never be satisfied with him, because once upon a time, suitors flocked to her home, demanding her hand in marriage, and they would fight for her, carry her honours into battle. Once upon a time, she was the belle of the land, and she was valued and respected and loved. Once upon a time, she could ride horses and shoot arrows and romp about, and no one would accuse her for it; and that is so, so different from now, where she is nobody, and peoples' opinion is everything. And it hurts so damn much, because she can never go back to that wonderful, magical place, where she was alive.)
His mouth is open, and words, words that she does not want to hear are coming out of him. She glares at him in return, her face turning a most unbecoming magenta as she yells back, her hair coming loose and floating down around her.
Grow up, Su! he screams. Stop being such a prig, will you?
And she cries that she is growing up, and it is them who need to stop dreaming about that - that place, because it was all just a silly game.
He doesn't notice – or if he does, he doesn't care – that her heart is cracking.
Lucy sits on the stairs, hugging her legs to her chest, blue eyes wide and pleading and scared – and her chest tightens as she realized she is scaring Lucy, her darling little sister, and for God's sake wasn't she and Peter supposed to protect her?
She hates that place even more now, because it has destroyed her sister.
That horrid, snide little voice just laughs.
They are blabbering about their fantasy kingdom again, how they have found a way to go back – how Aslan has let them go back - and oh, Su, isn't that marvelous? and she nods absentmindedly, glancing over the top of their heads – or Lucy's, rather. She has yet to be that tall.
She has a party this afternoon. But a tiny part of her wants – selfishly – to be looked upon in a favourable light – to be loved - and so she tells them that she will meet them at two at the train station. And their eyes light up, the corners of their mouths turn up in a brilliant smile, and Peter is beaming proudly, and Edmund has – in a sudden, rare show of emotion – squeezed her around the waist, and then Lucy is swinging her around and holding onto her hands, laughing with her golden hair fanning out behind her, and they are happier than she has seen them in months.
She smiles graciously (Edmund's grin falters a bit, but she pretends not to see it – he has always known her better than the others – but she is so good at pretending) and eases out of Lucy's grasp, before running up to her room. She takes out her dresses and lays them, one by one, on her bed; because of course she has no intention of meeting them at the station. She is going to Sally's party, and she will stay there; she has no intention of staying with those who continue dreaming foolish, childhood dreams. It's not fashionable. Besides, whatever they were going to talk about is sure to be boring and nonsensical and unimportant. They will understand, she tells herself. Really.
After all, a little white lie never hurt anybody.
The skid of wheels - the scream of people trapped inside – the violent, crushing sound of a collision –
And she thinks that part of her has died with them.
Their bloody, mangled faces stare up at her accusingly, and she wants to crawl into a hole and hide, to drown away the guilt that is eating away at her insides. Lucy's eyes are open, glassy orbs unblinking and dead dead dead dead dead – Edmund's hands are clenched, hard and still and frozen, like her heart – Peter's face is twisted into a pain-filled grimace – and her parent's fingers are locked together.
A little bit away are Eustace, Professor Kirke and two women, a girl (she thinks she is called Jill, but she cannot remember) and a lady that she does not recognize, but she doesn't see them. The dead bodies of her family fill her view.
The constable asks her gently to identify them, and she points them out numbly, LucyEdmundPeterFrankHelen, and he nods softly. He cannot understand her pain, but she is thankful that he does not press matters. Because she can't handle that. She is not strong enough.
She is weak.
They look, and they whisper. Her family is dead, you know. All dead. And her cousin and uncle. Poor girl. The children run away when they see her.
She walks around with her head held high. Her dresses are always black, now.
There is a clump of dandelions by the sidewalk.
Lucy had always loved those little weeds. She liked the way each little fluffy parachute floated on the wind.
She pulls them out with vigor.
Her house is small and plain, but so, so tidy. She wakes up before sunrise and goes over every nook and cranny with a feather duster, and walks three miles to a well for water.
There is only one place that is dusty.
A small, cracked picture frame stands on the mantelpiece. The border is white and delicate and beautiful, with golden trumpets and silver flags and a rosy-cheeked cherub smiling in the corner. The picture is too dusty to be seen clearly.
When she is thirty, bailiffs come to take away her house because she has not paid the rent. She asks for five minutes, and she gets it.
She approaches the mantelpiece, and stares at the picture.
She looks at it for a very long time, standing very erect and very still.
They've finally come, she whispers. I'm going to be turned out. And where will I go then?
Her voice is louder now.
Where? she demands. Where do I go? Haven't I done enough for you? Haven't I done all you asked?
(She is screaming, loud and harsh and piercing, and she vaguely wonders why the men downstairs are not coming up to investigate.)
Haven't I? she shrieks. What else do I have to do, Aslan? You took away my family, my life, and I coped, Aslan! I lived, I lived, what else? Tell me! Tell me!
She falls to her knees, her hair coming out in a dark halo around her face, and tears, fresh and thick, are falling down her cheeks in a frenzied rush. Her fists beat the floor, bloody and bruised; and – maybe it was the wind, maybe it was a sudden tremor in the earth – she will never know – the picture drops down towards the floor and smashes.
There is a moment of terrible, terrible silence – and then she screams, high and wrenching, her eyes wide and dark and scared. She scrambles madly on her hands and feet, piecing the broken glass together, cutting her skin open, drops of crimson blood sprinkled everywhere, but she doesn't care. Her breathing is ragged, caught in her throat, and she can't breathe; this is her punishment, the Day of Judgment has arrived –
There is a knock on the door. The bailiffs come up and take her away. Her five minutes are up.
The dust has settled. The glass is still broken.
She stares listlessly out the window, at the dreary grey landscape. The Home is built in the middle of nowhere, she thinks.
The shadows are long and thin and menacing. They are coming for her.
They will wait.
Her mind is filled with flickering flames. She is suspended over a deep, deep pit, hanging onto a rotting wooden beam with her arms, and she is aching all over from the strain, terrible, excruciating pain that fills her body, but she mustn't let go, because they are down there, clamouring for her to give up and join them down there. She can see them: tall and gaunt and terrible, with bloodshot, staring eyes and black lips; their fingers are long and spindly, their skin is horribly pale and smooth, like marble. They whisper in her ear, terrible promises, secrets, and she feels their slimy hands grabbing her by the throat, placing sharp, hungry bites on the side of her neck and tracing a path on her face with their fingernails. They are waiting.
They are impatient. They can wait no longer. Your time is coming, they hiss. You didn't pay what is long due. You will pay now.
Slowly, they rise up, reaching for her ankles, entwining their fingers around her feet. And the wooden beam breaks, and Susan drops.