She didn't cry when the telegram came for her; she simply stared at the slip of paper in her hands and felt her heart slowly turn to ice within her. The next day she read their names in the paper with the same sense of cold. Digory Kirke, Edmund Pevensie, Helen Pevensie, Lucy Pevensie, Peter Pevensie, William Pevensie, Polly Plummer, Jill Pole, Eustace Clarence Scrubb. Somehow it seemed right for those nine names to be listed together. She barely knew Jill, had despised Eustace, had met Polly only once, and remembered the professor vaguely from all those years ago, but somehow it was right that their names were listed with the names of her family. She scarcely understood why. There were other names, a full half page of dead, missing or wounded, but she didn't care to read them.
The day of the funeral she stared blankly at her reflection in the mirror and for the first time in years she didn't put on makeup before going out. What need had she of outward armour when her heart was icy stone within her?
The funeral itself was quiet; Alberta and Harold were her only living relatives, though Edmund and Peter's university mates came, and a whole troupe of sobbing girls Susan could only assume were friends of Lucy's. Had been friends of Lucy's, what need had Lucy now of friends?
When she stumbled back into her empty flat that night she was met with an untidy pile of letters. Half-heartedly she picked the first one up and froze, her hand trembling. She recognized her sister's tidy cursive and the ice within her heart seemed to crack. She unfolded the letter with shaking hands and held it up to the light.
I do hope you'll read this letter, even if we aren't friends as we once were. Something dreadful is happening back home and Peter and Edmund are determined to go rushing straight into the middle of it. Oh Susan, I wish you still believed. I'm frightened; I'm frightened for them and for Narnia and for you if anything should happen. Please, talk to me again as we once did, my dear sister.
With all my love,
Susan dropped the letter as if stung. No, no more, no more games. They were gone and yet Lucy still wished to draw her into their childish old game. She was angry then and for a moment she nearly tore the remaining two letters into pieces. Then she saw her older brother's messy scrawl and could not help but read.
Ed and I are going away for a while, never mind where, I'm afraid it might be dangerous. If anything should happen to us look after Lucy, won't you? And if Edmund comes back without me look after him too? Neither of them will ever admit how much they still need you.
Susan, I understand now, why you turned away from us all. I know how much it hurt you to leave Narnia, though you never said. I was angry too, for a long time, but I had Edmund to talk some sense into me. You went through it alone, and I'm sorry Su, I should have been there to help you. We all should have.
Please Susan, you don't have to shut us out; we're her for you now, let it not be too late. We all miss you terribly, gentle sister.
Your dear brother,
Susan sank, shaking to the floor and stared at the words, loving words, but what need had Peter now of love?
The last letter was from Edmund and it was with terrible dread that she broke the seal and began to read.
Look after Peter and Lucy, won't you? Somehow, I don't think I'll be coming back this time. I'm going home Susan! Just think of it; I know you remember, how could you not? We will all go home someday, I trust in that; won't you? Dear sister, gentle queen, trust in Aslan to guide you back to us. I have never doubted you, though you have tried dearly to make me do so. I know your fears, sister, for they have been mine as well. Do not shut yourself away from your family as I once did. Many paths lead home, Su, and though yours may be different than ours I know you will find it one day.
All my love to you always,
Edmund, sometime King in Narnia
Her icy heart shattered and warm tears flowed freely from her eyes. What need had Edmund now of wisdom? And yet he was still wise. How could her siblings still have needed her after her years of holding them at arm's length? And yet all of them had asked for her to come back to them. How could she be forgiven her coldness? And yet she was, not in words, but in their very actions.
"Aslan, oh Aslan, what have I done? What a fool I've been; I've betrayed all I hold dear! How could I? How could I?"
"But even a traitor may mend," Edmund seemed to whisper in her ear.
"I'm ready now, Aslan, I'm ready to change. Show me the way, please?" And when she stood she was Queen Susan the Gentle once more, and though no Lion roared and no golden light shone upon her she knew what she must do. She must live; that was to be her atonement and her reward. She was to live and learn and grow and when at last it was her time she would go home. At least, she hoped she would.
Many years had passed since the funeral day when Susan at last closed her eyes for the last time and opened them for the first. A gentle light shone upon her and she sat upon a green hill overlooking the sea. She looked about her, puzzled at first then with slowly growing joy, for at last she was home!
Suddenly Lucy was running towards her, but she was more Lucy than she had ever been in England and a golden light seemed to shine from within her. She was joyful, valiant, and everything she had always been and much, much more. Susan caught her sister in her arms and they laughed and wept with joy.
Then Peter was there, his golden crown upon his head and his eyes shining with love as bowed before her and kissed her hand. He was more Peter than he had ever been, even as High King of Narnia. He was strong, magnificent, and kind. Susan threw her arms about his neck even as he bid her welcome.
Last of all Edmund stepped forward to greet her and he met her eyes with a grave smile. "We understand one another at last, dear sister," and they had no more need of words, for it was true. He bowed deeply to her and she saw that he was Edmund as he should have been and as he so nearly had been all along.
She then found herself looking into the face of the Great Lion, of Aslan himself and her knees shook and she fell at his feet. "Oh Aslan, I'm so terribly sorry; you were with me the whole time and it took me so long to know you." She bowed her head and wept.
Aslan bent His golden head over her and breathed upon her. "Daughter, do you know Me now?"
"Yes, Aslan, at least, I hope I do."
"Then arise, gentle Queen, for you have come home at last."