The Good in Small Things
K. Ryan, 2005
The second, and final, part.
She was gentle as she told him, 'no,' and slipped out the door on her own, her head held high.
This is, however, a story that wants to get ahead of itself. After all, while we know that it is Peter, a grown-up, fierce, frightened Peter, whom Susan is saying 'no' to, what we have yet to find out is the question of, 'why.'
Susan Pevensie has a kissed a boy.
It had not been a very good kiss, as far as these things go. She had found out that the boy had been eating acid drops, and there was a bump on her lip for weeks after—his teeth had cut. Still, it had not been bad, and Susan had felt special. He looked at her, while she had a hand up to her bleeding lip, trying to meet his eyes, the way she had remembered Mr. Tunmus looking at Lucy, just before that fateful time when the four splendid kings and queens of Narnia had hunted the White Stag.
Susan thought 'fateful' a most peculiar word.
The boy looked at her as the Faun had looked upon a blossoming girl, yes, but there was a diffference. When he looked at Susan, there was no trace of guilt. A better comparison, then, she felt, was the way the children's father had looked at their mother, in the faded, misty times before there was a wardrobe, or even a war.
It was a strange and frightening thing, being looked at that way. It took her by the hands and helped her step over the dark, dank boarderlands that seemed to surround Adulthood—a familiar word and unfamiliar feeling. The light in the boy's eyes held another parallel, and this was the one that made Susan's breath catch in her throat, and look at her slim, soft-eyed reflection in wonder.
The boy looked at Susan the way Peter had looked at The Lion. She nearly gasped at the heroism of it. She saw that he was scared of her, he stuttered whenever she was near, and yet he kissed her and wanted her.
It was this that made gentlessness shine as radiance. She cared and she comforted, looked-out-for; warned, sheilded and wept, but to one person she was also wild, unknown; a mystery. She was bright and wonderful and thrilling, an untamed contradiction who loved the slippery, strange feel of nylon stockings and always brought a packed lunch. The boy never tried to explain her, to give her underlying reason. She was his Aslan, and she was human—a woman.
Peter saw the woman these days, and she knew it made him sick. Made bile rise and hands shake for fear. Susan, he knew, was never meant to be magnificant, and yet somehow she was, to a stammaring man three years older than he was himself. Susan still hummed softy to the wireless while she washed dishes and dusted the palour, but she hummed in front of the mirror now, too. She wore lipstick, and when she did Peter saw his sword. "With it, I killed the wolf," he had said, once. The wolf's blood was red.
When Peter heard Susan call the stutterer, 'her boy'—when he was a man, more a man than Peter was a man—he prayed. "We have all grown so much. Help her, help us. If this must happen then please, oh lord—Aslan—let her be safe."
Lucy knew Peter was afraid, and this in turn frightened her. "What's so special about him anyway, Su?" she asked, child-scorn doing battle with genuine curiosity. "He isn't even Narnian!"
Susan looked into her sister's open, honest, pretty face, and she smiled. "No, he isn't Narnian," she told her. "He's so very…real."
"Real?" Lucy was outraged, hurt. Nine-years-old again and trying to shut out the quiet, insistant part of Susan that always made sense, as awful as it was. "Narnia is real."
"Yes," said Susan, and Lucy's hope shone bright. "But you and I, and he…he is real now."
"I don't understand!"
Susan reached out and smoothed down some of her sister's flyaway hair. "Narnia was real, and is real, somewhere, like how the moon is real, only you can't see it. We've been there, but we had to come back, and maybe we'll go there again, one day. But until then, Lu, Narnia is real just like the moon is. You can't touch the moon, and there's no use trying to unless it comes closer. People here are real all the time."
Lucy rubbed her eyes. "This isn't about the moon."
"No, not really," Susan said. "But think, Lu. Who would you marry, if you had to marry now. "Eustace, or Mr. Tumness?"
"Ugh, Susan." Lucy flinched back from her sister's hand, blushing. "That's a beastly thing to ask! And, it's not fair at all, really, because time works differently and he is…he's…I still don't understand. I won't!"
Susan kissed her forhead. "You will," she said.
So Lucy went to bed confused, leaving Peter watching Susan as she readied herself for a party in front of their small, tarnished mirror. He watched while she sung, until she looked and sounded as beautiful as he'd ever seen her, and worry pressed down hard on his chest. A lion's massive paw.
"You're not going out tonight, Su," he said at last.
"It's not safe."
Susan smiled up at her brother. He had always been tall. "I'll be perfectly safe."
"Yes," Peter's voice was gruff, the worry pressing down on him so much that he simply couldn't breathe. "Because you are not going."
Susan took his hand and squeezed it, gentle.
"Are you listening to me?" Peter stood like a High King, but he sounded like a child.
"No," Susan said, slipping out the door with her head held high.
The next day, five children boarded a train, and Susan waved them off from the station. A small, lipsticked figure with a blue pocketed-hankerchief.
It is often the case that when many other people say something about another person, and they say this thing over and over again, that it will come true.
This was never the case with Susan Pevensie. No matter what anyone said, she was always gentle.
She was gentle when she walked to her family's graves, her husband behind her. He seldom stuttered, now, and he held out his arms in support, but Susan did not need them. She walked ahead like a queen, unashamed of the tears that still, even now, fell down her face. They were angry tears, but they never stung with regret. They glistened on her face as she looked at the moon, and smiled. Gentle.
Susan was always gentle, she always understood.
It wasn't such a small thing.