Susan Pevensie awoke in the dead of night. The cover of sleep slowly slipped from her mind, her intelligence returning in a cautious instant. She looked around her quiet room, wondering what had woken her from deep sleep.
Curiosity pulled at her and she obeyed its bidding. She picked up her robe, gathered it around her shoulders, and pushed open the door to her room.
She shuffled aimlessly through the Professor's dark house. As any scientific mind would deem logical, Susan was not afraid of the house at night. After all, the contents of the house did not change with the time of day.
Her feet carried her along a familiar path. She didn't realize it at first, but when she stopped before a particular door, she knew where she'd been headed all along.
With a gentle hand, Susan pushed open the heavy door. It creaked in protest at first, but once it had started, it opened easily.
Her footsteps echoed in the almost-empty room. Moonlight poured in through the single window, casting a pool of light across the room. As Susan's eyes adjusted to the lighting, she noticed something that she hadn't seen at first.
Susan raced across the floor, kneeling beside the form that was slumped against the wardrobe door.
"Lucy!" Her alarm dissipated when she saw that her younger sister was simply sleeping.
An unlit candle, still warm, was on the floor beside the sleeping Lucy; her small hand clutched the handle. Susan took in the sight and sighed.
"Lucy..." she said gently, a touch of that softly berating tone in her voice.
Susan sat for a moment on the cold, wooden floor. She watched her sister sleep, peace emanating from her like light from a candle. A small smile played on Lucy's face and Susan knew that she was dreaming of another world, another life. Susan knew that Lucy longed for that life; she longed for the people whom she'd left behind.
"Oh, Lucy. You can't live like this."
With a decision and a disconcerted frown, Susan shook Lucy's shoulder. The girl woke slowly, reluctantly. Her piercing blue eyes looked up at her sister, a look of utter pleading in them.
"Susan..." she said, uncertainty in her tone.
"Come on, Lucy. Let's get back to bed."
Suddenly, the young girl grasped the front of her sister's robe and began to cry. Susan took Lucy in her arms and stroked her short hair. The weighty atmosphere of the room pressed upon them, imprinting its signature on Lucy's heart. Soft winds, sweet and delicious, fluttered through her hair, whispering broken promises.
"Lucy, what's the matter?"
There was a pause in her sobbing. Then, through her countless tears, Lucy muttered,
"I want to go home."
"Lucy, I wish I could order the Germans to stop the Blitz, but I can't. Don't worry. We'll be home in London by the end of the summer. It's only a little while longer."
"No." Lucy's tone was serious.
"Yes," Susan insisted. "We'll get home. I promise."
"No," Lucy replied firmly. She looked up at Susan, a fire in her eyes. "I want to go home to Cair Paravel. I want to go home to Aslan and Mr. and Mrs. Beaver and Mr. Tumnus. I want to go home to Narnia."
The younger girl cut Susan off.
"Aslan has shut the door."
With this proclamation came a new set of sobs. Susan held Lucy tight as she cried like she'd never cried in her life.
The two sisters sat on the wooden floor of the spare room for an incalculable amount of time, the wardrobe watching forever over them. Eventually, Lucy ran out of tears and she allowed Susan to help her up. She let herself be led toward the door, her back to the wardrobe.
Lucy paused before leaving, taking one long look at the door that could take her home. Visions of white winters snuggled in a warm cave by the fireside and flowery summers filled with dances and feasts passed through her mind. The bright corridors of Cair Paravel and the scents of the great Eastern Sea flooded her memory. She thought of the touch of Aslan's magnificent mane between her fingers as they walked along the sand of her beach. The lilting music of Mr. Tumnus' flute floated through the forest trees, tickling the edges of her hearing. She wondered how she could ever leave it all behind.
Suddenly, without warning, the memories flooded back in full detail, nearly drowning her with their complexity. The room faded around her and was replaced by another world, another time. Visions of gold and blue assaulted her memory, arranging themselves into distinguishable shapes.
A twelve-year-old Lucy was standing on Cair Paravel's balcony, basking in the movement of the sea and the caress of the soft night wind. The countless Narnian stars gazed lovingly upon her, their radiance reflected in her large eyes.
She leaned on her elbows, releasing a sigh of contentment. She pushed away all thought of the impending sea-venture to the Lone Islands.
"Aslan gave us this land," Peter had said. "It's only fair that we explore it."
Lucy smiled, excited for the adventure to come. She moved past it, dwelling in the current moment alone. Her entire being was still, focused on one spark of time.
It was in this tranquility that she saw a sight that both shocked her and filled her with an intense joy.
Aslan stood on the sand below, looking up at her.
"Aslan!" Lucy whispered to herself, turning to race down the stairs to him.
She moved faster than she had in her entire life. The fear that he would leave teased her mind, pushing her to run ever faster.
When she reached the sand, she was relieved to find him waiting there, a smile on his feline face.
"Good evening, Lucy," his deep, gentle voice began.
"Oh, Aslan!" Lucy ran to him, encircling his neck with her arms and showering his face with soft kisses. She buried her face in his mane, all the wonderful scents that always accompanied Aslan filling her senses. He smelled of cinnamon and thunder storms, dew and lavender.
She released her grip and looked the mighty Lion in the eye.
"I'm so happy to see you, Aslan," Lucy exclaimed. "Why have you been away so long?"
Aslan smiled and began to walk along the beach, his large paws moving effortlessly on the sand. Lucy walked, a bit more clumsily, beside him; her hand was buried in the fur of his beautiful, golden mane.
"I have come to see you off on your journey," he explained. "I wish to give you my blessing."
They continued along the beach in silence. Even the crash of the waves seemed to quiet at their passing.
After they'd gone a way, Aslan laid down on the beach, his eyes on the ocean. Lucy sat beside him, her knees drawn up to her chin.
"You will not come with us?" she asked hopefully. Aslan shook his head.
Lucy didn't press him for a reason. Mr. Beaver's words echoed through her memory,
"He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion."
She suddenly felt sorry for berating Aslan before about being away. She looked back to the great Lion and smiled.
"I'm glad you came back tonight. I missed you." She paused, then added softly, "I always miss you."
Aslan turned his deep, far-seeing eyes on Lucy.
"There is no need. I am always closer than you think."
Lucy looked out over the Eastern Sea and thought about Aslan's words. She was baffled, to say the least. In defeat, she let out a long breath of air. She was shocked when the breath crystallized, as it would in winter time. The breath's shape began to change. It morphed from a single puff of air into a something she knew well. It was the shape of a lion.
Lucy snapped her head towards Aslan, wonderment in her eyes and face. He just smiled and stood.
"I think it's time for you to return to bed," he told her, laughter in his eyes. "You have an important day tomorrow."
Lucy nodded with a yawn, realizing that he was right.
They walked back to the castle door, Lucy's head in Aslan's mane for a good portion of the trip.
They came to the door that Lucy had left open, moonlight pooling about them as they said their goodbyes. Aslan placed a soft lion kiss on Lucy's forehead before sending her off into the safety of the castle. Lucy lingered in the doorway.
"Good night, Aslan."
"Good night, Lucy. I will see you in the morning."
Lucy nodded and gave Aslan a smile before closing the door behind her and continuing up the stairs to her bed chambers.
The sound of the sea and the stone beneath her feet melted like wax, transforming into yet another familiar, and missed, place. Memory consumed her mind as the scene shifted into focus.
A fire crackled in the night, warding off all sorrows. It was warm at her feet, the heat spreading from her shoeless toes to the rest of her. As she sat on the floor of a beloved cave, Mr. Tumnus' cave, she was filled with a potent sense of content. It was something that she had not experienced in a long time. Her eyes half-closed, she allowed the hypnotizing fire to lull her into a realm of security and bliss.
"Mr. Tumnus?" she asked lazily, slowly.
"Yes?" came an eager reply from behind her. The slight clink of china accompanied his soothing voice and Lucy smiled.
"Have you ever been completely happy?"
She felt, rather than heard, the Faun pause. He was carefully weighing her question, as he always did. She loved how he took her musings seriously.
"I'm not sure," he finally answered. "Why, have you been?"
Mr. Tumnus sat, his hooves gently touching Lucy's arm as he settled into his chair. He passed her her tea, with a touch of milk and two lumps of sugar just as she liked it, and watched as she sipped the hot beverage. Thoughts and memories raced across his eyes, reflected slightly in the smile of the girl before him.
"I think I have," Lucy finally said in reply to the Faun's almost forgotten question. She looked up at her dear friend, a luminous smile on her face.
"Tell me a story, Mr. Tumnus," she requested. He smiled with surprise, then knit his brow.
"Oh, well...Have you heard the one about the Faun that lived under an enchantment and couldn't leave his cave for a hundred years?"
"Well, I think you're going to like it." Tumnus cleared his throat, then began his story in what Lucy secretly considered his "grandfather" tone. He always got so caught up in his stories that she believed he momentarily forgot that the stories weren't true.
Lucy adjusted her position by the fire, laying down with her head propped up on one elbow so that she could see Tumnus' face.
"It began a long time ago, even before my father's father was born. Now, Narnia has always been a place of magic and sometimes a Naiad or a Dryad would use her power to teach an evil Faun a lesson. This particular Faun was a very naughty Faun. He cared only about himself, never for anyone else. One night, a Dryad came to his cave's door and asked to stay the night, for it was snowing outdoors and the night was bitterly cold. The Faun, however, refused the Dryad board so she placed a horrid enchantment on him..."
Mr. Tumnus' voice continued into the expanse of time, dimming with each passing word. Soon, Lucy could no longer hear him. The previous depression reasserted itself and the Faun's voice was lost to the silence of night.
Lucy was once again in the room with Susan and the wardrobe. The closed wardrobe. She let her eyes linger on the beautiful work of woodcraft for a moment.
Just as Lucy was about to turn and reluctantly enter the normal world, a lion's face, bright and majestic, materialized on the wardrobe door. He gave a roar before disappearing again.
"Aslan!" she shouted, a rapturous smile on her face.
"What?" Susan inquired, quite confused at the girl's sudden change in mood. Lucy explained in a hushed, relieved voice.
"The door isn't shut forever."