A/N: Don't own Narnia. And I know I've said Lucy is my favorite character, and Peter is one of my loves, but I find myself writing more and more Susan. This is another three in the morning creation. Enjoy.
"Susan, you don't mind if we stop in at the fabric store, do you?" Helen Pevensie asked her eldest daughter. "It's just, Lucy has outgrown her coat again, and I need new material to adjust it."
"That's fine," Susan said. She and her mother had gone out that afternoon, and were on their way home, but Susan had always loved the fabric store, and never minded a trip inside.
They made their way across a busy street and down the next before stopping in front of a brightly lit shop, where the front door was painted red, and the window displays were full of shimmering silk and plush brocade. Susan smiled as she pushed the door open and a bell tinkled in the back of the store. The woman at the counter smiled as Mrs. Pevensie stepped up and asked her for a length of red wool.
"Little Lucy still growing, is she?" the saleswoman asked, taking down a long bolt and unwinding a length. "How much do you need today, Mrs. Pevensie?"
"Four yards I think, Mrs. Little," Mrs. Pevensie replied. "That should keep up with her through winter—I hope." The women chuckled and talked of small matters—how were the men folk? Was Peter still looking after the others? And how was John Little? Had he gotten over his cold? Susan moved away between the rows of fabric, tracing her hand along the edges of the bolts of cloth, reveling in the soft touch of the material.
She stopped for a few moments at the lengths of wool, rough and scratchy between her fingers. It came in three colors: blue, red, and gray. She sighed and moved on, knowing she could feel wool any old day, just by putting on her coat. Next were the tightly woven linens, in green, yellow, blue, red, or white. It was fine and light, but another one that she could feel any day during summer when she put on her dress each morning.
The next row was one of her favorites. It held the satin and silk, the rich fabrics that came in every color imaginable. They were soft and smooth, and shimmered in the dusty sunlight that seeped in through the windows. As she ran her hands along a particularly shimmery sea green silk, she closed her eyes. Unbidden, an image appeared to her, bursting forth from the darkness of her mind. It was a forgotten memory, one that she had locked away behind a closed door in her mind, and had hoped to never see again.
It was a summer day, and the sun was bright in the clear blue sky. Cair Paravel stood behind her, on the rise, and the long grass sloped gently down to the sea, which was a blue-green today. Lucy was splashing out in the waves, her red skirts knotted at her hip to keep the out of the water. Peter's blue shirt was hung on a sturdy bush and his pants were rolled up to his knees as he waded with his little sister. They were splashing each other, uncaring of the fact that they were getting soaked. Edmund was watching from the shore where he stood with a hand shading his eyes, his green shirt untucked and his dark hair disheveled. He had a smile on his lips like the others. Susan was sitting in the sand, barefoot, letting the water lap up around her ankles. Her dress was green silk that matched the waves. She shrieked with laughter as Peter snuck up to her and splashed her forcefully. She rushed into the waves to join them, as did Edmund, and soon they were all soaked to the skin and laughing.
Their crowns lay in the sand, carefully protected from the grasping fingers of the climbing tide.
Susan opened her eyes, a small frown creasing her forehead. Where had that come from? They had never played in the sea like that. And they certainly had never owned crowns. She shook her head to clear her thoughts and dropped the green silk that matched the dress in the image so perfectly. She backed away from the fabric and moved into the next row.
She smiled again when she came upon the velvet—red, black, purple, blue, white. She laid her cheek on a bolt of white velvet and breathed in its warm smell, felling its soft caress on her face. She closed her eyes, only to find herself in another waking dream that she had thought she had locked away.
Cair Paravel's great hall was bedecked in the colors of Christmas, all red and green and gold. There was mistletoe hanging from the arched ceilings, and enchanted snow piled in the corners, holly cris-crossed the walls, and think carpets lay out to stop the cold. There were Fauns dancing, and playing flutes. The Centaurs were frolicking in and out of the twirling Satyrs, and the Tree Spirits were flitting about, leaving beautiful scents behind them as they went along their way. Peter was dressed in a black velvet tunic that was belted with gold. He was smiling and laughing and drinking with the rest, and when one of the more bold Fauns asked him for a dance, he laughed and said," Why not?" Edmund was standing by the fire, warming his outside by turning in front of the flames, and warming his insides by drinking the hot cider some of the Squirrels were passing around. He was in blue velvet, with an extra cloak to keep away the chill, deep in conversation with a few Centaurs. Lucy was dancing with Mr. Tumnus, both of whom were dressed in green. The Faun twirled her underneath a sprig of mistletoe, and before he could release her from the spot, Peter swept up and kissed his sister on the cheek, laughing. Susan was dancing with Centaur, which was awkward, but very fun. Her white velvet skirt trapped her legs as she turned, but Edmund was there to catch her before she fell, and then all her siblings were there, and they were laughing, and dancing and having a wonderful time.
The crowns on their foreheads were gold and silver, and dusted with stardust to match the snow in their hair.
Susan opened her eyes and glared at the white velvet in her hands. There were no such things as Fauns or Centaurs or Satyrs, and so there was no way they could have been dancing with them. And the crowns…there had never been any such things. The long walk was getting to her, and she was tired, that was what was happening to her. She wasn't going insane. She moved away from the velvet and took a few deep breaths before heading back towards the counter where her mother was chatting with Mrs. Little.
But before she could get there, the brocade caught her eye. She could never resist brocade. Its soft, textured lengths just seemed to draw her in. she stepped up next to it, and unwound a yard or two of blue material, just to wrap her shoulders in, to feel its soft warmth flooding through her whole body. She smiled and closed her eyes, almost expecting the third memory from behind closed doors, but at the same time dreading it.
The blue brocade swirled around her body, cascading from her shoulders in neat folds. The cloak was trimmed in silver braid, and fastened with a silver brooch at her throat. She stood before the mirror and was shocked at the queen that stared back at her. The door to the room burst open and Lucy came bounding in, her red cloak fluttering behind her. She ran up to Susan, breathless, and stared wordlessly at the mirror. The sisters were still admiring their reflections when Edmund in silver and Peter in gold knocked gently and entered to tell the girls it was time. They walked down the corridor to the great hall, awash with spring sunlight, and filled with people. The siblings gave each other a grin, took a deep breath, and began the long walk to the dais at the high end of the hall. Aslan walked between them, and he gave them courage. Susan and Lucy lifted their skirts above their ankles to avoid falling on their way up the stairs and they heard the boys laughing at their clumsy steps. They smiled nervously, and turned as one to face the hall. As Aslan called their names, they each bowed to their knees and Mr. Tumnus—dear, dear Mr. Tumnus—placed their crowns gently on their heads. Lucy the Valiant, Edmund the Just, Susan the Gentle and Peter the Magnificent collected their cloaks around them and fumbled their way into their thrones. Once seated, they breathed a sigh of relief, and grinned at each other as the hall rang with applause and laughter. Such was the beginning of the long and happy rule of Narnia.
The crowns were heavy that first day, but the weight of responsibility never made them weigh more—they remained light, and golden and silver, and beautiful, and the faces that bore them smiled more often than they wept.
Susan opened her eyes and unwrapped herself from the brocade, shoving it roughly back on the shelf. There were no cloaks—practical people wore coats anyway—and there were no crowns. But she could have sworn that the Lion had looked at her, and there had been tears in his eyes, and a look that told her she was lost. She angrily dashed tears from her own eyes, and followed her mother out the door, keeping her eyes on the ground until they were up the next street.
"Are you alright, dear?" Helen Pevensie asked.
"Yes, Mum," Susan said automatically, but she knew it wasn't the truth. She was troubled by those memories. That silly Narnia place had only been figments of their imaginations, and they were too old to hang on to make-believe countries. Well, she supposed it was alright for Lucy, she was only twelve, but Peter still believed, and he was fifteen! He should have been grounded in the real world for some time now, not sighing over a silly fantasy from two years ago. And she had always thought Edmund was much more mature than that. But she was the only one who saw any sense in the matter. But as she thought back to the memories that had plagued her in the fabric shop, she felt a stab of doubt.
They were so real, the memories. They didn't feel like imagination. And the Lion. That look in his eyes had made her heart wrench, and she couldn't get the images out of her mind for days afterwards.
A week after the trip to the fabric store, she was sitting in the garden reading while Lucy was drawing next to her. Susan looked up at her sister when she reached a new chapter and asked what she was drawing. Lucy covered the paper with her arm.
"You wouldn't understand," she said.
"Come on, Lucy," Susan said, closing her book and smiling. "Show me."
Lucy moved her arm very reluctantly, but she turned the page towards Susan, who looked at it curiously. It was a lion, a very magnificent lion, more of Lion than a lion. Her smile faltered as she remembered that image from the memory in the fabric shop, and Lucy saw it, and whisked the drawing away.
"I told you wouldn't like it," Lucy said.
"No, it's not that," Susan said. "It's just that I think I've seen him before."
"Of course you have," Lucy said. "In Narnia. Which is something you think is silly and juvenile. You refuse to remember it, even if it was real." She stomped away, and Susan saw her through the open window a little while later, in Peter's room. They had their heads together and they were laughing over something. Edmund soon joined them, and Susan felt tears reach her eyes again. She felt so distant from them…and all over a make believe world from years ago. She stood up and went into Lucy's room. The drawing of the Lion was lying on the desk. She looked down at it and felt something in her heart…something that reminded her of the happiness she had felt those years ago, at the Professor's house in the country.
She crept down the hallway to Peter's room, and stood in the doorway, watching her siblings talking and laughing. She said nothing, but Edmund looked up at her once, and she saw the longing in his eyes. He wanted her to believe, and wished she would come back to them. Peter noticed second, and his eyes also begged her to come home, and see that everything she had locked away in her mind was real, if only she let it out. Lucy didn't notice that she was there at all, and soon it grew dark outside and Susan returned to her own room, shaking her head at the folly of her siblings.
But the next day, the images still haunted her, and she decided to tell Peter what she thought she had seen. He said nothing for a long time after she had finished her story of that day in the fabric shop, and she thought he wasn't going to say anything. But then he looked at her, and his eyes were full of tears, and he said, "You do remember, don't you, Su? You just don't want to believe."
She had fled form the look on his face, but telling him had done her no good. The memories still haunted her, and she was still scared that maybe it was all real. But then she was walking to school and she saw three little girls playing on the sidewalk. They were pretending to be queens, and their brother was supposed to be crowning them. He, of course, ignored them, battling imaginary enemies with his imaginary sword. She smiled and shook her head, banishing it all as fantasy and make believe.
The next day at breakfast, her mother asked her if she wanted to come to the fabric store, as Edmund needed some new shirts, and she had no extra linen lying around the house, having used it all to patch Peter's clothes. Susan said no, she didn't want to go, and her mother had asked why not. Susan had said she was busy, what with homework and all, and Mrs. Pevensie had not questioned further. But Peter's eyes had narrowed in suspicion, and Susan had avoided his gaze by concentrating on her porridge.
Peter had guessed the truth that Susan didn't want to admit. She was afraid of the memories that surrounded her when she felt the fabrics from her old life. The make believe country crept up on her when she was touched by the fabrics she used to know. And she didn't want to admit that she was wrong in thinking it was all a dream. She was frightened to think that there was another place that wasn't the real world. She was scared of losing it again. That was what was really wrong.
Susan had truly loved Narnia with all her being. And the truth was that she still did. But when they had stepped out of the wardrobe and back into the real world, she had lost the one thing she really loved in her life—Narnia had been sealed away from her, and it had hurt. And it was that hurt that kept her from believing. She thought that if she denied that it had happened, maybe the pain of loss would go away. She was scared that if she admitted it was real, she would be hurt again, and that was why she denied it with all her mind. But in her heart, she still remembered, and she still lived in Narnia, no matter what her head told her.
Peter saw this in her eyes when she gave up the fabric store. He understood, and said nothing, because there was nothing to say. But every once in a while he would mention Aslan around her, or hum a Narnian tune. Not to hurt her, but to see if she was ready to understand that pain was okay, because it meant that you could end the pain by returning. But she was never ready, and he sighed, because he knew she would never return with them to Narnia.
And on the fateful day of the train crash, after she received the telegram, Susan had gone home. And on the kitchen table of the Professor's house in the country, she had found a note saying good-bye from Edmund. Lucy had left the drawing of the Lion, faded and tattered and old. Peter's good-bye was simple. He had gone to the fabric store and bought strips of green silk, white velvet, and blue brocade. These he had braided together, and left her to figure out. The memories had come flooding back, and it was then she realized that pain was okay because, eventually, it let you back in. And it was then that she started to accept, and believe.