Chapter Thirty: Epilogue's Prologue
Disclaimer: Well, Jack: a toast to you. *raises glass*
"Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there," Psalm 139:7-8
She had been living alone for two months before she decided to sell the house.
That was two months of eating by herself, making food for herself, forcing herself to get up in time to prepare breakfast for a single person, cleaning the house that never dirtied, working in the garden that never bloomed, sitting in a living room that was dead, ignoring the ringing phone until well-wishers had forgotten that she, out of all of them, had indeed survived. Her friends didn't invite her to parties or splurges at the department stores anymore, unwilling to add the somber weight to their gay flirtations, and she didn't invite them into the house. Her house, it now was. It was silence was more full than their empty jawing. Yet it was a loathsome loneliness that she endured- the result of her own desperate wishing.
So she had easily decided, or rather, obeyed, when a small voice whispered to her one night as if from a dream... Or a dream of a dream.
'It is a good place for anyone who wishes to make a new start...'
It came upon her like a ghostly messenger. Delivering and vanishing before she could turn her head to see it.
And again, the next night, just as she was falling asleep...
'Your brother and sister have learned all they can from this world...'
Now a slight touch, a phantom pull somewhere in her chest. She lifted a sleep-weighted hand to touch the spot but it ceased and all she felt was a single heartbeat thrumming without purpose.
And by the third night...It was no longer a memory.
'Daughter, daughter, why do you not search for Me?'
A question, command, reprimand, and promise all at once. All of them leveled at her. She dropped to her knees as the Voice shook the house, the yard, the city, surely the world. Surely others felt it, too! Surely it had been speaking to her all this time, waiting for her. Calling her.
Where was it calling her from? Where was the source of the hook tangled in that purposelessly thrumming muscle?
One week and the deed was done. The house had sold quickly- it was one of the few that had withstood the London bombings, all those years ago. Families were anxious to purchase it. It sold without a hitch. Many of the worldly possessions packed within its walls went to charity. She watched the men come and clear out their rooms, stripping from the walls and closets belongings that had always been associated with them. Childhood memories were pawned to strangers. All she had left of them paid for her passage to freedom. All of them for a single, one-way ticket.
All- save for three items: a drawing, a handwritten book, and a three-legged kitten named Wisp. One memory, one glimmer of each of them for her life in the Shadowlands. Light and perfect for travel. Even now, she skimmed a finger over the drawing, packing away the book that was filled with medical notes and moving the rescued grey kitten off of the neatly folded clothes. She owned two simple black dresses now. The others had payed for their headstones.
"I really wish you'd let Cain and me help you out," a tall Scotsman remarked from the doorway. His car was waiting downstairs, preparing to take her to the ship. If she could have found a way around asking for his help, she would have. But she had already sold the Bentley. And she never traveled by train.
"I don't need help. This is something I need to do by myself." But when had that stopped him? The royal family had trained him well- Even in death, the High King's influence was buried deep in this man's soul and mind. He only proved her correct in her assumptions when he replied;
"Well, you know, we already own several homes over there. So you might see us anyway. Whether you like it or not."
"Lodgings will come in their own time."
The kitten meowed and hopped back onto the clothes, purring and kneading its claws into the fabrics. She lifted it up and settled it on the bare mattress, where it continued to make itself a nest, golden eyes squinted in bliss.
"Listen," the man continued, tone eager but carefully restrained, "I know- Well. I know. We know. When we were in school together, they told us all about Narnia and Aslan."
"Did they?" She hadn't known they'd been made aware so quickly. She'd always thought her brothers had waited a few years to reveal what they could not even explain to their parents.
"Yeah! And that they'd go to Aslan's Country when they- When they left..."
She laughed, the sound amazingly dull.
"Don't bother softening it, Thomas. They're dead. All of them are dead now."
Thomas dropped his eyes, blinking hard. Even after two months, the soft-hearted gentleman found it hard to believe. The last time he had seen his friends was when they'd been playing rugby together and Edmund had injured his knee, forcing him to fore-go the match so that his brother could support him off of the pitch.
"Edmund said he never felt more alive than when he was in Aslan's paws," said a second, burlier man as he entered the room, keys in hand, "And if he's with Aslan right now, you can bet he's doing better than he ever would in a place like this."
Here he gestured to the barren walls of her old room with open disdain. Though tempered from his school days, Cain retained that same cutting edge to his word choice. It made for an effective tool, and easily cut through nonsense.
Yet another way her siblings had influenced them.
"Life in death," she remembered, as Wisp stretched and stood, jumping off the bed to wind around her legs, "They loved to speak of it. They were never afraid of it."
There was silence, save for the kitten's purrs and the traffic outside of the shuttered windows.
"But they weren't ready to die," she turned back to the suitcase, thoughts gathered, "Their lives were stolen by a petty thief."
"Susan, it was an accident," Thomas entreated, dark eyes wide, "Just a faulty braking system. It wasn't anyone's doing!"
She laughed again, louder and actually amused.
"I thought so, too. But..." Delicate fingers stilled in smoothing a plain black blouse.
Cain's eyes sharpened, "What is it?"
Blue eyes struck at common brown, and Cain found his gaze wavering beneath the power and majesty of hers.
"Her dream never came true."
Neither man could doubt who "she" was, listening to the awe and respect bathing her voice. A strange light seemed to fill her as she spoke, drawing her up to a height higher than before.
"Edmund never really died- He didn't stay dead. He hadn't been punctured by fangs or crushed by a snake. Peter never fell into a sleep so deep that even his brother's agony couldn't wake him. That always bothered me. The others were willing to think it was over. But I knew it wasn't. Lucy's dreams always came true..."
She looked down, and for a moment, her resolution seemed to shudder, making her look like a young woman again.
"...And I didn't want it to. Even when I could tell Edmund was having that feeling again-"
The column of her snowy neck bobbed with a swallow, her pretty mouth became stern.
"I'm alive because I didn't want it to come true. Any of it. But it did anyway at the station. I saw Edmund's... His body-" a hand over her mouth as she cleared her throat, "-He was stabbed twice, not just crushed. See if the mortician didn't try to blame that on the debris from the wreck." She violently tossed a pair of socks into the case, "Dark Magic may not have been involved, but I'd recognize a knife wound anywhere. He made sure he finished the job."
"What are you saying?" Cain wondered, leaning against the door jamb and flicking the ring of keys around his index finger as he watched the kitten begin to clean itself, "You think Collins caused the train to wreck? You think Aslan let him?"
A slim finger traced the faded lines of the drawing once more, lightly kissing the beaten and broken hand that stretched from the shadows for that single celandine buried in snow. Even after all those years, Lucy's drawing of "Hope Grows" seemed to light a small fire in the viewer's chest. If anything, its message burned hotter than ever. Her heart was frayed by wear, scorched by the awesome strength in the image.
"I think this is all part of something bigger. Maybe I'm alive for a reason. Maybe I still have something to do here- in this world- before I move on to Aslan's Country myself." It was funny. For years she had sought to separate herself from them, thinking distance would encourage reality. Now all she yearned for was a fantastic and swift reunion.
"A reason like what?" Thomas asked warily.
"Like finding treacherous snakes," Cain guessed, and he could see he guessed correctly when her mouth ticked up again in a smirk uncannily like her younger brother's, "You suspect he's in America, right?"
"And our plan of finding him? After all, Pevensie," Cain drawled, "There're quite a few people in America for us to sift through."
"Oh, I always find what I'm looking for. After all," Susan laid the drawing atop her belongings and closed the latch with a decisive click.
"It is a Gift of mine."
"The books don't tell us what happened to Susan. She is left alive in this world at the end, having by then turned into a rather silly, conceited young woman. But there's plenty of time for her to mend and perhaps she will get to Aslan's country in the end . . . in her own way."
Wisp and the book with medical notes both have stories attached to them, so they'll be out in due time to explain.
For the record, I never intended to have Susan finish things up quite like this. My original intent was to write this last chapter as if from a newspaper clipping, or even at the funeral. To have Susan go after Collins, however, was always something I wanted to happen. She may get her own story, too. She's going to see some familiar faces while in America.
Thank you, to all my readers. These past two years have been a blast for me, and I hope I've given you all something you felt you could enjoy and look forward to. In all honesty, I'd never thought I'd be able to finish this story, although I always, always thought on it and how to improve it. So, here's hoping you've all seen a development of my writing as time as gone by. Writing "P.E" actually made me decide on my future career, believe it or not. I'm going to be a high school English teacher. :D Watch out, kids! Maybe I'll be able to publish some of my own books... It's thanks to all of you that I'm even attempting it.
I'll be putting up the first chapter of "Monochrome" soon. It takes place in the first year of the Pevensie's reign, only months after the Witch is defeated. There will be violence, nightmares, visions, wagon rides, and plenty of brotherly moments for all of you.
My love to you all! God bless you!