Title: In Her Own Way
Summary: Perhaps there is hope for Susan yet.
Disclaimer: None of the characters from The Chronicles of Narnia belong to me. They first belonged to C.S. Lewis, who thought them up. I suppose they belong to him still. However, I think they now belong to Douglas Gresham, Walden Media, Disney, Fox, and possibly others as well, at least legally. I'm not making any money by writing this story. I borrowed some of Mr. Lewis' quotes from the end of the chapter entitled "The Stable Door" in The Last Battle.
Author's Notes: This story has to do with the events of The Last Battle, wherein we learn that Susan does not come to Aslan's Country with her siblings. This is often seen as rather harsh; and perhaps it is, but we reap what we sow. I think it is also a warning and a sad truth for many of us. But hope is not lost for Susan (or for us). In his Letters to Children, C.S. Lewis wrote the following to a boy called Martin: "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." This is just an idea of how she might have done so, if indeed she did. And I dearly hope that she did.
I have read other and greater stories of how Susan might have "mended;" this is only my version. Please take it with a grain of salt.
Also, thanks go out to Animus Wyrmis for a very helpful review! I'm still working on some changes to the story and might change it more in the future, but hopefully it's slightly less cluttered now.
In Her Own Way
In Her Own Way
Susan Pevensie was not given to flights of fancy. She was a terribly practical person, though if you knew her you would have thought she was (or had been) a terribly silly one as well. She was certain that she was not dreaming, for the beautiful, lighted place in which she found herself was far too vivid, and anyway not at all like anything she had seen in dreams. And though she had had a great many dreams, most had not been very pleasant.
She blinked, unsure of where she was. Perhaps it was a sort of meadow, though she did not recall how she had come to be there. She remembered coming from another place, somewhere where life had become very meaningless and unpleasant, and where meadows were not at all as nice.
Someone had been calling to her there (indeed, she thought they had been calling to her for rather a long time), and she had been wondering why. Whoever it was had been telling her she ought to change the way she was doing things, and Susan had not agreed. She had been ignoring the caller. In fact she had only just made up her mind to listen (or perhaps she had been thinking of doing it for a while, and now really meant to listen) when everything around her had disappeared.
Hadn't she just been in her flat? Or perhaps she had been at school… or at work? She could not say. But the place she was in now was not the sort where flats or schools or offices or even time matter much, and she soon forgot to wonder about it. She sat down for a moment and simply looked about her. She thought that she had never seen a more beautiful, peaceful place.
The grass was soft and springy and the sky was a deeper, lighter, more glorious blue than any she had ever seen, and there were lovely trees all round her. She felt sure that it was summer, though she was dressed in winter clothes, which for some reason did not fit quite right.
For a long time she only sat there, grateful for the quiet. After a while she began to hear voices speaking. They were not yet very clear, but she had a feeling that she had heard them before. She stood up and began to walk toward the place she thought they might be coming from. The voices grew clearer the longer she walked, and they began to sound like bells. Presently she could understand them.
"Yes," said a happy, boyish voice, though it sounded exasperated, "and whenever you've tried to get her to come and talk about Narnia or do anything about Narnia, she says, 'What wonderful memories you have! Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.'"
Narnia! thought Susan with a funny pang. That was the name of the game she had played with her siblings when they were younger… her beloved brothers and sister, who had died so young, and who she had missed so dearly for so long… the pang grew stronger, and she began to walk faster. Who did the voices belong to? And who were they talking about, anyhow? It couldn't be her. Why, it had all been so long ago…
Another voice took up where the first had left off, this one soft and light, but clearly annoyed. "Oh Susan!" The owner of this name stopped short, but the voice continued. "She's interested in nothing now-a-days except nylons and lipstick and invitations. She always was a jolly sight too keen on being grown-up."
Susan began to be offended. What on earth? Who did these people think they were? If they were talking about her (and surely they were not) they obviously didn't understand anything. What woman had she ever met who didn't like those things? Only silly ones like her dear sister Lucy, who wouldn't stop playing at fairy-tales however often they were asked to.
"Grown-up, indeed," said another. "I wish she would grow up. She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she'll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age. Her whole idea is to race to the silliest time of one's life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can."
Goodness, thought Susan, isn't that everyone's idea? What time of life? And how is it silly? Though recently she had begun to think perhaps it was, and she often longed for something more, though she could not put into words what it was that she longed for.
Beauty had turned out to be so fleeting, and parties and callers left her feeling empty and bereft. Not that she was ever invited to parties anymore. People her age were far too busy to be bothered with parties. Though when she looked down at herself she realized she wasn't nearly as old as she had thought.
She came around a bend, and the voice she heard when she did stopped her in her tracks. It was a male voice, and it struck her that it sounded so terribly sad.
"Well, don't let's talk about that now."
All the time she had been walking the voices had been growing louder and clearer, but this one was the strongest yet. And it belonged unmistakably to her brother.
"Peter," she whispered. She could see him now, a handsome King, a crown on his head and covered in shining mail. It had been so long since she had heard his voice that when she did she nearly went to pieces; all the haunted years coming up to choke her. Her voice broke on the word.
"Oh, Peter!" she cried, running toward him.
He had been going to say something else, but he turned to her instead, and she could tell the moment that he recognized her. He opened his arms to her, and she fell into them gratefully, fairly shaking with delight. If he had not been so strong, she would have knocked him over. She clung to him, the fear that he would disappear so sharp that it nearly overshadowed her joy.
Eventually she began to cry. Her body shook with sobs as she whispered his name over and over and over, hoping to keep him with her. She felt his hands, warm and strong and real, as he pressed them against her back, drawing her closer to him. He kissed her hair and she sobbed harder. Peter rested his head on hers and began to murmur something against her ear, though she could not understand him for her tears.
She heard other voices as well, and in her stupor she was certain she heard Edmund's and Lucy's among them. Pain sliced through her. She gripped the mail on Peter's shirt as well as she could, and after a while they began to sway together. Finally her tears subsided and they stood still. He spoke kindly to her, though she still could not make out the words. At last he took her by the shoulders and turned her around.
Susan gasped with pleasure. Edmund and Lucy were really there! Right in front of her, so close that she could touch them. Lucy flung herself into her sister's arms, though Susan almost couldn't bear it; Lucy was so lovely and she was such a mess. Lucy whispered that it didn't matter and that she was so glad that Susan had come; they had all been so sad to lose her. Susan started to cry again, and Lucy began to talk of Aslan, a Name which Susan knew Lucy thought would comfort her and which she felt was quite familiar, but it made her uncomfortable and she let go of Lucy much quicker than she would have otherwise.
However, she forgot the awkwardness when Edmund came to hug her; she was amazed at how tall he had become and how terribly she had missed him. She held to him as she had to the others, joy and desperation adhering her to her brother.
Drained of her strength by raw emotion, Susan finally fell to the ground, and the agony began to fall away. Edmund came down with her, though he fell with more grace than she.
Then Peter and Lucy came to embrace them, and for a moment Susan was in another lifetime, called back across the years to a time when things had finally come right.
"Ed and Lu and Peter," she whispered. "Ed and Lu and Peter. I can't believe it."
"Believe it, Sister," said Lucy, her voice chiming pleasantly.
"You cannot imagine how many times I've dreamed of this," said Susan as she sat back, amazed.
"Not nearly so many as have we, I'm sure," said Peter.
Susan smiled at them all. Peter helped her up, and Edmund helped Lucy, though Susan thought that Lucy did not appear to need it. In fact, looking around at them, Susan could not help thinking that there was nothing any of them would ever need assistance with. There was something aside from their clothes that was different about all of them. She suddenly began to feel a bit out of place.
Lucy laughed gently. She grinned and took her sister's hand, introducing her to the other Kings and Queens. There were her cousin Eustace and his friend Jill, dear Professor Kirke (who insisted on being called Digory) and Miss Polly (though they were much younger now than she remembered, and she was not sure how she knew who they were), and one whom she did not know.
"My name is Tirian, My Lady," said the owner of that name. "We are so pleased that you have come at last."
They bowed and curtsied to her, and seemed genuinely glad to see her, but their beauty (and now that she thought of it, that of her brothers and sister too) began to blind her, and she stepped back to see them better.
Now she was ashamed when she looked at them. They were dressed in truly royal Narnian attire; Kings and Queens if ever she had seen any. But it was not so much their clothing, nor even their regal stance that made her wary.
They were far nobler than they had ever been before. She saw in their eyes that they had been changed, and she felt sure that none of them had ever done anything half as horrible as she had, and that none of them had ever looked anywhere near as appalling as she, for her face was stained with tears and her clothing was as rags compared to theirs.
Their bodies were not marred by scars or bruises, and there was something stunning about their faces. Not to mention that their joy and laughter seemed far more genuine than hers. They seemed to be getting along swimmingly without her, just as they had before. Her shame gave way to self-pity.
"Have you never missed me?" asked Susan quietly, forgetting their joyful reunion in an instant.
"We have missed you deeply, Sister," said Peter.
"For such a long while," agreed Edmund.
"Has it been so long as all that?" inquired Susan, beginning to wonder how long they had all been apart.
"Oh, years and years," said Lucy vaguely, and the others appeared to agree, though how many years escaped them. They were not at all bothered about time.
Susan was confused. She wondered now where they were. And suddenly they were all talking of Aslan, and how thankful they were that He had brought her here, and she felt that she would rather be somewhere else. She moved further away from them.
The youngest Queen smiled at her.
"Why have you closed your eyes?" she asked, and Susan realized that she had.
"Oh, I can't bear to look at you."
And it was true; she couldn't. Susan opened her eyes again, though she could not meet those of the Kings and Queens any longer.
"Can't you?" asked the oldest Queen kindly (though she couldn't have been very old), and her voice was like bells. (Susan realized that the third voice had belonged to her.) "Why?"
"I- I don't know. I suppose it's because you're all so beautiful."
She grimaced; she wished she hadn't said it. It only brought into stark relief how ugly she must be in comparison.
"It's Aslan who's done that," said Peter. "Don't be frightened, Sister."
"Aslan?" She didn't like the way it sounded on her tongue.
"Yes." Peter frowned for the first time, and though he still seemed very glad to see her, and though he did not say it, she thought he was now wondering what she was doing here. She thought perhaps the others were wondering the same. "Do you still not remember?"
Susan frowned, too. The trouble was that she was beginning to. Fear came slithering into her soul, unbidden. Suppose Aslan did not want her here?
"Would you like to see Him?" asked Eustace, when she didn't answer.
Susan did not hesitate.
Everyone was facing her now, and frowns creased all their brows. It seemed to Susan that they were all turning against her. Lucy looked as though she might cry.
"Oh Susan," she implored. "Susan, do talk to Aslan. I am sure He will come to us soon. He will want to-"
"He doesn't want me!" interrupted Susan. Now they were all looking at her as though they had begun to see something in her that they did not like. She didn't like the look of them either. "He- he left me," she added, in a much smaller voice.
"Su," said Edmund gently, and his eyes undid her. He was not now so much her little brother as he was the wise and just king who had been her dear protector in Tashbaan, a city which she now remembered with startling clarity. She looked at him, afraid to breathe. "Do you really believe that?"
"Why of course I-" began Susan out of habit, but this was not a country in which anyone could tell lies, and so she stopped. She knew she did not believe it, but she did not want to tell Edmund that. She bit back her answer for a very long time, still lost in the depths of her brother's eyes. He did not seem to be in any hurry, but finally she could bear the silence no longer. "No," she whispered. "I suppose I don't."
"Wouldn't it be fairer to say that you left Him?"
Susan did not care what was fair. She was no longer very glad to see Edmund. He seemed terribly wise to her now, and she felt very silly. But his eyes were kind, and again, she found that she could not lie.
"All right," she conceded, annoyed at being brought down before them all, "I did."
And she could see now that it was so. But she had to make him understand.
"You don't know what it's like!" she cried. "To lose everyone you love in a single day. "To have to-" She sniffed. "To have to see your family's bodies, to have to go on living…" she trailed off, tears in her eyes again. She knew she had turned away from Aslan long before that, but it did seem the most troubling thing, to her at least. The others did not seem to mind having died, though they were moved on her account.
"We wish you had not had to endure it," said Peter, and his eyes were full of sorrow. But Susan noticed that none of them said they thought it had been unjust, and none of them appeared to think that their dying was Aslan's fault, and none of them seemed to be sorry that they had died, or that she had not died, too.
Susan gave a keening wail. "He took you from me," she whispered brokenly. "He isn't fair."
Edmund reached out and touched her shoulder.
"It was our time, dear Susan. He is just. Our leaving the shadow lands had nothing to do with you."
She wanted to hit him. She threw his hand off her. She thought she heard a low, warning growl in the distance, but she ignored it.
"I don't care," she said stubbornly.
"I see." Edmund stepped back, considering her.
"He only thinks I'm silly," she tried again. She wanted to apologize for shoving Edmund, but she did not.
"Aren't you silly?" Asked Lucy lightly, and it grated at Susan because she had begun to agree.
"He shouldn't keep people out for being silly!" she cried in fury.
"He didn't keep you out," said Peter. "You didn't want to come."
Why, they're all against me! thought Susan in anguish.
"He's kept me out because I won't do what He wants!"
And in her desperation she now attempted to turn the conversation in a very unwise direction.
"Isn't- isn't He terribly selfish?"
"Have a care, Susan," admonished Digory. "He is jealous. He is not selfish."
She had thought for certain they would begin to see the wrong which had been done to her. But they did not. It came as a nasty shock to her that no one was on her side.
"I mean," she tried to backtrack, "Isn't it mean that he wouldn't take us all?"
"He is not mean," said Eustace in surprise. "Was it not your decision to make?"
Susan paid him no attention and went on as though he had not spoken. She entreated her sister and brothers with her eyes, ignoring the rest. "Isn't it mean that He would split us apart? Us! The Kings and Queens of Narnia! Why, how dare He!"
Real anger came into their eyes now.
"Be careful, Sister," warned Edmund gravely, but Susan would not stop.
"He doesn't want me to have any fun."
But they would not be taken in. They did not seem to think she had really been having so much fun.
"He's been horrible to me, why can't you see it!"
She stamped her foot for emphasis. The others regarded her silently, and she dropped to her knees and cried. She knew she was being ridiculous, and now she had made the people she loved with all her heart, the people she had longed to see for so long, angry with her. They were going to turn away from her.
"Susan!" said Peter, his warning severe, and Lucy could not look at her.
"He has been kind to you, Cousin," said Eustace quietly. "There is hope for you yet. Do not turn from it so quickly."
And Susan remembered her endless sorrow and felt that He had not been kind, but when she thought about it she understood what Eustace meant. There was relief, for a moment. She considered the hope, and the eyes of the others lightened with joy. But then she thought it wouldn't hurt her to go on as she had been just a little longer. She didn't want to change just yet. And it seemed to her that their eyes grew darker. She stepped back, unnerved.
"Do you think," asked Peter, "that if you had died with us, you would have come here?"
Susan shuddered as she contemplated this.
"No," she said in a whisper, horrified at the realization. Where might she have gone instead?
"You would not," he agreed. "We would rather have you with us later than not at all."
"Do you think," she asked hesitantly, after this had sunk in properly, "that I might come back for ever? Like you?"
"That is up to you," said Peter. "It has always been up to you."
Susan nodded, though she was not sure she understood. "And do you suppose that if I had not been taken up with nylons and lipstick and invitations," -here she looked hard at Jill, who had been the owner of the second voice, and Jill looked back serenely- "I could have come with you when you left?"
"Bless me! Do you really believe you did not come with us because you liked lipstick?" asked Digory, who could not bear it when people refused to see what was obvious.
"No," said Susan sadly.
"Why then?" asked Edmund softly.
"I suppose it was because I chose those things instead of Him… because I stopped believing in Him."
It was awful to admit, but she was bound to truth in this place.
"You suppose?" he countered.
She looked at the ground. "I mean that was why," she sighed, defeated. "Because I stopped believing in Him. Because I didn't want to believe."
"But perhaps you want to now," he murmured softly.
When she found the courage to look back up at them she saw not smug self-righteousness, but friendly smiles all round. She found that she was smiling back.
"Do you believe in Him now?" asked Lucy hopefully, but her sister's smile faltered.
"I cannot see Him," said Susan hopelessly.
"Do you need to see Him," asked Polly, "to know that He is here?"
Susan looked around. This was not Narnia- at least, not the Narnia she remembered. But everything in it had been created by Aslan, of that she was certain. It was odd, but she could almost feel Him with her.
"You may truly wish to believe, Sister. But you must really do so. He will not wait forever," interrupted Peter. His voice was urgent, and she felt an awful fear. She stood silent, debating with herself. The others thought she looked as though a battle was warring in her mind.
They waited with bated breath.
Susan was brimming with a lovely feeling. They were glad to have her there. They wanted her, whatever she was lacking. They smiled at her, and Peter, Edmund, and Lucy's smiles were the most welcoming. But she did not wish to believe that it was Aslan who had given them the grace to forgive. Once again, she forgot Aslan. She forgot herself. If she could remain here in this place, what did she need Him for?
"No," she said finally. "I don't think I will." Their faces all went white, and Susan felt wretched. "I tell you I cannot see Him!"
For half an instant Peter's entire being seemed to collapse, and his anguish was dreadful to behold. But when he recovered, his eyes were distant and he was resolute. "Then you are truly no friend of Narnia."
This stung as nothing else. What galled her was that he did not say it with malice, but with such terrible sorrow and grief. She could see that it broke his heart to lose her again, and she hated that she had done this to him. She saw the same sadness and mourning in the eyes of the others, but no one's sorrow was so great as that of her brothers and sister.
"Susan," said Lucy, her eyes pleading, "come back to Aslan. He loves you! We love you. And we are so glad to have you." Susan tried to smile, and Lucy's voice turned gentle. "But we will not have you without Him. We cannot. We belong to Him. Can you understand that? If you hate Him, you hate us as well."
"No! I could never hate you." But even as she said it, she knew it wasn't so. She had despised and ridiculed them all many times. She pushed this thought away from her and reached for them. And though they still appeared to be as close to her as they had been, now she could not touch them. "Oh don't," she cried. "Please don't leave me! Come back; do come back!" They stood silently, their sorrow unendurable. She had not seen any of them walk backward, but somehow they were all very far away. They did not seem able to hear her now, but Lucy reached out to her in vain. Susan screamed in horror as her sister began to fade.
And then she heard Lucy's cry.
Susan shrunk back. The Name, which had filled her with such joy when first she had heard it, now filled her with an awful sort of dread. And then she saw Him, the Great Lion, Son of the Emperor-Over-the-Sea. There was a beautiful golden glow about Him, and He seemed to Susan the most majestic and frightening creature she had ever seen.
He spoke with the others for a few moments, or perhaps it was several hours. She could hear their laughter, far away across a chasm she could not cross. And then He turned to look at her. In less than a second He was there beside her. Susan gasped and stepped away from the piercing eyes, their gaze more intense than even Edmund's had been. But she found that He was now directly in front of her. And she shivered. Was He going to eat her alive?
And when she looked into His eyes, everything came rushing back to her. All the years in Narnia; all the happy moments with her siblings; all the marvelous love of Aslan; every glorious minute she had buried deep within her soul. The fear and sorrow and loss and disgrace were suddenly too great to bear, and she wished He would destroy her.
He roared then; a great, Kingly, terrifying roar, not a yard away from her, and she cowered in fear. But she had to look at Him. And when she did she fell down in frightened wonder.
If she had been shamed before the others, she was humiliated now. Their glory, splendid though it was, was nothing compared to His, and she knew that He could see everything inside her soul, all the darkest hatred and maddening disbelief. She could hardly bear it. How could she have forgotten Him? How had she ever believed He wasn't real? He was somehow more real than even her brothers and sister had been, though their presence had been stronger than anything she had known in our world, and he was far bigger than she remembered. As she sat shaking in terror, Aslan's voice came barreling toward her, loud and strong, but somehow warm.
"Come here to Me, Susan, Daughter of Eve."
She wanted very much to run away; to go back to the safety of her siblings' embrace, but she found that she could not see any of the Kings and Queens anymore. At any rate she could not disobey the Lion, and so she got up and followed Him.
After a few minutes He stopped, and Susan with Him. He lay down in the cool grass and she sat cautiously beside Him, as she could not think what else to do.
He regarded her for what seemed like several minutes before He spoke. "Why have you come?" He asked her.
"I don't know," said Susan, her voice very small. "I don't think I could have helped it. Didn't You call me here?"
He smiled. "I left the way open for you to come when you wanted Me. But I thought you did not wish to speak to me. I thought you did not believe I exist."
Susan thought this was very mean; He knew her thoughts; why must He make her voice them?
"Edmund didn't believe in you," she tried, and her voice was rather nasty this time; she had not quite forgiven him for saying that she had been unfair.
"We are not speaking of Edmund," said the Lion. "I asked why you have come."
"Why are You so angry with me? Edmund was far worse-"
"We are not speaking of Edmund," repeated the Lion sternly. "Your brother has not turned from me since the day he was forgiven." The obvious implication was that she had, and Susan stopped trying to interrupt. "The price for his transgressions has been paid," continued Aslan. "Do you really wish to compare your offences?" Susan shook her head, and Aslan addressed her with compassion. "It has been paid for you as well, if you will have it. Remember, Daughter, it is you of whom we speak. What have you done?"
Susan tried to answer, but found that she could not. Her throat was choked with tears. What had she meant by trying to get Edmund into trouble? And what did Aslan mean by His words?
"I left you, Aslan," she whispered softly, when she could speak. She was ashamed to say it, but she knew she had to. And though His disappointment was great, His voice was gentle, and that made it all the worse.
"And why did you?"
"I-I suppose it was easier to forget."
"You forgot Me?"
"Well- no," said Susan. She had buried His voice and the memory of Him, but she knew she had never truly forgotten.
"Then what happened?"
"I only stopped believing because… I don't know why, really."
There was a low growl.
"Do you not, Daughter of Eve?"
"I stopped believing because I wanted things my own way; I wanted to come back to Narnia. When You wouldn't let me, I… wanted to forget You. If I couldn't have You as I liked You, I… didn't want You," she finished quietly.
"And so you turned away," said Aslan, and He was very solemn.
"But I believed in you once," said she, desperate to gain some footing.
"Yes," agreed the Lion, but Susan could tell she would not be gaining ground. "And it would have gone the worse for you, because you knew Me and yet denied Me. You turned from that path long ago." Susan's eyes opened wide and she stared at Him for a long moment, lost in His eyes, before she hung her head. He regarded her fondly, now she had stopped trying to make excuses. "Yet in these last months you have begun to reconsider." His gentle, rumbling voice bade her look up at Him, and she did.
"Yes I have."
He tilted His head to look at her, and she realized she had been given another chance.
"I was lucky, then," she said, relieved.
"I have never met a thing called Luck," said He. "There are others who have turned from me, and many have been lost. The time you are given to return to me is not unlimited."
She opened her mouth once; then closed it, uncertain. Aslan continued.
"You have been shown grace, Dear One. There is mercy yet. But it is up to you take the chance that has been given you. Others have been given it, but there are few who take it. And there are others still who believe they will come to Me whatever they may do. Do not become like one of these. You must follow Me."
"But do not all ways lead to Your Country?" asked Susan imploringly. She had thought perhaps they did, but she saw by His face that it had been a very silly thing to think.
"There is only one way which leads to My Country," said the Lion gravely. "Do not be taken in by those who tell you otherwise."
"Then, if I had believed in You, could I have come with the others?"
The Lion shook His great golden head. "No one is ever told what would have happened."
"Oh dear," said Susan. "Was I too grown up?"
"No one is too grown up to come to Me," answered the Lion. "Though they must become like children again to do it. But you have spoken of this with your brother already. You know why You could not come before."
"Yes," agreed Susan softly; sadly. "But please Sir; there is one thing I do not understand."
"And what is that?"
"You said- that is, I think You said- 'Once a King or Queen in Narnia, always a King or Queen.'"
He smiled sadly at her. "And so I did. But Narnia is no more."
Susan was devastated. "It can't be," she whispered, but Aslan's face was grave.
"I assure you that it can."
The light went out of Susan's eyes.
"Then all is lost," she whispered.
The Lion looked long at her.
"All is never lost."
Susan looked back up at Him, hope stirring inside her once again.
"Rewards are for those who stay the course," said Aslan. Susan had the grace to be embarrassed, but she could hardly remain so long, for the Lion's voice was kind, and His face was friendly, if severe. "You have gone away, but you have now come back to Me. If you are content to follow Me, you will one day be a Queen again."
Susan did not understand all of this, but she was sure now that she would follow Him.
"I will try."
"You will do better than to try," He said, and Susan nodded, clutching at His mane.
"Then I will be good."
She could feel Him shaking His head.
"There is no one good."
She was surprised.
"Then I will do as many good things as I can."
Again, He shook his head. "There is no one who can do enough good things."
Susan cried out into His fur. She turned to look up at Him, distraught and mystified.
"Can You ever forgive me, Aslan?"
His smile was truly beautiful. "Are you truly sorry?" He asked her.
"Oh, I am!" And she had never said anything more true.
"And will you stop your foolishness and consent to do what is right?"
She thought hard about this, because she did not completely want to do it. Finally she said, "I will."
"Then I can forgive you," said He, and Susan felt strength come into her, and her heart was lighter. "But you must do more than say it; you must do it. It will not be simple. You must remind yourself every day."
Goodness, thought Susan, every day?
"But suppose I forget, Aslan?"
She stood up, and He smiled at her.
"I will be there to remind you."
She smiled back. He appeared to be waiting for her to speak.
"Is- is there anything else?"
He stood up to His full height, and she would have been afraid if she had not looked into His eyes.
"Do you believe in Me, Susan, Daughter of Eve?"
"Yes, yes, I do!"
"And will you follow Me, all the days of your life, however many there may be and however treacherous the road?"
If you will do this, I will send My Spirit to remain with you."
"Thank you!" she cried. But then she understood a bit more.
"You will send… Oh, Aslan, can't I stay?"
"Now is not your time, child."
He looked at her sorrowfully, and she sucked in her breath.
"I cannot take you now. You must let Me mend you before I take you, and you must want to mend before you can be mended. You have only just begun the wanting."
"Oh," whispered Susan in despair, for how could He mend her if she was not allowed to stay with Him? Would she be sent back to her own world? And how could she bear it? But He seemed to know her thoughts.
"I am there too, Susan."
"In your own world."
"Surely You're not!"
"Am I not?" He asked severely, and Susan knew that He was.
"Oh Aslan," she whispered, and she had never felt such regret. "Aslan, Aslan, I am so sorry. Please, can't I stay here with You and the others?"
He looked on her with compassion. "They were only a dream, Daughter," he said softly. "They do not feel sadness any longer."
No, thought Susan. They were too dear to her. She could not bear it if they had not been real. She had muddled even a dream! Her face began to crumple in misery. She had so hoped…
But the Lion drew her close to Him, and He wiped the tears from her face with an enormous paw.
"Did they never want me?" she whispered.
"They have always wanted you. They asked me to change your heart many times, Dear One, when they could yet feel sorrow."
"I don't suppose it ever was so wonderful between us as at first it seemed," she mused logically, and she felt that the pain would break her.
"It may not be so now," said the Lion gently, "but that does not mean that it never has been, or that it cannot be again."
"Oh Aslan, were they ever there at all?" said Susan, looking forlornly into His eyes as she tried not to cry. He dropped a Lion's kiss onto her forehead, and she felt her tears begin to ebb.
"They were. But that was long ago, and you were not there then." She sighed bitterly, brushing the hair out of her eyes, and Aslan smiled at her. "Do not despair, Susan. They feel for you as they have told you. They love you dearly. If you will come back to me, they will welcome you in love. But they have gone where you cannot follow yet."
Yet, she thought happily… then perhaps she might indeed come later.
"And You?" she asked. "Are You a dream?"
He smiled at her, and wild hope rose inside her.
"I am never a dream. But now," He said tenderly, "you must go back and meet with me in your own world."
And Susan would have beseeched Him once more, but she found that she was very tired, and she lay down in the grass.
"Will I see You soon Aslan?" she murmured softly.
"Soon," He agreed.
And then she felt very nice and very sleepy, and soon her eyes had closed and she was dreaming, and for once she had lovely dreams.
Susan woke a long time later, and she saw immediately that she was somewhere else. There was no longer any grass beneath her, and she was startled to find that she was at the market in her old hometown, and that she was much older than she had been only a few hours ago. For a moment she despaired, as perhaps any one of us might have in her position. But then she remembered the words of Aslan, and she was comforted.
But now when she thought of Him her thoughts began to be about a man instead of a Lion, and she wondered what that meant. And though it took her rather a longer time than she had hoped, and though she stumbled a bit along the way, and though it caused her what at first she took to be rather a lot of trouble, Susan did indeed find Aslan in our world, and she followed Him all the rest of her life.
And when at last the time came for her to leave the shadow lands, He welcomed her with open arms, as did the Kings and Queens she had loved so dearly (and the welcome they gave her then was even nicer than it had been in all her dreams), and her parents, and all the others who had taken the narrow way and stayed the course.
The love they had for each other was fit to break her heart. And though she thought she would surely cry at all the wonderful things they said to her and felt for her, and at all the lovely thoughts that were bursting inside her for them, she couldn't, for there were no more tears. There were only light and joy and gladness and forgiveness and love. And there when you loved, you were always loved in return.
And she found that though she loved them all more dearly than ever she could have imagined, in the end it was the Great King, King over even Peter the High King and all the High Kings of all the worlds, that she loved most.
For though there were others who had wanted to save her, it had been that King who had.