The Last Pevensie
by Icy Roses
Disclaimer: I don't own The Chronicles of Narnia.
A/N:This is something I dug up from two years ago, but never posted. Sorry if the writing style is a bit different; it's a real blast from the past. Partly inspired by the mysterious fate of Susan Pevensie, partly inspired by "The Problem With Susan" by Neil Gaiman (this is R-rated, kids, if you are thinking about looking it up), this is my interpretation of the future. PJO readers, if you spot the plot similarity to "Heritage," that's because this is actually the fic that inspired it. I wanted to see how the idea would play out in Percy Jackson land two years later. I guess I have a morbid Disney-esque obsession with single parenthood.
For a long time, I had a fascination with Susan Pevensie, what made her "bad," whether she was excluded from Narnia/Heaven forever or just temporarily. Because fantasies and fairy tales are beautiful and fragile in their beauty, but eventually, they end, and the one left behind has to wake up and face the reality of gray skies. When magic and wonder have ended, life remains. People must eat and sleep and go on. Susan had to go on. What did she do? That question, my friends, led me to seek out the answer for myself.
I do not know how to tell this story properly. I was not there to see it all happen. I was not there during the adventures, the wars, the friendships made, the friends lost. I came afterward, after the doors had closed and the memories faded. Yet, I feel as if this story is mine, because I too have lived it, if only just a little. And my mother always told me that true stories went on forever and ever, and although the original storytellers were gone, the threads of the story would weave on, unbroken and strong throughout the centuries. She said if a story were really true, there would always be someone to remember it.
I may never be able to tell the story as well as my mother, and there are holes that I will never be able to fill in. I can only imagine what happened in the bare, empty spaces, and piece together the parts that I know to make what may have been true. What matters most is the emotion and the feeling. My mother taught me many such things about telling stories, for she was the best at telling them herself.
It is a complex tale, for it is the story of more than just one person. This story spans both centuries and seconds, it is a tale of so much, yet so little. I do not know where to start. I do not even know which parts to tell. If I told the whole thing, we would surely be here until we were both old and gray.
But you are curious to hear the story now, are you not? I shall try to begin as best as I can. I suppose there's no better way to start a story than:
Once upon a time, there were four children. These four children were not special in any way, just two boys and two girls, and they had escaped to the countryside during the Second World War. And there they had many adventures in a particular wardrobe that may have been true and they may have been just the children's imaginations.
Eventually, of course, the war ended and the children could go back to their parents. If this were an ordinary story, I would say the four children outgrew their childish fantasies, and grew up, and had children of their own. But something went terribly awry, and those four children did not grow up. Instead, three of those kind, lovely children and their parents died in a train wreck. It was a horrible train wreck, and the newspapers all had headlines about it, saying things like "Trains Collide For Unknown Reasons" and "Train Wreck of the Century Kills All Passengers." And naturally, everyone who read those headlines was sad, and murmured what a pity it was that such an awful thing would happen. But like all news, this incident eventually faded out of people's memories, and they went about their daily lives, never thinking of the victims again.
But, if you remember, there were four children in the story. What happened to the child that did not die? Well, she was not important obviously (and yes, she was one of the girls, the older one), and nobody mentioned anything about her afterwards, and nobody knew where she went.
I was born eleven years after the accident, and by that time, hardly anyone recalled it at all, except the yellowed newspaper clippings that some people who were interested in those things kept. My mother was one of those people who kept old newspaper in dusty boxes in the attic. She refused to throw the box away, but she never looked at the contents after she put them there. I suppose it was more of a comfort to her, to know things were there and that they were remembered. My mother was always very keen on remembering things, saying that if you forgot them, it meant they didn't ever exist. My mother was a strange woman.
Anyway, I was born to my mother and father on a dreary September morning. They were modest, middle class people, who lived a comfortable life, and until I was three, we had a decent, ordinary family. Two months after my third birthday, a policeman came to our door, and he had a very sympathetic face, and told my mother that my father died in a car accident. The policeman asked if she wanted to see that body to make sure, and my mother said no. She said sternly that she had identified enough bodies in her life, and she did not wish to see any more dead people. She never did see his body, preferring to keep the coffin shut during the funeral.
My mother was not a sad woman. In fact, she smiled and laughed every day, even after my father's tragic death. She tried to make our lives as normal as possible, and after my father died she avoided speaking about him. I know very little about him to this day.
She chose, instead, to talk about her childhood. She had a fascinating childhood, for she grew up during World War II. I asked her if it was a terrible time, and she said, she really didn't remember because she was in the countryside the whole time, and oh, the countryside was such a wonderful place to be. She had an older brother, a younger brother, and a younger sister.
"They had called me Su back then," she said dreamily. Every night, she'd tell me bedtime stories of fanciful adventures they'd had when they were young, and I loved listening to them. They were great epics, with beavers, and fauns, and lions, and witches, and kings, and queens, and anything you'd ever want in a good bedtime story. She was terribly good at telling stories. They were so detailed that I could almost feel like I had been there. Narnia, she called it.
My family of two was good enough for me when I was little. I didn't remember my father much, only that he was tall and blonde and had a nice smile. When you're only four years old, you have a pretty simple life.
When I was five, I went to kindergarten, and saw much less of my mother. I did not know that she was busy trying to support the two of us on a meager income. Someone would pick me up from school and then take me home. I stayed home alone often times, because my mother did not employ babysitters. She didn't have the money to pay for them. She also didn't have any friends to watch me for free. My mother was a loner.
The times she was home, we had jolly fun. She was so good at creating stories that we'd act them out all the time. She'd be the kind, benevolent queen, and I'd be the adventurous princess that would go and rescue the knights. I didn't think it was very fair that the knights always got to have all the fun. She'd watch me scramble around the room, crashing headlong into objects everywhere, and she'd laugh. I loved her laugh. She had a high, girlish laugh that made you want to join in whenever you heard it.
As I grew older, I began to suspect there was something wrong with my family. Everybody else had a father, and everybody else would go visit his or her grandparents at the end of the term. I knew my father had died, but I didn't know why it was such a big deal, except that he was not there anymore. As for grandparents, I had never known any in my life. When I was really young, I'd see old people walking down the street, and I'd wonder if they were my grandparents. I even remember asking an old woman once, if she was my grandmother. Of course, my mother had led me away and told me to never do that again, although I remember a look of deep hurt in her eyes.
Kids would make fun of me sometimes, asking me where my father was, and I would cry. I wasn't a tough kid; I wasn't a tomboy. I hated fighting, so I just sat in the corner and daydreamed, and wrote things, often stories that my mother had told me. I started to wish my family was different. I started to hope my father was really alive somewhere, just away for the moment, and that one day he would come back and everything would be fine.
That never did happen. Once, I asked my mother if father was ever coming back. She looked into space for awhile, and then said very softly, "People do not come back from the dead, Lucy." And I knew to be quiet and never ask again.
Yes, my mother had named me after her youngest sister, perhaps in hope that I would be like her, "bright and always happy" as she had described. My mother showed me pictures of my aunt Lucy when she was young. The photographs showed a petite, pretty, smiling blonde. I didn't look like her. I looked much like my mother; my hair was dark brown, and I was tall. But my mother seemed to hold Aunt Lucy in a special place in her heart, and I was her constant reminder.
My mother and I were extremely close. With no other members in our family, we clung to each other. I was a pretty mature ten-year-old. I had to be. I knew my mother did not have many friends. In fact, she really had none. When other moms left their kids to babysitters on Saturday nights and did "grown-up" things, my mother never did. She stayed home with me, and I liked it. I had a mother that lavished more attention onto me than any other.
My mother made sure that I didn't miss out on childhood because we were in a difficult situation. We didn't sit around and mope about how things were and we didn't imagine how things could have been. We went on picnics, and we went to the park, and to everyone else, we appeared as happy a family as could be. Sometimes, when my mom would come home angry or upset, I would hug her and tell her stories that she had told me. She had heard them before, of course, but they would always cheer her up, and soon we'd be laughing again.
Or sometimes, I'd go to school and tell other kids, and they'd mock me, because everyone knows there's no such thing as Narnia. "You're just a big baby," they'd say. "Who listens to bedtime stories now, anyway?" So I'd go home crying, and my mom would hug me, and stroke my hair, and try to make me understand why the world was so cruel.
She told me not to go around telling her stories. "They wouldn't understand," she'd say. But she never once did she tell me that they weren't true. She always stuck by them.
Like any other girl, I started getting interested in boys by the time I was twelve, and it was right about then, I wondered why my mother even considered getting remarried. She never dated, even when I did, and she never even had any guy friends. It wasn't because she wasn't pretty. As I've said before, even my five-year-old eyes could tell that my mother was prettier than your average woman. I could tell that when she was young, maybe in her twenties, she would have been a real belle. Her high cheekbones were still there, and her eyes were still large and luminous, hints of her old beauty still showed through.
I became convinced that if my mother remarried, a lot of my problems would be fixed, a childish thought, yes, but from a girl who had experienced a lot of "father teasing," it seemed pretty plausible to me. I knew some of my friends' moms dated other people all the time. Why was my mother so different? One night, I got the courage to ask my mother why she didn't go out on dates. A wrong move, obviously.
"Where did you ever get the idea that I wanted to date anyone, Lucy?" she asked, perfectly calm, but a kind of angry calm. My mother wasn't the type to make a big commotion. She would only get icy and cold.
I sputtered, "Well, I thought you would get sick of being alone all the time. Lots of people in my class have parents that get divorced and then get remarried."
She stared at me for a long minute and said, "Getting divorced and having your husband die is not exactly the same thing."
I went to my room and didn't say anything more. Was it because my mother loved my father too much to bear loving someone else? But that night, my mother came up to my room for my customary story. She kissed me on the forehead, and I knew that I had been forgiven. "Do you miss Daddy too much?" I ventured to ask.
She looked surprised and then thought hard for a few seconds. "No," she said slowly, "I don't think that's it. I loved your father, certainly, but that is not the reason. I think it's because I don't want to forget him, that's all. If I find another husband, it would be like my first one never existed."
That sounded foolish to me, but I did not say anything.
She told her story that night like nothing happened. It was the one of the familiar ones, with the two kings and queens of Narnia hunting for the White Stag.
"And then, the Kings and Queens stumbled through the pine trees until the scratchy needles became soft coats, and they rolled out of the wardrobe: children again."
"Why did they come back?" I murmured sleepily after the story was done. "It would've been more fun if they stayed in Narnia as kings and queens forever."
She shifted her weight uneasily. "They went to Narnia again," she said softly.
"But they had to come back to our world in the end. I would have stayed in Narnia," I said stubbornly.
My mother had gotten very still. "That's not true. Three of them got to go back forever."
"What happened to the other one?"
There was a long pause before she responded. "The other one stayed here in our world and kept living. She married and had a baby girl. And she missed her brothers and sister very much."
I yawned. "As long as she was happy."
My mother wrapped her arms around me and kissed my forehead. "She was happy."
My mother's bedtime stories lasted until I was seventeen. I had the same problems with my mother that every other teenager did, and we argued a lot. Actually, in my case, it was more that I did a lot of the yelling, and my mother sat there and took it. She never yelled back. I don't think my mother has ever yelled at anyone. Now I won't lay the blame of our arguments on my childhood, or anything my mother did. It was simply that I was a moody adolescent and a stubborn one to boot. I told her I didn't want to hear her stupid stories anymore, that they were all fake, and I was too old for them. She did not say a word, only nodded and closed her eyes.
I knew by that that I'd hurt her deeply, but I was so arrogant and rude at that time, I didn't care.
My mother and I started drifting apart after that, and we said few words to each other again. I graduated high school, and I graduated college. My mother worked and paid my way through both. I was grateful, but by that time, we were so far apart, I didn't know how to thank her, or even how to talk to her. It was a pity, something that I will regret for the rest of my life, not being able to gather the courage to see her again.
Sometimes, as I sat alone in my little apartment, I'd look up at the stars and remember the stories my mother had told me. I wished so hard that we would make up. But I didn't know how to apologize. So I'd watch the moon and dream of a distant land, and I'd cry. Those days, I'd cry so much, because I missed my father and the life I was never meant to live and I missed my home. But most of all, I missed my mother. I missed the strong, courageous woman who had raised me, and who I still didn't know. I just wanted to hear her voice again, and hear her tell a story with that inner energy she had. Oh, how I cried.
A few years out of college, my mother called me and told me that she was very sick. She had gotten pancreatic cancer, and it had spread too far to be cured. There had been symptoms, and if I had been there, I could have caught them maybe, I told myself. But really, I knew it wasn't true. My mother had never eaten much, so a loss of appetite would be virtually undetectable in her. Neither was she a plump woman. She was so fragile and thin that significant weight loss wouldn't have been very possible.
So with trepidation in my heart, sorrow and guilt too, I went to the hospital and prayed that she would still love me.
When I got there, there she was, lying there, so frail and so delicate under the covers that my heart almost broke in two. Her long, dark hair was wispy and a lighter wheat ash color, probably from the sickness, and there was so little of it that I was alarmed. I ran up to her, and the tears began to drop like a rain storm. I don't think I've ever felt as dreadful as that moment when I first laid eyes on my ailing mother that I had not spoken to for years.
She looked at me, then, her eyes dull and clouded, and it seemed hard for her to remember me. "Lucy?" she whispered faintly, her voice all breathy and light.
"It's me," I said gently, trying not to jostle her with too much noise and movement.
She grinned, a real one that I hadn't seen for a long, long time and it made the lump in my throat grow larger. "It's a long time since we've talked," she said. "Pull up a chair, darling. I have one last story to tell you."
So I grabbed a chair by the corner and put it by the side of her bed and sat down. She looked so small and tired that it was hard to believe she was my mother. She looked nothing like her old self. But she smiled faintly at me and asked me a question I will never forget.
"Do you believe the stories I told you?"
There was a perfectly still silence as I thought about her question. When I was younger, I believed her stories with all my heart. I even tried to go through wardrobes and hope that I would end up in a different land. But my fingertips would always touch the wooden backs before I took two steps, and I was always disappointed. But now?
"They're just stories," I said. "I had to grow up sometime. Every little girl grows up eventually."
My mother's eyes softened. "I grew up once, and I regretted it for my whole life. I grew up and my brothers and sister never did, and I lost them forever."
She closed her eyes, as if trying to block out what she had seen a long time ago. "You had an aunt. You had two uncles. They would have loved you. But you were such a good child. You never asked me about them. Did you wonder?"
I had not. It was true that I had never asked about her brothers and sister. It had never occurred to me that I might have uncles and an aunt somewhere. "What happened to them?"
"They died." My mother was trying hard to keep her hoarse voice steady. "It was a terrible train wreck and my brothers and sister and parents all died in it. I was the only one that was left behind. They called me in to identify the bodies. I remember their mangled faces, and I remember that I wanted to vomit and cry at the same time. So I did. I had been a troublesome teenager, very self-centered, and the last words my brother Peter had said to me were, 'Grow up, Su! I wish you'd just look around you and stop being such a prig.' And so I'd yelled at him that he needed to grow up because I wasn't the one that still believed in childish fairytales like he did. He died that day, and I never got to apologize."
She shifted painfully in bed. "You have to believe the stories, Lucy. I told myself they were all make-believe, and I have never been more haunted by them."
I took her hand in mine and knew that the illness was taking a toll on her mind. "Whatever you say," I soothed her.
"You must believe me!" she insisted stronger than ever. "I have never lied to you, and I won't start doing it now. I told you the story of those four children. Did you think they were just anyone? They were my siblings and me. My maiden name was Pevensie. My brothers were Peter and Edmund, and my sister was Lucy."
I shook my head. "How can I believe you? It was just a fairytale, a bedtime story. Other worlds don't exist."
She looked at me with pleading eyes. "Believe me. Just this once. Please. You have to believe in this one thing, if you've never believed in anything else. You and Narnia. Those are the only two things in my life that are not a lie. Please."
There was a spark of hope that crackled to life inside me. It made me think, maybe, just maybe, Narnia was real. And although my mind told me otherwise, my heart told me to listen to it. And I did.
"I believe you," I whispered.
She touched my cheek tenderly and whispered, "One day, you'll understand. I promise." Then she closed her eyes and started murmuring things that I could barely hear. I only heard "Aslan" and "sorry."
I crept into bed with her and hugged her tight. She sleepily asked me to talk to her, so I told her the story about a lion, a witch, and a wardrobe, and she smiled at how familiar it was. And it occurred to me, life was so short: it was absolutely unfair. My mother was a fantastic mother, a fantastic friend, and a fantastic sister. Did anyone ever think of her after the train wreck? Her family's story of death was tragic to be sure, but what was more tragic was the story of those left behind. My mother deserved to be remembered. She had lived a life in torment, and I had never known. She'd wanted to be forgiven for not believing, for growing up. My mother had done what any other would have done in her place. I knew that even now, she was praying for forgiveness. I wished that she could start over and be happy. Selfishly, I also wished that she would stay on earth with me because I needed her. But I knew she could never find peace here. So I cried a little and kissed the top of her head. I told her softly, "I forgive you, Mother. I forgive you, Susan Pevensie."
A bright and glorious smile lit up her face, and she said, "That was the best present you could ever have given me, Lucy, my dear."
A few hours later, she died in my arms, sleeping peacefully at last. She had finally departed from the gray world that had trapped her, kept her away from Narnia.
I was alone in the world.
The weeks following, I found out exactly how much a person could cry. I wondered if I would ever understand what had happened to my mother. I wondered if she ever got to go back to the land that she loved. I wondered if she ever got to meet Aslan.
I did not know how to continue my life. I wanted some sort of reassurance that my mother had gone to heaven where she belonged. Every night, I stared up at the ceiling and tried to imagine the land where my mother had reigned as queen. The whole story sounded so absurd that I started to believe it had been my mother's delirium speaking.
Not long after her funeral, I went to my mother's house to sort her belongings. I found in the attic a treasure chest of memories. That old, yellowing newspaper clipping about the train wreck was there. In the article, her family was mentioned.
"In a rare and tragic case, nearly an entire family was lost in the accident. The Pevensie parents were on one train, while three of their children were on the other. Peter, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie, and their parents were killed in the crash. Our sympathies go out to the remaining daughter, Susan."
There was a large collection of pictures, many of the four Pevensie children. My mother was undeniably the pretty one in the family. But Lucy, with her bouncy gold curls was endearing and adorable. Peter was tall with broad shoulders, and Edmund was shorter and slimmer. But otherwise, they looked alike, both dark-haired and handsome.
I smiled at the picture of my long gone family. I decided to keep this box.
Outside, I disposed of the junk that I had decided to get rid of. It was hard to believe that the sun could still shine after my mother was gone.
But she herself had taught me that stories don't truly end, they only pause. And even after she was gone from this world, my story continued. Hers would as well. Through me. She was right. If a story was true, there would always be someone left to remember it.
I would remember it.
A prim, well-dressed young woman sat in the doctor's office, waiting for her name to be called. She stared at the painting of a lion on the opposite wall. It was a strange place to have such a picture.
A young man plopped down next to her. Curiously, he followed her gaze. "Odd picture, eh?" he said cheerfully.
The woman turned to him. "Oh no, I just thought it was interesting."
He stuck out his hand. "I'm Jack Lewis. How'd you do?"
She shook it. "Lucy Moore."
They stared at the picture in silence for a few awkward moments.
"They hang the most garishly bright paintings in doctor's offices. Must be to cover up the blank wall. Give a little life to the place," Jack said suddenly. "That picture brings up the strangest memories." He scratched his head.
Lucy looked at him, startled. "Me too," she said quietly.
"Well, when I was young, there was this family that lived just across the street from me. The Scrubbs. They weren't the nicest of people. But they had a boy about my age. Eustace, his name was, I think." He chuckled. "Funny name. Anyway, we played together often, like little boys do, but he told the most extraordinary stories. I remembered them all my life, I did. There was a lion in them. Picture made me think of it."
Lucy had a gleam in her eye. "What kind of stories?"
"Strange, very strange. About a fairytale land called Narnia. He was so detailed that I could almost believe he'd been there himself."
"Do you still talk much?"
Jack frowned. "No. It was quite sad really. Eustace died pretty young in a train wreck. Pity. He was a good kid."
The nurse came out and called, "Clive Staples Lewis."
Jack grimaced. "That's me. My real name, anyway. Good talking to you, Lucy."
"Wait! Give me your number. We should go for coffee sometime."
He scrawled it down in a hurry. "Sure."
She smiled. "I think I have a story to tell you."
A/N: I think you can see the resemblance to "Heritage." Yet, I consider Lucy Moore to be a great deal more sober and thoughtful than Cassie Jackson. Also, more British, naturally. I have always loved the dynamics between a single parent and his/her child (DISNEY), so I use the idea more than it should be used. But I'm learning to let it go. Reviews are appreciated.