She had, perhaps, missed it the most. Peter chafed the most, and Edmund grew the most, and Lucy's wonder at the world expanded, but she missed it more than the rest of them. The constraints she'd been burdened with her whole life—by her parents, her family, the world of a teenage girl in England—had been shattered when she was there, the expectation that she sit home and clean demolished with a prophecy and a magic horn. Lucy was always the more inherently rebellious one, but she was the one who gained the most from it, more than any of them.
The year after their return tortured her. Comfortable, unrestrictive riding skirts were replaced with the uncomfortable pleated blouses and wool blazers of school; the freedom to wear her hair loose disappearing, leaving her hair always neatly and properly pulled back; the comforting weight of a wooden bow in her left hand chased away by books and study guides. She yearned for the leniency granted to Lucy even in London, her allowance to be a wild young girl still, the childish abandon that somehow seemed to double upon their impromptu return to childhood. What their parents and school looked at as an uncontrollable wild streak in Lucy was constantly contrasted against her own history of being the responsible one, the one who kept her rowdy brothers and unruly sister in check and out of trouble. She couldn't escape the feeling of her mother's eyes on her when she saw Peter in another fight, prompting her to be the wet blanket rule-follower she'd always been expected to be before. The only thing worse than having left was wondering if she would ever make it back, if she would ever return. Every unusual feeling or fleeting instance she felt, in the middle of class or lunch or a blurry dream, felt like magic that might take her back; she lost count of how many times she woke from a wondrous dream of a day of hunting and riding to find herself in her tiny bed at school. Such teasing instances wrought havoc on her heart, making her feel like it was cracking just a little more with every taste and feel she got of home. The harder it got, the harder she tried to make herself forget; the harder she tried to make herself accept England as home, the harder it got.
And now… now she was home. England hadn't felt like home for decades, for longer than everyone but her siblings thought she'd been alive. Her home had been housed in dancing trees and talking animals, chess tournaments with Edmund and badgers and fauns, carved stone and beams of heavy wood, the whistle of a red-fletched arrow as it left her bow. The moment her bare feet touched the warm sand of the coast, when she felt a huge weight lift as she shed her shoes and knee socks and that cumbersome wool blazer, she felt like everything was right once more. The moment she found her bow and felt its familiar and comforting weight in her hand, she remembered who she had once been.
Ever since she received it, her bow had felt like her identity, all tied together into recurved wood and taught string, red feathers and unbreakable arrowheads. She had spent hours upon hours polishing the wood, practicing stringing and unstringing it until she could do it blind and upside down, adjusting the strap on the quiver until it was perfectly suited to her frame, with minute notchmarks in the leather marking how she'd grown over her years. The first time she put it back on, she felt a twinge as she had to tighten it back down to the second mark, as she missed her older self.
Though everyone had thought Lucy the adventurous one, she wasn't—for all her rebellious nature, her moniker, her enthusiasm, she had always been more tied to the healer in her than the warrior. But when she had her bow with her, Susan was so much more of a fighter than Lucy would ever be. Lucy would be content to stay behind and plan and strategize and organize whilst the rest of them went off to fight. Despite her own label—the Gentle— she loved the feel of firing off shot after shot, the inescapable thrill of adrenaline that would rise as a circle of fallen enemies would form in a twenty foot diameter around her on the battlefield. She loved that people constantly underestimated her abilities in a close-range fight, thinking that an archer was an easy kill up close; more than anything, she loved falling into the rhythm of alternating between firing shots, using her bow as a club, stabbing anyone too close with an arrowhead, throwing one expertly from her right hand when the need arose. The smooth instinctual feeling of slipping an arrow out of the quiver, notching it on the bow and shooting, shifting from shot to shot to swinging around to strike an enemy who snuck close enough with the base of the bow filled her with a feeling of power, place, purpose. She wouldn't hurt a soul until they threatened her or that which she loved, but as soon as that threat was presented, she would do all in her power to destroy it. Though she hated to kill, she loved to fight.
It wasn't until the first raid that she felt like her old self again. The bow finally felt right again, like an extension of her arm, and she couldn't miss. Even though they were losing the fight, even though she couldn't help but feel despair rising in her throat as ally after ally fell to a Telmarine blade, she was just as helpless at ignoring that adrenaline tumbling through her veins, mounting with each moment of wide-eyed shock in the face of a Telmarine soldier who fell to a teenage girl with a bow. The weight of the bow in her hand, the press of the quiver between her shoulder blades, the slightest brush of the fletching on the arrow against her ear and cheek as it whistle-whispered away to bury in the chest of an enemy. The identity she'd lost when she followed Lucy back through that wardrobe a year ago, the feel of being whole and complete and right that she'd never had before, was back.
She understood, after it all, why they had to go back. She knew that it was the right thing to do, but it didn't keep her heart from breaking just a little bit when she and Peter agreed that it was what they would do. It would be easier for Peter and Edmund and Lucy, she knew—Peter was a boy, and he had none of the restrictions in England that she did. Lucy did, but she and Edmund were going to come back. But she was going back to a world of itchy blazers and pulled-back hair and school, where she could never be any more than she already was. The freedom that she had after—not even because she was a queen, but simply because that was how it was—would be gone the instant they stepped back onto the train platform.
And so, in her last act of adventure, her last chance to act freely, her last hurrah, she kissed Caspian. Lucy wasn't the brave one—she never would have kissed a man she'd never see again, in front of an entire city. But Susan did, and enjoyed the dumbstruck look on the poor boy's face, and the shock from everyone else, and told herself that if she was going to go, she at least got one last bit of fun before she did.
As they returned to the platform, surrounded by jostling schoolchildren and that insipid idiot asking her by the wrong name if she was coming, she followed the others onto the train. And as the carriage doors squealed shut and Edmund complained about his lost torch, the train jolting to a start, she felt her heart break the rest of the way.