Chapter 14 - Realizations
The soft breeze of the night filled the room and touched Susan's form while she was laid comfortably on a cozy bed. The room was dark – not totally, due to the light provided by the moon, which Susan could see from the bed. She had one arm behind her head, while the other one lied across her belly. Her gaze focused sometimes on the moon, sometimes on the roof above her. Her mind, a maze full of confusion.
She never felt so confused in her entire life. She had gone through a very hard time that night, struggling to hide from the others all those intense emotions, which she definitely was not prepared to feel. Thank goodness now she was alone, in Ben's bedroom. Had she been in another situation, her cheeks would be probably flushed now, but there was so much going on in her mind that she didn't even realize she was on his very bed... She closed her eyes, trying to organize her thoughts. Now she was alone and, although she knew someone – probably Ben – would check on her soon, she would surely have some time to think about the latest events...
"It's so beautiful, isn't it?", Emily said, showing her son's painting to Susan. "I don't know how Ben's imagination could create such an amazing castle, especially because he was a child when he first drew it!"
"It's not that amazing, mom...", Ben murmured, clearly embarrassed.
Susan was completely petrified. She was staring at the painting of the Telmarine castle and she could hardly believe her own eyes. Her heart was beating furiously and she was aware that she was breathing slightly faster. But she couldn't show her emotions, not now! How could she explain her reaction? She didn't even understand what was going on! But she tried hard to keep calm... The last thing she wanted was to seem like a schizophrenic in front of Ben's family.
"It's really... amazing... indeed", Susan replied, trying hard to contain her perplexity and doing her best to sound as normal as possible.
"And what about this one?", Emily led her to the next painting, followed by Ben.
Before looking at the second painting, Susan took a deep breath. She had a feeling that she was going to see another Narnian picture...
"From his original works, this is my favorite one!", Emily said. "There's something strange and, at the same time, magical about this one. Only Ben could have the idea of depicting a lit lamppost in the middle of a snowy forest! He has always been such an imaginative boy!"
As soon as she laid her eyes on the painting, Susan started battling a strong urge to cry. The Lantern Waste... That picture brought back her memories from her first time in Narnia, bringing back all the pain for not being able to go to that enchanted land again, and making her suffer once again the loss of her siblings. In addition, she felt more and more confused... She felt as if her heart was about to explode! There were so many different feelings taking over her that she was even starting to feel dizzy.
"It does seem somewhat magical... Thi-... This is a very special painting, no wonder why it's your favorite...", she said, nearly stammering, trying really really heard not to show her shock and her pain.
"And this is the last one," Emily said, stopping in front of the third painting. "This is such a majestic piece of art! To tell the truth, I have no idea of what it means, and Ben doesn't seem to know either, but it's so beautiful! He said this image just came to his mind once and he thought it would result in a good painting. He was definitely right!"
Susan looked at the third painting and she couldn't help feeling shocked again. Now she was looking at the interior of Aslan's How, more specifically to the broken Stone Table, the image of the great Lion carved in the stone wall behind it. She stared intently at the picture as a new set of memories visited her already confused mind. Now she remembered all the agony she felt when she saw Aslan being killed by Jadis, and then all the happiness when the table broke and Aslan reappeared, alive and more majestic than ever. And then she remembered when she was there for the second time, during the Narnian Revolution... Susan was now focusing on Aslan, and what happened next scared her to death. His amber eyes started shining at her, as if the painting were alive. She felt as if Aslan were staring at her too, gravely. Suddenly, everything around her became black...
Susan opened her eyes again, remembering what happened next. Actually, she didn't really know what happened next, for she had fainted. When she regained consciousness, she was nearly laid on a sofa on Ben's study, and the first thing she saw was Ben's concerned eyes looking anxiously at her. His mother had just entered the study again, with a glass of water in her hands...
"Thank God, Susan, you woke up! Here, drink some water... Are you okay?"
"Yes, I guess I am... My blood pressure goes low sometimes...", she lied, before drinking the water. Her blood pressure was always perfect, but she had to come up with an explanation for her collapse.
"Oh, I see... Marion fainted because of low blood pressure a couple times, but she went to the doctor and he fortunately said she was okay. But you have to keep an eye on it, in case it starts happening very often."
"I know... Thanks for your concern..."
"Are you sure you're okay, Susan?", Ben asked, holding her hand and staring at her worriedly.
She was about to answer when Emily talked first.
"Do you want to take some rest? I'm sure you will be fine after some minutes. Ben, would you mind if we took her to your room? It's the nearest one from here right now."
"Not at all, mom. Let's go."
"Come on, sweetie, you can have some rest there..."
Susan wasn't feeling bad, but she decided to accept the offer. She definitely needed to stay alone for some time, she needed to think... Ben followed them to his bedroom, but he left right after his mother, but not without kissing Susan on the forehead first, promising he would be back later. She had been alone there for several minutes now, but she wasn't able to rest at all. She was totally alert, her mind working frantically.
Before fainting, she thought she was about to go crazy... She felt completely lost! There was too much information in her confused mind, and she was so desperate between her shock and the need to hide it from the others that she was unable to think reasonably. All she wanted was to get out of Ben's house. She felt like running away and hiding from everyone. She was completely disturbed, she wanted to cry, she wanted to scream! But she couldn't... Her collapse had been a good thing after all, since it dragged her out of that extremely uncomfortable situation.
Once more she was facing her past in a way she couldn't understand. First, she met Ben, a perfect counterpart of Caspian. She didn't understand why he had crossed her way at first place, but she accepted his love, for she was in need of love too. She had briefly thought about the possibility of him in fact being Caspian, but then she pushed this thought aside, since it would be impossible. It would mean that Ben and Caspian had lived simultaneously in two different worlds for a couple years, and she couldn't conceive this idea.
But what about the paintings? How Ben could have depicted Narnia so perfectly if he hadn't been there? According to Emily, those paintings came from Ben's imagination; they were places he had been drawing since he was a kid! How was that possible? Ben had been undoubtedly born in London! How was it possible for him to have memories from Narnia? Unless...
... unless she had been wrong all this time and somehow Ben was Caspian indeed. Not the Caspian she knew, but... a sort of reincarnation, maybe? She still found hard to imagine Ben and Caspian living at the same time in two different worlds, but if the Deep Magic was involved, everything was possible. Although this idea was completely illogical, it was the most logical explanation she could come up with!
But how could she find out the whole truth? If Ben wasn't Caspian at all, so what was the explanation for all those Narnian paintings? And why he was so alike him at first place? And if Ben was really Caspian, how in the world he ended up in London? How did he find her? Besides, he didn't seem to know about his identity as Caspian, so she couldn't ask him anything about it!
Damn, what can I do?, she asked herself, while sitting on the bed and burying her face into her hands. She was utterly confused, and she had no idea of how she would find the answers she so desperately needed! Aslan... I'm sure it was you looking at me through that painting... Why did you appear to me? If you were trying to tell me something, please help me now! Please...
Susan was about to cry when her eyes caught a glimpse of a book on Ben's bedside table. So he had been reading Mansfield Park, she thought, and she smiled, remembering one of the many pleasant conversations they had about their personal tastes in literature. He had mentioned he liked Jane Austen very much, although he hadn't read all her novels yet, and Susan highly recommended Mansfield Park to him.
She took the book and opened it in the very first page, and as soon she did this, she petrified – for the second time this night. She stared at the page, nearly frozen, and her throat went dry. Her heart was racing again, even faster than when she saw Ben's paintings in his study.
This book belongs to Benjamin Caspian Whittaker.
Susan was so shocked that her mind went totally blank. She couldn't think of anything, she couldn't do anything but keep staring at Ben's signature, more specifically at his middle name. Then, suddenly, a certain memory surfaced, rising from the back of her mind.
"What he feels for you is very special, Su. I dare say he would cross worlds and give his blood for you..."
Susan blinked in utter disbelief, her heart beating wildly. "Lucy said he would cross worlds and give his blood for me...", she whispered as the realization hit her, her eyes widened in shock. In fact, after she had this 'dream' with Lucy, she ended up learning that Ben did save her life with his blood, so it was proved that Lucy was telling the truth. And if Lucy was right about this, she was probably right about Ben crossing worlds for her too...
"She knew it!", Susan nearly shouted this time. "Lucy knew it and she tried to tell me and I didn't get the message! Oh my God, how could I be so stupid?"
She started crying uncontrollably and took both hands to her mouth, trying to silence her own voice. She recalled the first time she saw Ben and how he seemed to feel attracted to her since the beginning, even though she tried to stay away from him... And then he saved her life, offering his blood to her unconditionally and reassuring his love even when she thought she didn't deserve it... She was mean to him, she hurt him and yet he was there for her...
"Ben... Caspian...", she whispered, her voice trembling between her tears. There was no doubt anymore... Ben was Caspian! Even though she couldn't understand how it happened, everything else made sense now! Somehow, Ben was Caspian! There was no way to deny it anymore! There were still so many gaps, so many unanswered questions... But Lucy's message had been as clear as water, and Susan nearly wanted to punch herself for not having realized this before. How could she be so blind? Why did she close her eyes to so many evidences? Oh, she knew why... Because of her stupid skepticism, that's why. Her excessive logical rationality had stopped her from seeing the truth... again. Hadn't she learned anything from finding a whole new and magical world inside of a mere wardrobe...?
Tears continued flowing down her face while she tried to calm down. How was she supposed to face him again now? Ben would probably come to check on her sooner or later, but he couldn't see her like that! How would she explain her tears? On the other hand, she wanted to see him as soon as possible, although she knew she couldn't talk about any of this to him, not yet. She was sure he didn't remember anything about Narnia apart from the places he depicted, which he judged to be creations of his own mind. By the way, this fact amazed her to no ends... He didn't remember Narnia, he didn't remember being Caspian and he didn't remember her, but yet he managed to find her!
Susan smiled in the middle of her tears, and soon the smile became a large grin, although the tears went on flowing. She was so happy now, so insanely happy! Not that she wasn't happy before, she truly was! Since Ben appeared in her life, he managed to make her happier than ever, bringing light back to her heart and soul. Now she felt like her chest was about to explode, but of joy this time, unable to contain so much happiness and so many emotions! Ben was Caspian, and she wasn't going mad after all! Her concerns about loving Ben and Caspian at the same time were totally unfounded, for they were the same person, her only and true love...!
Taking a deep breath, Susan seemed to be calming down now, and she wiped her tears with the back of her hands. She couldn't wait to see Ben again, although she wasn't sure if she would be able to contain her emotions. She stood up quickly and left his bedroom, heading to the stairs. She stopped in the middle of the way, though. She was passing by Ben's study and noticed the door open and the lights still on. But there was no one there.
She couldn't stop herself from entering the study in search of Ben's paintings. She walked to the wall with the paintings and stopped in front of them, and now she could admire them fully, without any mind confusion. She was mesmerized with the perfection of those pictures and she smiled at each detail Ben had been able to depict so masterfully. She looked at his beautiful signature on the bottom of the paintings and she wondered if he had the same handwriting as Caspian did.
If only I had had the opportunity to see anything written by Caspian, back in Narnia, now I could..., her thoughts were interrupted as soon as she focused on Ben's signature on the third painting, the one depicting Aslan's How. The first time she had seen that painting, she fainted before being able to catch that detail. Ben had signed his full name there...
Thank goodness I fainted before noticing this in front of Ben and his family, otherwise I would surely have freaked out!, she thought.
As soon as she thought this, Susan heard footsteps coming and stopping by the door. She turned to look at the door and found Ben standing there, gazing at her intently, concern still mirrored in his eyes.
Susan's heart sped up again, and she stared at him in a mixture of love and amazement. Caspian... She could barely believe that Ben was really Caspian, and she could barely take in everything this fact implied. If Caspian was in her world now, it was because of her! He had crossed worlds and saved her life, as Lucy suggested on their 'dream talk'. He had given up Narnia for her...
Ben had been staring at her too, trying to be sure she was okay, and noticed the way she was looking at him. He felt somewhat sheepish and approached her slowly.
"Are you feeling better?", he asked, stopping mere inches from her.
Susan only nodded, staring up at him as if she were hypnotized, completely mesmerized. She was looking at him as if she hadn't seen him for years. Well, technically, she indeed hadn't seen Caspian for the last 6 years...
"Are you sure you're okay?", he asked, smiling shyly.
"I am...", she giggled, for she noticed he had noticed the way she was looking at him.
Ben caressed her face, causing her to close her eyes at his warm touch. She opened her eyes again and moved closer to him.
"You gave me such a scare, my love...", he said, wrapping his arms around her.
"Sorry... I didn't mean to scare you..."
"I know...", he whispered before leaning down to kiss her.
Susan took one of her hands to the back of his neck while the other rested on his chest. They kissed for some long minutes, the kiss soft and chaste. Susan's heartbeat was frantic, as now she kissed Ben with the knowledge that he was her beloved Caspian. She felt the urge to deepen the kiss and release all the emotions she was feeling right now, but she managed to control herself before someone caught them in such an intimate moment. They eventually broke the kiss, and she smiled at him widely, her eyes so bright and so full of happiness that Ben felt a bit confused, wondering what caused this sudden reaction.
Susan turned to the paintings once more, and so did Ben.
"You fainted while looking at them... You didn't pass out in horror, did you?", he asked playfully, causing her to laugh.
"Of course not!", she managed to say in the middle of her laughing. When she ceased laughing, she looked at him tenderly. "They are marvelous, Ben! I've already said it and I will repeat it: you're such an artist! It's a shame you don't have time to paint anymore, I hope you can do it again soon," she said, smiling at him.
"Thank you, my love. Your opinion is very important to me. I'm very happy you appreciated my paintings..."
"They're stunning Ben... Simply stunning!", she said, making him blush.
She giggled at his reaction and looked at the Aslan's How picture again, focusing once more on his full name...
"Ben... Can I ask you something?"
"Where did your middle name come from?"
"Caspian? My parents went on a cruise on their second honeymoon, to celebrate their 10th anniversary of marriage. They spent several days at the Caspian Sea, and, well... I was conceived there...", he said sheepishly.
"Oh, that's such a lovely story! And Caspian is a very beautiful name...", she said, looking intently at his eyes.
Susan was trying hard to hide her amazement. It was definitely not a coincidence, and it was amazing how Ben had been born in this world in a background that allowed him to be named with his very Narnian name...
"Well, let's go back downstairs? It's your birthday and I don't mean to keep stealing you from your family any longer...", she smirked.
"I would have no objections, you know...", he half-smiled, placing a soft kiss on her lips before taking her hand and leaving the study with her.
On reaching the living room, Susan noticed Ben suddenly started turning green. When she followed his gaze, she giggled, noticing that Emily was holding a huge photography album. Hilda was sitting by her side, and she grinned as soon as she saw Susan, completely ready to do what she liked the most: embarrassing her poor younger brother.
"Susan, you're back!", Hilda nearly shouted.
"Are you feeling better, sweetie?", Emily asked.
"Yes, thanks. I'm fine now."
"That's great!", Hilda said, not hiding her excitement about what she was about to do. "Come here then, this is going to make you feel even better!"
Susan chuckled, and she could swear she heard Ben groaning as she was led to sat between Emily and Hilda. Emily opened the album and started showing pictures of the family, since her marriage with Henry. Ben sat on a chair near them and sighed, resigned to his 'terrible' fate, seeing his mother and his sister engaged in the task of embarrassing him...
But he ended up forgetting his embarrassment when he focused on Susan. She was looking so very sweet while enjoying the pictures of their parents' marriage and the first pictures of Marion and Hilda as kids. Every now and then Emily or Hilda pointed to some picture and explained something, and Susan paid total attention to them. Actually, Ben was very pleased to see his sweetheart getting along so well with his family. But suddenly his pleasantness was replaced by the embarrassment again...
"Aww, how cute!", Susan said, smiling tenderly at Ben's first picture before looking at him. "Ben, you were the cutest baby I've ever seen!", she grinned, and Ben turned from green to red.
"Look at this one", Hilda said, pointing to a specific picture on that page. "Take a look at Ben's face. Can you tell what he was feeling when this picture was taken?"
"Well...", she started cautiously, first looking at Ben – who was glaring almost threateningly to Hilda – and then looking at the picture again. "He doesn't look much happier than he looks right now..."
At this moment, John, who had been in the library with Marianne and Danna, entered the living room.
"Perfect timing, John! I was just about to tell Susan why Ben looked not very happy in this picture."
"Wow, it seems I came just in time!"
"Actually he seems to be mad or something... Why was that?", Susan asked.
"He was mad at me because of his 'Queen Susan'..."
"His Queen... Susan...?", she asked, pretty shocked.
"Wow, what a coincidence! You both have the same name! That's interesting! Well, when Ben was four, he made several drawings of what he said it was a queen called Susan, but you know how little kids draw in general... They do a complete mess with several different colors and then they say it's their mom, or dad... I used to do this kind of drawing to, of course; every kid does. And Ben made this drawing of 'Queen Susan', and he said he was going to marry her."
"How interesting...", she said, smiling at Ben, whose cheeks were reddening again. So he somehow remembered her when he was a kid... Her heart just melted. "But why did he get mad at you?", she asked.
"Because I said his 'Queen Susan' was ugly. Alas, he almost killed me!"
"Oh, don't be dramatic... I didn't even touch you..."
"Because I was quick and dodged in time! You aimed your panda at my head!"
"I should've aimed better, you know..."
Susan and John were laughing hard at the sibling discussion, probably the funniest scene they had ever seen.
"After this, I picked the panda and ran as fast as I could, and he ran after me, but he couldn't catch me. I was older – well, I am older than him – and faster too, and when he realized that, he stopped running, sat on the floor and started crying..."
"Aw... did you make him cry?"
"Yes, I did... And I regret that, you know... I was so used to tease him, but I had never made him cry before. It nearly broke my heart to see him crying, and I never did it again."
Ben looked at Hilda, completely astonished. It was very rare to see her speaking seriously, especially when she was talking about him. He knew she cared about him, both his sisters did, but that kind of display of her feelings was just... unusual.
"Eventually I went to him, gave back his panda and said Queen Susan was very beautiful. But he only forgave me much later. We took this picture later that day, but Ben was still resentful and he couldn't simply pretend he was happy in the photo."
"Ben, do you remember this well? You were only four...", Susan asked.
"I have very few memories from that age, and this is one of them. How could I forget such a trauma?", he said, looking playfully to his sister.
"Oh, who's being dramatic now?", Hilda asked, before making a face to him, which made him giggle.
Marion and Henry came to join the conversation, and Susan watched closely the family interaction, much for her amusement. They seemed like a very happy family, and she was really happy for Ben. He had been given something he never had as Caspian: a real family. Caspian's parents had died when he was very young, and the only family he had was Miraz and Prunaprismia... He had all the reasons to envy her and her siblings for the big family they were and for the love they had for each other. But he never did. He truly wished he had a family like hers, but he never envied her.
But now, in his life as Ben, he had such a wonderful family! He definitely deserved this happiness, and she was grateful that he had been given such a chance, the chance of having a family that really loved him and cared about him – chance that had just been taken away from her... She felt somewhat melancholic, but she quickly pushed this feeling aside. She needed to focus her thoughts on Ben and on what she was going to do next... But now, she just wanted to enjoy the rest of that so special night.
Hello, readers! Biggest delay ever, isn't it? I'm so very sorry for that, I truly wish I could update the story more often... :(
Again, sorry for not having replied to all the reviews, guys. But I want you to know that I loved all of them, really! You're amazing! And sorry also for the potential spoiler in the title of the chapter, I didn't have a better idea... XD Gosh, how many 'sorries' today!
Well, I hope you enjoyed the chapter!
Now... please, review! :D