A/n : This is a Christmas present for 2010 to Smoltenica.
Smoltenica asked for a scene between Susan and Edmund, before Susan started to forget about Narnia but with hints of it. I didn't really have a hook for this piece, but Smoltenica had written her Susan Redemption trilogy ("Growing Up", "The Telegram", "Coming Home") and I started by reading that.
It would have been relatively easy to write a piece which was a generic "Susan Forgets" piece, but I wanted to do something a little more. I was inspired to set the piece in Grosvenor Square, a central location in my story "The Redemption of Sulva" and the Americanism of the place, the journey East in "Voyage of the Dawn Treader", Edmund's ownership of the Lantern Waste and Susan's trip to America all came together, expressed in the East vs West theme in the story. The East is shown as being spiritual, concluding with the reference to "ad orientum" (a specific liturgical term used for the Tridentine Mass) and "ad populum" (a liturgical term for the Novus Ordo Mass, and also the logical fallacy of "appeal to the people").
The notion of Edmund becoming a priest, and Susan going to Notre Dame and her interest in Arizona, are taken from my story "The Redemption of Sulva". The American Ambassador to the Court of Saint James at this period was Lewis Douglas, who was US Congressman for Arizona and lived there. This exchange might very well be canonical for my universe, although I don't know if it is for Smoltenica's.
Outracing the Sun
A crisp, clear Autumn morning a year after the War, Grosvenor Square in London, still with the almost-indelible stamp of the United States on the garden square. With the presence of the military headquarters and Embassy, the square had been known as Eisenhower Platz or Little America during the War, a small slice of the Land of the Free in the still-beating heart of London.
Seated either side of a board set on the low wall circling an ornamental fountain, Susan and Edmund Pevensie played chess. Susan was a striking eighteen-year old, her figure rounding with femininity and the voluptuous flesh of an American diet, scandalously clad in the post-War fashions of a GI's wife. There was no ring on her finger and bright gloss on her lips, real nylons on her improbably long legs, better-living-through-chemistry stretched over the provocative grandeur of muscle. Her dark hair shone with the gleam of pelt, her eyes flickering green as she paid little attention to the game and more to the strutting American servicemen, the luxurious glory of Mayfair and the red-white-and-blue of the Stars and Stripes flapping in the wind.
Edmund was younger, leaner with broad shoulders and deceptively-delicate hands, dressed in a well-worn gray suit and somber blue tie. His focus was on the game, patiently waiting for Susan to make her moves and responding almost instantly from the repertoire of possibilities in his mind. He lifted his head as she moved her Queen. "Can't do that, Su – you'll put yourself in check."
"What?" She turned her head away from the handsome GI walking down the path and glanced at the board. "Oh, your Bishop. Dratted thing. Well, er, how's that?" She moved a Knight and looked back up at the GI.
As Edmund took her Rook and announced "Checkmate" she saw the American meet up with a young blonde girl, her hair lacquered and curled and her lips cherry-red. They kissed briefly.
"Drat," Susan said. She turned back to the game, went to move a piece, but then realized she'd lost. She shrugged. "Never was very good at it," she laughed.
Edmund economically gathered the chessmen, lining them up on the wall and flipping the board over so it became a little box, fitting them inside it and snapping it closed. "Oh, you were," he said. "You were excellent back in Narnia – maybe you've forgotten? Or maybe you weren't focusing?" He shrugged when she did not answer. "No matter – it's just a game."
"Well, no," Susan stammered, "but . . ." She caught herself, tore her gaze away from the embracing couple and sighed. "Yes, chess. Sorry, Edmund – I'm . . . distracted."
"I hadn't noticed," he said dryly. "Are you alright? Is there something I can help with?"
She shook her head, standing. He followed her, tucking the chess set into his coat. She wrapped her scarf more firmly around her neck and he stuffed his hands into his pockets. "No, no Eddie, I don't think so. I've been accepted into Notre Dame – and . . . well, it's a big step."
"I'll say so, congratulations!" exclaimed Edmund. "So, that's what you did in America?"
She laughed. "Well, some of it," she said. "We saw New York, and Boston. I wanted to go further west, but we didn't have that much time. I suppose I will now . . ." Her voice trailed off. "What about you?"
He tried to make his voice casual. "Oh," he said, "Narnia."
Her head snapped to him like a hunting cat. "What?" she exclaimed.
Edmund shrugged. "We were at Eustace's place, and . . . well, there was a picture. Of a ship, a very Narnian ship – the golden dragon and the green wood, you know? And we got drawn into it, Lucy and Eustace and I. It was Caspian's ship . . ."
"Caspian?" exclaimed Susan with sudden interest. "How's he . . . ? I mean."
"Three years older," said Edmund. "Very handsome if I am any judge – certainly, the ladies of Narrowhaven thought so. Met the daughter of a star. They're getting married, I think – wonderful story, actually . . ."
Susan seemed suddenly disinterested. "Figures," she sniffed. Edmund ignored her, but changed his tack.
"So, Caspian was looking for seven lords, friends of his fathers who were exiled by Miraz – remember? The chap Peter fought?" Susan's face had shown incomprehension, hence his gloss. "And they had journeyed on ships away from Narnia and he swore an oath to not rest until he found them. We met them just before the Lone Islands – they're really changed in a thousand years! Had quite the adventure there, I'll tell you . . ."
"How much do you think these houses go for?" Susan asked abruptly, gesturing at the Neo-Georgian terraces ringing the Square. "I think I'd like to live here – or at least have a house here – when I'm graduated."
Edmund furrowed his brow. "I don't know – the Duke of Westminster owns them, I think," he said. "You can probably get the lease for . . . I really don't know. Not cheap, that's for sure." He paused when she didn't answer. "Anyway, speaking of Dukes . . ."
"I met the Ambassador's son, you know," she remarked. "Here, I mean – not over there. Lovely man, very handsome. His family is from Arizona, I would love to go out there. Get west, you know? Eastwards just . . ." She laughed, slightly brittle. "It just doesn't appeal, Ed."
Something shifted in Edmund. "So, we went east from the Lone Islands," he said deliberately. "Horrible storm, blew us off course, but we had faith in what we were doing. Eventually, we landed on an island – looked deserted, but . . . well, Eustace found out it wasn't. There was a Dragon there."
Susan looked at him derisively. "A Dragon? Please!" she snorted. Edmund raised a single eyebrow.
"You believe in Narnia, but not Dragons?" he asked. She shrugged.
"Did you see it?" she asked. "You know what people used to do – make up bogeymen to scare the children to sleep; be good or the Minotaur will get you! Beware of the Cruels!"
"Well, I don't think Eustace believed in them either," said Edmund crisply, "but that didn't stop him from getting turned into one by his own greed and avarice."
"Well, that hardly seems fair!" exclaimed Susan. "Why would Aslan do something like that?"
Edmund blinked at her. "I didn't mention Aslan, Su," he said. "Aslan changed him back. He's a much nicer chap now, kind and decent. He even attacked the sea serpent – brave as you like."
"The Ambassador's son is very brave," Susan remarked. "Fought in the War, in their Marines. Not married."
"Neither are you, what a coincidence," said her brother archly.
"Edmund!" she gasped. "I don't know what you mean by that, but I'm sure I don't like it! Suggesting such a thing, indeed!"
"You don't want to get married?" he asked. "To him? He could take you to Arizona – can't get much further West than that."
Susan turned to him, her face animated, all animosity forgotten. "Actually," she gushed, "I met some Navy chaps when I was at ND – that's what they call Notre Dame, ND – and they were at Pearl Harbor, of course. You know, in Hawaii? It's an island, in the Pacific. American military base there. Very pretty, tropical island. I'd love to go there!"
"I've heard of Hawaii," said Edmund flatly.
"Oh, then you'll know why I want to go so much!" she trilled. "I've seen pictures – all the pretty girls in their bikinis, all the muscley guys on the beach surfing. The nights just look so much fun!"
"What about the days?" asked Edmund rhetorically. "I know why you want to go – it's as far West as you can get."
She laughed. "Silly Eddie!"
He raised an eyebrow. "You don't want to go West as much as you can?" he asked.
"No, of course I do," she explained, "but you should know you can't go 'as far West' on a round planet!" She laughed, taken over by her own hilarity. "I know you believe lots of silly stuff, but even you can't believe in a flat earth . . ." She gulped and realized what she'd said, lifting her hand to her mouth. "Oh, Ed – I'm sorry. I didn't mean . . ."
"Narnia is flat," remarked Edmund as if he hadn't heard her. "And surely, if you go much further West from Hawaii you'll just hit Japan? Isn't that the Orient, Su?" He turned and skewered her with a glare. "At that point, aren't you in the Land of the Rising Sun, rather than trying to outrace it?"
She shivered involuntarily. "Well," she giggled nervously, "you can go too far doing anything. I mean, it's not the East I'm running away from, or the West I am chasing. It's . . . ." She shrugged. "Oh, I don't know. You're confusing me, taking one little thing I said and blowing something huge out of it." Edmund did not answer. "So," she said as cheerfully as she could manage, "the ship went East. What did you find? If it's a flat world, did you fall off the edge?"
Edmund smiled. "No, not quite. We found Aslan's country – that's what you find if you go East, Su."
She glared at him. "Why did you choose here?" she asked. "To meet, I mean. Why Grosvenor Square? A concession to your sister's gauche American ways?" she asked snidely. "You haven't asked me about Notre Dame," she accused. "It's a wonderful university – they have great academic records, and the football program is just darling! I think I'll try out for cheerleader."
"I think you've told me everything I need to know, Su," Edmund said. "I came here because it's close to the Church of the Immaculate Conception – I am thinking of entering the Jesuits." Susan looked at him as if he were mad.
"A priest? You? Oh, Ed – what would Mother say?" She paused, realizing her mother would support her youngest son in that. Susan gave a brittle laugh. "Well, before you do, come to America with me – there are a lot of pretty girls there who'd want to change your mind!"
"There are pretty girls everywhere," he said quietly. "I wasn't exactly . . . ignorant of them in Narnia. I spent a long time in the Western Wild – the Dryads there are . . . persuasive."
"Oh, but that's different!" she exclaimed. "You were just playing games there, I'm sure. This is . . . well, American girls are different. Get out West and, well! There were a couple of girls from California – blonde and oh so pretty! Sweet as candycane – they'd eat you right up, Ed!"
"I should go West with you?" Edmund asked. He shook his head. "I'm sorry, Susan – I can't. Even if I don't commit to the priesthood, I've made my choice. I'm going to spend the rest of my life ad orientum rather than . . ."
"What?" she asked. "Ad occidentum?" Edmund shook his head.
"No," he said prophetically, "I think it would be ad populum." He leaned forward and kissed his sister on the cheek. "God bless you, Susan," he said.
For an instant, she just looked at him. And then she kissed him back and the two of them began walking in different directions.