Title: Summer Sun
Disclaimer: I do not own Narnia or anything related.
Summary: Susan has always suffered under the sun of summer (Challenge 26: Summer)
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Susan clenched her hands into tight fists, hoping no one would notice. It would not do for her subjects to see the eldest queen of Narnia in such a state when everyone else was so joyful and happy. Indeed, Susan could not even describe what her 'state' was, just the emotions that ran through her, emotions she tried to hide from those around her. She felt listless, as if her body was not quite connected to the earth. Her mind had trouble concentrating on her work in the library and in the weaving room. The listlessness, the emotion and despair she felt would come in waves, sometimes barely there and sometimes crashing upon her so strongly that she nearly gasped from the intensity.
The queen many called Gentle did not quite understand why she felt this way. Susan had always been prone to cycles of depression, but never very badly, and it was easy to hide it from her family and subjects. No one ever saw that Queen Susan worried endlessly about her country, about the safety of her siblings, about what the future held; worried about not understanding the darkness she sometimes felt inside. Usually it was quite easy for her to hide her worries through pushing aside her emotions, by caring for others.
It was different this hot summer in Narnia. As each day passed, Susan grew more and more despairing. It was even beginning to show in her demeanor, though she adamantly refused to admit that she was anything except blissfully happy with her life and her reign. Despite this, the Narnians and her siblings began to notice that Susan was wilting with each day. Days of continuous sun, where clouds were but wisps, and the air warm and dry. Sun, just so much sun, the brightness overwhelming and making the shadow that hung over her so much darker.
At last it felt to Susan that she just could not hold her emotions in check anymore. She barely wanted to get out of bed in the morning to face them, though she forced herself to get dressed and get on with her day. Forgetting about the tapestry she was supposed to be weaving, Susan wandered the Halls of Cair Paravel. A wave of heavy gloom hit her and she found tears pricking the corner of her eyes. "Oh Aslan," she whispered to herself, "why is this happening? Why can't I just live my life and be happy? Why do I feel like…like I don't belong here at all?"
Susan felt a burst of anger, and she barely held in a scream before she began running. Running, away from Cair Paravel, away from the chattering of the court, away from everyone who just lived their happy lives without this pain that she held in her heart. She ran until she could not run any longer and collapsed to her knees in a meadow, alone with her frustration and despair. "Aslan!" she cried to the sky, before hugging herself to try and stop her body from trembling. Her voice lowered to a hoarse whisper. "Please, help me. Please, I can't stand this anymore."
The piercing cry of a mew gull cut through Susan's thoughts. Lifting her head, she stared as the bird flew, circling her once, twice, three times. Each time it completed a circle, it gave a cry that echoed through Susan's very marrow. After finishing its third circle, the mew gull gave its loudest cry yet, so great that it almost seemed like a roar. The sound continued to reverberate across the sky as the gull turned and flew eastward.
Susan watched as it soared into great mass of grey clouds that rolled from the sea towards the shore, and she felt such a terrible longing to fly after it, fly East where she knew she would belong, knew she would finally be content. As the last shadow of the mew gull disappeared, the sky opened up. At first only a few drops hit the still shaking queen, then sheets of rain began pouring over her. Susan turned her face to the sky, letting the rain stream over her.
Despite the chill the water brought, her heart began to lighten and warm. Getting to her feet, she stretched her arms out as far as she could. As the rain drenched her, Susan felt the despair, the listlessness, drain out of her into the very ground she stood on. A laugh bubbled up from her chest and for the first time in oh too many days Susan felt almost content. She knew the peace in her heart would not last forever: she did not belong fully in Narnia any more than she belonged in that Other Place. It was enough, though, for now, to have this moment of freedom, this knowledge that someday, she would fly East with Aslan and finally belong.
Over a year had passed since Aslan had told Susan she was never to return to Narnia. His words had hit her hard, for she loved Narnia and all that it encompassed with every beat of her heart. Returning and finding it so different, that so many years had gone by, had hurt, but she still loved Narnia, loved Aslan. No matter that love, though, Susan knew she actually took the news easier than Peter. Peter, as well as Edmund and Lucy, were Narnia. They were connected to that land in a way Susan felt she never could be. Truthfully, she felt just as home in England as she had in Narnia. Her siblings, of course, could not understand this, and so unfortunately they were beginning to grow apart.
The strain between the eldest Queen and her siblings stretched even further as Susan followed her parents on a trip to America, while the other three remained in England. America was an experience like no other, and Susan found joy in the manners and liveliness she found at the parties her parents took her to when there. She was treated as an adult (again) and began searching for a way to better fit in. Susan had been sad to return to England, but found happiness in being home again, happiness that almost overshadowed the new wave of depression that came over her in the end of summer.
Of course, Susan kept a smile on her face, and her family and friends never saw the shadow that lay on her heart, just as it had so many times before. She laughed and went to parties, and hoped no one noticed that she looked at the clear, cloudless days with misery and more often than not preferred being in the dark of the night than the light of the day's sun. Susan managed, and kept the shadow at bay.
Kept it at bay, that is, until Edmund and Lucy returned from their Aunt Alberta and Uncle Harold's house, bursting with excitement over their last trip to Narnia. The four Kings and Queens sat in Peter's room, the two eldest listening as the younger ones regaled them with tales of ships, and dragons, and enchanted islands. In fact, Peter, Edmund, and Lucy were so involved that they did not notice Susan's face going pale and her fists tightening as the story progressed. As they finished their tale, Susan stood abruptly. The other three looked at her in surprise. "Su, are you alright?" asked Peter, noting that she seemed upset.
Susan forced a smile upon her face. "I'm fine, Peter. I just remembered that Mum asked me to check on Widow Higgins, and I haven't done so." The smile went brittle as she looked at her younger siblings. "Thank you for such a lovely story, Ed, Lu." With that, she turned and left, barely remembering to slip on a pair of sandals before fleeing out of the house.
Needless to say, Susan did not end up going to Widow Higgins' house. Instead she found herself practically running in the hot sun, towards the park a few blocks away. Few people were in the park, most escaping the heat of midday by remaining indoors. So when Susan finally collapsed under the shade of a tall oak, no one saw her pull her knees to her chest and wrap her shaking arms around them. Her thoughts flew to the story her sister and brother had told. She hated herself for being jealous; she had told herself before that she would not hold it against them when they returned to Narnia and she did not.
And, if she was truthful to herself, she was not jealous of their adventure in Narnia. No, she just could not handle that they went East. East, almost to Aslan's Country. They got to gaze upon those wonderful shores, her shores, the one place she so desperately wanted. The desire for that new land, that land where she would finally belong, rose up in a wave and threatened to overwhelm her. It wasn't fair! She was the one who so wanted to fly East, Aslan promised she could that summer's day in Narnia when the rain finally came. He had promised that she could follow Him East, but now she was in England, not Narnia, and going east here meant she would end up in the same place she began her journey.
Edmund, Lucy, even Eustace got to go East. And she saw in her younger siblings' eyes the glowing contentment that came from seeing Aslan, seeing His home. Susan could not stop the tears that squeezed past her shut eyes. She tried desperately to push back the waves of pain, amplified by her jealousy, but it overwhelmed her. With a small, pathetic cry, Susan could only think to stop the pain by pushing everything away, pushing away even the hope of the East that had sustained her for so long. Aslan had failed her, abandoned her to her misery. Now the only way to live was to push Him away as well, forget that she ever longed, hungered for something beyond this world.
And, as the heavy summer's sun beat down on her, she did.
Many, many summers after that summer, an old woman sat in a chair beneath a tall oak tree, which could not prevent the worst of the sun's heat. Susan Pevensie, though, had long ago made her peace with the summer's heat. While she would always prefer the other seasons, age and wisdom had allowed her to find joy, even on the hottest summer day.
Her goddaughter had just left, having come over to talk like usual, and to check up on her and make sure she did not get overheated or dehydrated. And this evening one of the other parishioners would drop by, on some pretense, and make sure she was settled for the night. Susan smiled as she looked up at the sun that peeked between the green leaves of the tree. They were good people, many of whom had helped her during That Summer, the summer when her old world had ended and she was left alone to face the future.
Through the years, though, the pain of That Summer had faded, until Susan was now able to think of her family without the same, sharp agony. That Summer had driven her to the very depths of her inner hell, and she had held no hope of getting out again, for surely not even a cleansing rain could bring her back. But then she had found that Love had not truly died That Summer; another family had risen up, not to take the place of the old, but to simply create a new family, to bundle her into their care. They had pulled her back.
Aslan had pulled her back.
Susan's smile widened. Aslan, the True Aslan had pulled her back, but not by force. He had called her softly, with the quiet care of Mrs. Goddard who brought her dinner every day for an entire year, with the happy laughter of Esther and Mary, with the mysterious payment of her rent until she could actually bring herself to return to work. And then, one glorious summer's day, she had stepped out into the sun and found the Son. After that, though the depression would sometimes still pull at her heart, not even the deepest heat of summer could mar her Joy.
Susan closed her eyes and sighed. Her chest felt funny, and she wondered if she had stayed outside too long. But it did not matter, truly, for she was content in the warmth she had found. The warmth she had too-long ignored, had hated at times, but now could only love.
And when she opened her eyes, the Son shone brightly and Susan's Joy multiplied for she was in Aslan's Country at last.
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