I wrote this because, try as I might, I've never been able to understand why Susan abandoned Narnia. I finally concluded that she hadn't, that the story had not been fully told, and that it needed to be; especially since I've always liked Susan, and she was my favorite character when I was younger. I believe she needs to be somewhat vindicated. This is my attempt at a different take on Susan than the one in My Dear Sister.
I hope everyone enjoys it!
She supposed it was impossible for them to understand her. Peter, who had been strong and brave and Magnificent. Kingly and a warrior. He never turned from even the hardest path set before him. Edmund, wise and just, could take what seemed senseless and make it reasonable. Lucy was too happy and cheerful, too full of trust in Aslan, to ever complain. Not out loud, at least.
Susan was different. She herself had never realized how different. While Peter had wept alone, and Edmund had turned sternly away and Lucy had sobbed into her pillow, Susan had said it aloud: what everyone was thinking but no one else would say.
"If we did something wrong, if we angered Him, surely we might at least be told what it was!"
Peter had looked up, Edmund had stopped whittling with his knife, Lucy had turned her large, baby-blue eyes to Susan's face. None of them replied, but she could see in their faces that none of them thought the question should be asked.
"If he is angry with us," she had continued, trying not to look any of them in the eye. "then we should learn what it is, don't you think?"
"We did nothing wrong, Su," Peter said at last, in an even tone.
"We just need to trust him," Lucy said. Susan was having a hard time getting used to Lucy's slight lisp and babyish voice, and the words somehow did not seem what a round-faced little girl would say.
"They're right," Edmund put in. "And I think that it would have been a great blow to Mother and Father if we had grown up there, in..." He paused for a moment. "In Narnia. Grown old and died, and they would never have known what happened. And perhaps the Professor would have been blamed and thrown in prison."
But Susan felt, no matter how sensible Edmund's words were, that there had to be another reason, another cause, to being suddenly thrown out of Narnia. And she knew that they had done things wrong. They had failed, had made mistakes, were not perfect, even near the end of their reign.
She remembered how Peter, in a fit of what he had called 'righteous anger', had burned a whole community of dwarves out of their mines, leaving them homeless and destitute, refusing even the children any shelter until a whole year had passed. How Edmund, convinced of his rightness, had passed sentence of death on six Wolves for their part in the White Witch's army, though much of the evidence had pointed otherwise. Some time after the execution, it was learned that they had lived in Archenland and sheltered several animals fleeing the Witch's winter. Lucy, ignoring Father Christmas' words, had gone to battle and shed blood and proven herself to be headstrong and stubborn more times than not. Her stubbornness, and her unwillingness to look past appearances, disguised by an apparent love of mercy, had freed dangerous criminals or given them sentences too light for their crimes.
And Susan could not forget herself, could not be any less harsh on her own account. Her love of praise, of the approving looks of men. She had been beautiful, the most beautiful woman in the world, and her vanity had caused grief for herself, her family, and her country, more than once. Veiled under false modesty, she had laughed at the princes who knelt at her feet, had scorned most of them and heaped their flowery words of admiration in her heart, and had dismissed them all in tones gentle outwardly, but inwardly proud. None were worthy of her hand, not even Rabadash. When she had first seemed to consider his proposal, it was because she had wished to see his fabled city, to drink in the beauty and see one of the wonders of the world. She had never intended to accept.
How could she help but think that somehow they had failed, or one of them had failed, so badly that Aslan had finally finished with them. They had done what they were prophesied to do, they had defeated the witch and had brought Narnia back to prosperity and semi-peace. But, after all, they had only been human, and the legends that even in their time had sprung up were far from telling much of the truth.
And so Susan listened as her brothers and sisters shared their memories of Narnia, and sometimes she was even able to forget herself and her nagging guilt and join in, even if only to correct them.
When they had gone back to Narnia, they found that all their work had been undone. Tyrants had ruled for centuries. The friends they had loved were dead and their subjects were hidden and unwilling to return. Susan had done her part, had dressed simply and tried her best to avoid being 'the beauty among the Four'. She had gone with the others to Aslan's How. And all the time, she both longed and dreaded the meeting with the Lion. When Lucy saw him, Susan quickly brushed off her sister's words. And when she finally came face to face with Aslan, her heart burdened with a guilt that seemed not to trouble the others, he had touched her forehead with his tongue and gently said, "You have listened to your fears, child."
She had again forgotten herself in the romping, had laughed and been merry, but when the feasting was over and she lay by a dying bonfire the guilt had coursed through her afresh. Aslan had been there, nearby; only he and she awake, and she had longed to go and ask his forgiveness, but was still afraid. Afraid of, she knew not what. She loved him, she knew she did. But she had done too much wrong, and so little right, that she could not bear to face him.
When the time came for them to leave she heard the words that she had dreaded to hear. She and Peter were forbidden to return.
She knew then that whatever the Four of them had done, her wrongs and Peter's wrongs had been the greatest.
When Lucy had told them how sorry she was, Peter had replied,
"It isn't as hard as I thought it would be."
But Susan had remained silent. It was as hard as she had thought, and harder. Now her last chance at asking forgiveness was gone; she had not worked up her courage, or overcome her pride, and now it was too late. She wept bitterly in the dorm room that night, wept until the other girl, Mary, woke up and asked if she could keep the noise down. Then she had buried her face in the pillow and sobbed in silence, and tried to keep her heart from breaking.
A year later, while in America, she received letters from Edmund and Lucy telling of their further adventures in Narnia. Lucy's letter closed in this way,
And then, Su, Aslan told us we could never again come to Narnia. It was so hard! I suppose I should have expected it, because of you and Peter, but,…
And Susan had crumpled the letter and thrown it down and wept again, because she loved Narnia and she loved Aslan and their loss still cut her deeply to her heart, for she had not found Aslan in their own world as he had said she would. And she wondered where he could be, and why he should be in England or even in America. This world was larger than Narnia's world, and he must be kept very busy with both worlds. Even in Narnia they had not seen him very often.
So she learned to laugh lightly and to smile brightly, and to wear beautiful clothes. And she went to parties and boys crowded around her, but now she did not even care as she had in her old life, in her old world. She kicked her guilt and sorrow into a small corner of her heart, and hardly noticed the words that people said.
"She's the prettiest one in the family by far."
"Lucy has a sweet face, but it will be a long time before she's anything close to Susan."
"She is as beautiful as a queen. Or a goddess."
Susan never forgot Narnia. Lying in bed at night she would pull out all her memories of one certain event, seeing everything as though it had happened moments ago. The one she went back to most often was the night when she and Lucy had walked beside Aslan, had drowned their small, cold hands in his sea of gold, had seen him stumble and heard the sorrow in his voice. The memory did not always comfort her, but she could almost feel the mane clutched tightly in her hands if she closed her eyes and concentrated hard.
But during the day, around Peter, Edmund, and Lucy, she no longer talked of Narnia, for their memories were all of happiness and feasts and great deeds.
And because she spoke so little of it herself, they saw her as distant, as cold and empty.
Once, in a moment of sorrow and bitterness, she burst out,
"Are you still playing these old games? You have such wonderful memories, don't you?"
She had meant to go on, to tell them that their memories left out the mistakes they had made and the wrongs they had done, the sorrows that had come from decisions they had made, but they had all turned sorrowful faces on her and Peter had said sternly,
"Enough! We've feared for some time that you no longer believed in Narnia, but how can you speak so? Have you forgotten Aslan as well?"
She had opened her mouth, had tried to speak, but she felt a sob coming on, and she turned and left the room.
From then on, she felt herself an outsider. She knew, when she entered a room, if they had been speaking of Narnia, for they would all fall silent and then one or the other of them would smile at her and change the subject. She could not bear to be near them and she could not explain what she had been going to say. The guilt that ate at her day and night obviously did not trouble them, and they would never have understood.
She was not invited to the Professor's house that day, to talk of Narnia. She did not even learn of it until the last minute. Lucy hugged her tightly, Edmund shook her hand, and Peter's voice was grave as he bid her farewell. As they walked out of the house, shoulder to shoulder, Susan almost ran after them, explained, asked to go with them, but something, pride or fear, held her back, and they were out of sight.
The next day she sat down and wrote a letter to Lucy, telling her that hardly a day went by that she did not think of Narnia, that they had not allowed her to finish what she had been going to say. She mailed the letter, but it never reached its recipient.
When she learned of the train crash she could not believe that she had let the opportunity slip to tell them that she was still a friend both to them and to Narnia. That she still loved Narnia.
"Oh, Aslan!" she cried, in the house that would always be silent. "Oh, Aslan! I have done so much wrong, but they did as well and you still loved them. Why do you turn your face from me? Haven't I suffered enough? Haven't I lost enough?"
She lay for hours, and cried as she had not done since Aslan's death. Somehow, now, it seemed even more hopeless. In the empty quiet that followed, she thought of that other dreadful night.
And then, as she knew. Aslan had not died only for her brother, but for all traitors and all those who had done wrong. There was a story like it in her own world.
She realized that she had never asked forgiveness, but that Peter, Edmund, and Lucy had. They must have. It was the only explanation for their happiness, their dwelling on the joy they had experienced and not the sorrow. They had forgiven each other, too.
Susan had never forgiven her siblings for everything that they had done wrong during their reign. And the wrongs and the guilt of those wrongs had driven every good memory back or tainted it until she could not see how they could give happiness to any of them.
She sat up slowly; the early sun shone through the window and she caught her breath. Unmistakably, as clearly as she had ever seen him in Narnia, she saw a Lion in the sun's rays. His eyes were fixed on her face, and she saw no disapproval there, no condemnation, only love. She stepped forward, closer and closer, but the Lion did not vanish. She put her hand out, into the light, and felt a warmth spreading through her that was not from the sun.
And she felt free.