Then we began the dancing portion of the evening. I had obviously pushed this moment far from my mind because when I first started seeing people leave the dining hall my initial thought had been 'bed time!' However, Caspian and the others escort me to the ballroom and upon entering I froze. I can already see many people dancing on the dance floor, but I cannot recognize the dance. The only proper dance that I know is a waltz and that's only because it took my sister 3 months to prevent me from looking like an idiot and to not hurt anyone. How is it my fault I have two left feet and no sense of rhythm? Now this…I couldn't even begin to guess what the dance is. I watch them twirl around switching partners and holding hands for new partners. I find that I can't do more than stare. I feel a slight tug on my arm to see Lucy.
"Are you ready?" she asks excitedly. "Who are you going to dance with?"
My throat suddenly closes up and I don't know what to say. I take another look out into the crowd gathered, and out of horror, my hands shoot behind my back where I start to wring my fingers.
"I-I think I will have pass. I don't know these dances," I stutter.
"I thought you said you have been to dances," says Peter.
"Not quite like this," I reply. There is an image in my head of people grinding in the corner of my high school prom as they try to not be caught by teachers. "Our dances are a little different."
"Then we need to teach you," Lucy says optimistically.
"I don't think we have that kind of time," I chuckle nervously.
At this point my heart rate is beginning to speed up. I see the expectant look of the others and I try to shy away to the edge.
"I only know the waltz so I think I'm just gonna watch," I say as I try to step away. Before I can get far a warm hand grabs mine. I look up to see Caspian with a huge smile.
"Dance with me," he says.
"I am a horrible dancer. Trust me, I am the last you want to dance with," I say.
"On the contrary," he says with a smile. "I want you to be the first."
I'm momentarily left speechless. His smile is so genuine and sincere that I am utterly stunned. I sigh, but give him a shy smile.
"Are you going to deny the King?" asks Susan sassily.
I look at her and she is also smiling at me. Behind her the other Pevensies are following suit. I know they are trying to be supportive, but I just hate doing something like this out in the open. I'm not good at this so I can only imagine all the ways I could embarrass myself. I look up at him one more time and see his beautiful smile. He tugs lightly on my arm and I approach him. With one more answer I sigh.
"Fine," I say, "Don't say I didn't warn you."
"You won't have to," says Caspian. "My good musicians…"
The music disappears and every person in the room stops to stare at Caspian and I. Automatically my hands go behind my back, taking Caspian's hand with it. The sudden tug on his arm forces him to look back at me. He gives me a once over, but continues to smile.
"I would ask of a waltz for Lady Alexandra," he finishes.
As if they were never interrupted they began the waltz. Caspian lead me to the center of the intricate marble dance floor. I put one hand on his shoulder and another in his own warm hand. His other hand wraps around my waist. We move slowly and rhythmically to the music. I remember the rule my sister drilled into my head: "always watch your partner." I watch Caspian's face, trusting my feet to know the drill that I had spent over 100 days learning. I have to admit that doing something like this feels almost natural and normal. I could feel the warmth of Caspian's hands and I the warmth in my face from my own embarrassment. It is because of this warmth I notice Caspian's hand is a little sweaty so I wonder if he's a little nervous as well. That surprises me I figured he would have done this dozens of times.
"If you do not wish to dance after this you don't have to," says Caspian. "I would never force you to do something you didn't want to do."
"I just don't know how to dance any other dance," I explain. "I just don't want to look like an idiot."
"That's not possible," he breathes. "But if you are worried about it I would be happy to teach you."
My nervousness begins to get the better of me so I try to shift the attention to an excuse.
"Maybe another night. I think those lovely Telmarine women might tear me apart if I try to keep you for too long," I say.
I see him spare a glance over my shoulder to see the ladies lined along the side of the room. They are staring after Caspian with hungry eyes; ah, the downfalls of being royalty. The sudden look of fear in his eyes almost makes me giggle. He tries to return to a normal façade, but I can hear the reluctance in his voice.
"I may have to keep you here just to protect myself," he jokes.
"I'm sure you can handle it," I confide. "Didn't you deal with this all the time as a prince?"
"Yes, but I didn't think that this would be happening so quickly," he sighs. "As to your assistance, what if I told you your king demands your presence throughout the evening?"
"My king?" I ask.
He seems confused for a moment before finding sudden clarity. Then he didn't seem quite so enigmatic.
"That's right," he says sadly, "I forgot that you and the Pevensies must return to your lands at some point. I guess technically I am not your king."
At his words I feel my body become heavy and I cannot bring my feet to move anymore. I can't bring my eyes to Caspian's as I see the faces of my family fly by. I feel my throat close and it becomes hard to swallow. I can feel the sob I am holding within me well up.
"What's wrong?" asks Caspian worriedly.
"Nothing," I lie. "I just need some air."
Luckily the song ended and the room erupted with applause for the band. I took my opening and left Caspian in the middle of the dance floor to go toward the back of the room where there are balconies leading outside. I weave in and out of people in my attempt to make to one of the balconies. Maybe I wasn't lying; I could feel myself suffocating under the weight of the pain I carry. I throw myself onto the railing of the balcony. I hear the music start up again, but I cannot hear it over my own ragged breathing. I take only a moment to see if anyone else is outside and once I am sure the coast is clear I begin to break down. The sudden rush of loneliness crushes me, despite being surrounded by friends; then again only Glenstorm and Aslan know the full extent of my situation. My hands turn white as I grip the stone railing. I can hear them now as my family receives the news of my death. I can hear my mother's agonizing sobs and I can see my brother's brown eyes turning red with tears. My own breathing stutters as tears start rolling down my cheeks. I try to wipe my watery eyes, but it doesn't really help. However, I did manage to see a shadow moving in the courtyard. I focus and I can see Aslan sitting in the courtyard, looking up at me. I guess it's time…
I quickly turn and navigate my way through the ballroom and out the doorway to the main hallway. All day I had been dreading this talk, but in this moment I am running to meet Aslan. Since his very appearance I had been dreading what he had to say, but now he is my hope. Perhaps he can give me some sort of peace of mind. Without meaning to I had began to run in the halls. I am running to meet Aslan; it's almost funny to think I had been petrified about this moment this morning, but now I can't wait anymore. I pick up my outrageous skirts and continue on to the courtyard.
As I approach I take note that too many people can see me so I slow my pace and do my best to not be noticed. I enter the stables cautiously as if I was doing something wrong. Why does this feel so secretive? It's not like Aslan is trying to hide the fact that he wants me to follow him, but for some reason I don't want anyone else to know. I would very much rather they stay out of this conversation. I find a horse near the entrance of the stables still wearing a saddle. I mount the horse (properly, no more sidesaddle silliness) and enter the courtyard where Aslan in waiting at the gate. I make it to his side, but he still says nothing. He starts walking so I follow him side by side. I keep waiting for him to say something, but the tension just grows. I find myself looking everywhere, but the great lion in case my looking at him might keep him silent longer.
"Did you get the answer you were looking for?" asks Aslan.
I'm so surprised that he spoke it takes me a minute to understand what he just asked. What did he mean? I have been looking for answers for a long time now, but I am not really sure if I have found any.
"I heard your prayer," he says as if he were reading my mind. "Was the reply the answer you were looking for?"
He had heard me? I guess that should make sense. If the very Earth itself answered to his call it should make sense. I really need to stop using my world's logic; it doesn't apply here.
"I appreciate an answer at all," I reply.
Aslan nods his head in acknowledgement and we continue forward. We navigate along the winding path in the darkness of night. At one point we start traveling down a series of slopes, and I can finally hear the ocean. I think of my first night in Narnia; it had been scary and lonely, and probably the worst night of my life. Now things are different; I have friends here and I'm no longer alone, but I am still afraid. What happens to me now? Is my family safe? I can no longer protect them so I can only hope. What does Aslan have in store for me? I have new fears that overwhelm me.
We pass through the thinning tree line to the beach. The large cliffs to the right hold the Telmarine castle we have just left behind. In front of us lay the ocean which looks like a large moving sea of obsidian. Floating just off the edge of the water is a small rowboat. I tie my horse up to a tree just before the land breaks into the beach. I take off my slippers and leave them behind before continuing to follow Aslan. The air is much cooler near the ocean and I can feel the breeze even through the gown I'm wearing. Aslan approaches the boat and stands next to it. When he stops I can't bring myself forward; this is it. We are finally going to have this talk. I feel a lump in my throat and I can't bring myself to speak.
"I know what it is you want," Aslan says sadly. "And you know I cannot send you home."
I had accepted that a long time ago, but for some reason hearing him say it made it so final in my own mind. I didn't know how much I had been hoping he could still send me back. The glimmer of hope I had hidden away inside of me is put out in an instant. Small tears fill my eyes and fall down my cheeks.
"I know," I breathe.
"Though I cannot give you your life back, I can offer you something to ease the pain," he states.
"What do you have?" I ask. If I were in good humor I would have laughed about how this sounds like some kind of drug deal. However, I can't laugh because I am in so much pain. I miss my family despite the new friends I have made here. Everything I have ever know lives in another world and I can never see it again.
"I can take all memories of your previous life away," he says. I can feel my body tense up. I feel stiff and somehow so breakable; almost as if I am made of glass. This is his option? To forget? Did he really expect me to give up so much of what makes me who I am? I remember the hardships of my mother's breakdown, the struggle to get my sister clean, and raising my little brother, in a sense. Now they were strong and happy, nothing like the broken fragments I worked so hard to put back together. Even though I will never see my nephew be born and will never see my brother graduate, I couldn't give up what I already have. It's sudden, but I can feel the weight on my shoulders as it begins to build. I can physically feel my heart begin to break and my eyes fill with tears which slowly roll down my cheeks. They hit the sand, but it's too dark to see them. I cannot imagine not knowing who I am or where I came from. My family had been everything to me outside of being a soldier. I know that this isn't what my family would want either. They would never forget me; they would also be forced to live with my memories so how could I forget them?
"There is another option," says Aslan gently.
"What is it?" I ask hastily.
"This boat will take you to my land far beyond the sea," he says sadly. "You will not have to forget, but you can certainly find peace there…but it comes with a price."
"What is it?" I ask again. Crying isn't very attractive, but it is a very loud communication device. Aslan knows the pain that I am feeling and is doing his best to calm me. However, I can see how much my pain is affecting him as well; he looks almost as sad as I do. He is probably looking right into my heart and in his own way is weeping with me. I try to hold back my grief for his sake, but it is just so hard…
"If you chose to leave you can never leave Narnia," he says sadly.
I feel my legs give out and they hit the sand. The ground is cold and wet; making each grain of sand my skin comes in contact with all the more painful. All I can do is lose…Either I lose my memories or I lose the only friends I have right now. These memories of people who I love and managed to guide me through my life or the good friends I have managed to make over these past few difficult months.
"These can't be my only options," I whisper.
"Your pain is your burden and yours alone. How you shoulder it is your choice," he says.
I look at him through tear stained eyes, but his image is clear to me he approaches and places his forehead on mine.
"I would never corner you. I am simply giving you more options to consider," he states.
I cannot give up my memories or my friends. I cannot accept either of these options, but the only other option I have is to continue forward with the life I have started here in Narnia. Can I do it? Can I live with the knowing that I can never go home? Could I live with being the outsider and still make a good life here? I think that I could, but the question becomes: Where do I start?
"Narnia is a place of new beginnings," states Aslan. "If you want to stay there will always be a place for you."
I see Glenstorm and his family, Thunderbolt, Trufflehunter, and Trumpkin. I thought of Caspian and the Pevensies. I know that I am not alone here, but I cannot help the continuing doubt.
"Is it enough?" I ask.
"If it isn't, you are the only one who can change it," he says.
The tears have stopped by now and have left their dried streaks along my cheeks. I find the strength to stand on my own two legs again, but the wet sand continues to stick to the front of my legs. The weight that had settled on my shoulders it still there, but nowhere near as heavy as it had been. I look at Aslan and then back out to the water. The moon is still full and glowing, but for some reason there was no reflection of it in the water. A light in the sky disrupts my thoughts and I look back up at the castle and watch as fireworks fill the sky. One after another lights the sky in a large array of colors. On the black water I can see the reflection of the lights in the sky, as well as, in Aslan eyes. His eyes were a lovely dark brown, but with his glowing golden brown fur I can easily see the fireworks in his eyes. The greatest light is coming from the castle…I get it; I know which path I have to walk now, but it certainly won't be easy.
"The harder paths are always more rewarding, right?" I ask.
"Not always," he states honestly, "But in this case…I would say yes."
After gathering my wits I head back up the beach where I tied up my horse. I slip back on my slippers and mount my horse. If I cannot go home hopefully Aslan can answer some questions for me.
"Is my family safe?" I ask.
"Yes," he answers.
"What did my brother decide?"
"He loves you very dearly. He's going to be a pilot in the Air Force."
A strangled laugh leaves my throat. That jerk, he has a wonderful IQ and he is wasting his talents as a soldier. I suppose a pilot is a little better, but the whole point of me going was so that he wouldn't have to fight in this war. If he dies…I don't even want to think about that.
"Did my sister…Is the baby okay?"
"He is doing wonderful. Brown hair, brown eyes, 9 pounds, and 20 inches long."
"What's his name?"
"Xander Jacob Knight."
I still cannot find it in myself to cry, but a smile spread along my face. I like the name Xander if they had named him Alex I might have to find a way to haunt them. That middle name though, it sounds too familiar. Maybe it's an old family name…
"I have one more question," I pause. Aslan nods his head for me to continue. "Why me? Why am I so special? What's the reason?"
"What do you think?" he asks. Normally I hate it when people answer questions with questions, but for some reason I cannot disregard the question. When he told me I had been saved to help others I thought it had been because I was pure of heart or something like that, it might have been some kind of reward; now with complete separation of my family I cannot look at it in the same light. In my mind it is rather akin to a curse.
"I'm not really sure," I answer.
"Then maybe it isn't yet time to know the answer."
Honestly I am a little disappointed to not know the answer, but then again my original life was never that easy either. We always have to find our own answers considering the fact that they are rarely ever given to us. Aslan stands up to walk with me back to the castle and we return in silence. Along the way I think of a poem we studied for a long time in middle school, by a guy named Robert Frost:
'And I took the one less traveled by.'
Tomorrow is the first of my permanent life in Narnia. Luckily I have so many wonderful friends to help me along the way. I think the first thing I'm going to do is talk with Glenstorm considering that he's the only one who knows my plight. Then I will talk with Caspian, him being the King and all I'm sure he can find something for me to do. Aslan says Narnia is a place for new beginnings…time to get started.