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Restoring Susan

Asa Rankin

    She let the receiver fall from her hand, the click at the end of the call ringing in her ear. Her thoughts were flooding her, overlapping, and screaming for her attention, cramming their way to the front of her mind. She reached up, trying to rub away the incoming headache, her head heavy as her body convulsed with emotion. Her eyes threatened to drop tears, making her headache that much more intense.  

    Susan dropped to the floor, tucking her knees into her chest stared at the wall. Shock kept her comatose for several pounding beats of her heart, which had decided to leap behind her ears. The receiver swung slowly in the periphery of her vision. She blinked and a tear fell, opening the floodgates for a roaring waterfall as every ounce of sorrow inside her spilled out onto the floor. She hadn’t realized she’d been crying out until she heard a rapid banging at her front door, and she let out a silent breath. The knocking paused. She hoped whoever it was would go away. Su had fallen onto her side, and now was resting her head against the cool wood. The knocking began again after a few moments. She wasn’t sure she had the strength to get up, but she somehow dragged herself from the floor across the hall a few paces to the door. The door softly creaked on its hinged as it swung open.  

    “Oh, hello dear, I am your next-door neighbor. I know you are new to the neighborhood, I’m sorry I haven’t made it over sooner to make your acquaintance. I couldn’t help but overhear what sounded like cries coming from your complex,” the woman on the other side of the door was small in stature, probably in her mid-fifties with grey wisps of hair overtaking the darker, brown strands. She had large, round glasses that were too big for her face that kept slipping to the edge of her nose as she spoke. 

    “I’m sorry to have disturbed you, Madame,” Susan said, taking a slight bow of respect to the woman, hoping her eyes hadn’t grown too red or puffy from her sorrow yet. She was about to close the door, not wanting to continue to polite conversation any longer, but the woman spoke again before she could move.  

    “I don’t want to intrude, but might I ask if everything is alright?” the woman asked. She said it with such sincerity, it made Susan’s mask break. A tear rolled down her cheek and she hurriedly brushed it away, trying to mumble out an “I’m fine” without shattering into millions of pieces.  

    “Oh, my dear,” the woman held out her arms and Susan fell into them, the woman gently stroking the top of Susan’s head as her sobs began all over again. They stayed like that for a moment before the woman spoke again, “Come on deary, I’ve got some water ready to be put on for tea, then whatever has got you worked up; we can work through together.”  

Susan didn’t have energy to protest and let the woman guide her from her front porch into the woman’s living room next door. The woman introduced herself as Mrs. Moore and asked if Susan wanted any honey with her tea. She declined the offer, her tears falling slower now. Even so, they weren’t going to stop anytime soon.  

    Being in someone else’s home made her compose herself out of her hysteria, but the grief and pain was still ripping her from the inside out. Mrs. Moore came in the room with two steaming cups of tea. When both of them were settled on the couch with a few sips inside them, Mrs. Moore dared to initiate a conversation.  

    “Now what is the cause of all these tears?”  

    “I –” Susan sniffed and let out the breath as a deep sigh, a tear dripping into her cup, “I got an extremely disturbing phone call just now. There is nothing to be done, but I feel as though I should have been with them, not just hearing about it now.”  

    “With whom, dear.” 

    “My siblings. I have – had,” She cut off short, squeezing her eyes shut as three more burning-hot tears streaked her face. Susan set her cup down, not wanting to spill it on Mrs. Moore’s couch. It took her a moment before she could continue, “There was an accident with a train three days ago. My siblings were on it when it crashed.” She couldn’t go on, but by the horror filling the older woman’s eyes, she didn’t think she had to.  

    “That’s absolutely horrid. I thought they kept the locomotives these days in pristine condition so this very thing wouldn’t happen. I guess what they say about trusting the papers is true. Did they … find anything?” 

    Susan shook her head, “Almost the whole car they were on was incinerated. The only way the police know they were on the train was ticket log.” She went to take a sip of her tea, to have something to do with her hands, but when she picked up the cup, her hands were shaking so terribly that she spilt nearly a quarter of it on the table and tea saucer. Mrs. Moore jumped up, insisting it was alright and went to get a rag. Mrs. Moore let her stay for a while longer, talking when Susan felt like talking, letting silence fall over the room when not. When the light outside began to dim, Susan insisted that she had overextended her stay, thanked Mrs. Moore, and walked back to her complex. She could tell Mrs. Moore was hesitant to let her go, seeing as Susan hadn’t stopped crying once. She knew she would most likely be hearing from the older woman in the next few days. She leaned against the door as she closed it behind her, the solidity of it keeping her tied to reality. She tried closing her eyes, telling herself it was all a horrible nightmare, that it wasn’t real and when she woke up, she could call one of her siblings and hear their voices again on the other end of line.  

    But then she opened her eyes, and the receiver was still dangling from when she’d dropped it. Her headache had gone away sometime in the course of the afternoon, but now her head throbbed with a different pain, the one that forms right behind your forehead when you no longer have tears left to cry. Despite the tea from the afternoon, she was convinced that every liquid inside her had been poured out. If there was anything left, she would still be crying.  

Susan stumbled into her living room and over to the wall where a picture of her with her siblings hung. It was taken the summer they had gone away to the country to get away from the bombings during the second World War. She pretended like that summer hadn’t happened to the outside world for so long, but every moment of it was always in her heart, stored away from a world that wouldn’t believe the magic of it all. Those moments felt even more precious now. She realized she would now be the only one to reach the age of that summer again. One last tear bloomed from her eye and rolled slowly down her cheek. If only time moved as slow as that tear.  

    The words Peter had said nearly three years ago now came back to her. They had all gathered for lunch. Su was the last one to arrive and they hadn’t heard her come in as they talked in the kitchen. 

    “Are you sure we shouldn’t ask her about it one more time?” Lucy had asked. 

    “You know how it’s going to go, Lu, she’s just going to say it was a silly game we played as kids,” Ed had replied. 

    “We need to face the realization that Susan is no longer a friend of Narnia. I hate to say it, but we can’t keep bringing it up just to have her think of it has make believe,” Peter had said. His words had torn her apart, but at the time she had thought that it was best if they believed that of her.  

    His words still stung, knowing that is how they had thought of her until their last moments. She felt splintered from the world. Her body might still have breath in its lungs, but her heart had died with her siblings on that train.  

    How she wished she hadn’t tried to convince the world of her ignorance, that she would at least have let herself crack through the mask when she was with the ones who would have understood her. The ones she loved the most. Why hadn’t she gone with them? What was she trying to prove? Was that going to be the way her siblings forever saw her in their minds now? 

    The lost sheep…  

    “No.” a growling voice said behind her. She froze. She hadn’t heard that voice in eight years and had once believed she wouldn’t hear it ever again. It was one she had longed to hear for many years now. She turned around, but the room was empty.  

She dared to whisper his name. A low growl sounded from the hall. She rushed towards it, but when she rounded the corner, he wasn’t there. She stood for a moment. Still. Listening. Just as she thought she was delirious, the voice spoke again. 


    It came from upstairs. She bounded up them, turning towards her bedroom, but remembered that she kept her letters from Edmund and Lucy in her small study, the ones they had sent back and forth about their time in that other world when she had been sent to America with Peter. It was one of the only pieces of tangible evidence she had of that far off place. She hesitated for just a moment before turning the knob and stepping into the room.  

    The light outside had grown dark, but the room was lit as if with the brightest of suns. She shielded her face, trying to squint through her fingers to find the source of the light. She caught a glimpse and her body fell to the ground. A strange sensation of fear and adoration swept around her like a gust of wind. Her body shuddered in response, curling in on herself, trying to become smaller in the presence of the mighty beast. She did not know from where they came, but new tears were falling from her face now. She hadn’t cried like this since the night she thought he was dead, from their first adventures in that far off world.  

    “Aslan,” she breathed. She felt him take a step towards her, the light growing warmer, not in a burning way, but as if you were stepping out into a spring day after days of bitter winter.  

    “Rise daughter.” He spoke.  

    “I am not worthy. I have made it seem as I don’t know you.” Her voice trembled, as fear overwhelmed her, just as her grief had.  

    “If you claim not to know me, how do you know my name?” His voice was gentle, calm, which only made her tremble more.  

    “I said rise daughter,” He repeated, his tone tightening just enough for Susan to obey. She stood, but kept her eyes trained on the floor right in front of her toes. She could feel his mighty breath on her now, which made her body relax.  

    She stopped trembling.  

    “I should have been with them. They asked me to come, and I said no. It’s my fault they’re gone. If I had gone –” Susan began. She found as she spoke, her words began to fall out of her, faster and faster, but Aslan cut her off.  

    “No, daughter. If you had gone, you would have had the same fate as the rest.”  

    “I should have. I should have died right next to them.”  

    “Daughter –” Aslan started, but something in Su snapped. 

    “No, Aslan. You don’t understand. They believed me to have forgotten it all. And I let them believe it. I can’t be a daughter because of that.” She finally dared to lift her head and look at him when she spoke. The great lion stood proud, larger than any lion in that world. His face was calm, his body relaxed. She waited for her to jump towards her, tearing her to bits, or worse: disappear completely. Silence filled the space between them as Susan’s words lingered in the air.  

    “Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia.”  

    His words struck her hard. Their familiarity and meaning stung and she stood silent before him. She closed her eyes and turned her head away, letting her emotions shudder her body. They stood in silence for several minutes, letting the everything unspoken fill the room around them. 

    “Queen Susan the Gentle. Look at me.” Aslan’s tone was firm, but she could tell he wasn’t angry. This time, she obeyed the first time. She gasped and a hand flew to her mouth. Standing before her were three figures, clad in golden, shining robes. Each of them had glittering crowns, each with a unique pattern, resting on their heads. She recognized them immediately, but somehow, they weren’t quite the same as in the way she knew them. Peter and Edmund stood on Aslan’s right, Lucy on his left. She took a step towards them, but paused, turning her gaze back to Aslan.  

    “They cannot hear you nor see you, but they are safe. They are with me. And they wait for you. They will wait for you until your time comes,” Aslan said, “But your time has not yet come, which is why you didn’t go with them. You must have patience dear one. There are still many trials left ahead of you.”  

    “How can I go on? Tell me what I must do to find them again.”  

    “Courage, dear heart. You will see them again. You might have tried to get other to believe your ignorance, but that will be no more. Live with the proudness of a lioness, daughter. Keep me close and I will not leave you.”  

    “I will.” 

    The lion smiled and breathed on her, his light shining even brighter now. She had to closer her eyes against the light and when she looked opened them again, the room was dark. He was gone.  

    Not truly gone, though. Just unseeable, but he was still there. Susan could feel the warmth of his light lingering inside her and she promised herself and the lion that she would not let it go. Su had a lightness around her that – and if you hadn’t known it – you would not have known she was grieving. And she still was, but it was different now. She missed her siblings: Peter’s smile, Edmund’s wit, Lucy’s laugh. But she knew that wasn’t the end, that their stories, along with her own, were just truly beginning. 

Spring 2024

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