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And The Gentle Shall Persevere

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Summary: "A great deal of time Aslan feels he has wronged her somewhere along the line – because none of this is Susan's fault but she has surely taken the brunt of it."

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Literature > Chronicles of NarniasmolderFR1846,1893192,7072 Oct 134 Oct 13No

chapter four: something to feel real

Disclaimer: I own nothing. C.S. Lewis owns the Narnia series.
A/N: Reviews are Good. This has been a subtle hint from the author - Please return to your regularly scheduled reading.
A/N 2: Just so you know, I will be pulling from both the books and the movies.


chapter four: something to feel real


She drives here and there with no more direction than she originally had when she jumped bus to bus across the UK - but at least she can sleep in her car and the war rationing of motor fuel has let up. Father had taught her to drive before….well before and she thinks of him a lot on the road.

It had started as another way to get close to him, but through it they also learned how very alike they were in some ways, especially in their need for space. Because she loved her mother very much, but worry made her tend to pick a bit sometimes – question upon question, hovering about until you felt smothered (and hovering around asking things outright as well because to do so would open up wounds not yet healed - and how could she press when there was so much she simply didn't know? Like why her children had the same haunted looks sometimes as her husband who still woke up in the middle of the night shaking sometimes ).

And neither Father nor her wanted to snap at what they could see was deep down only kindness. The driving lessons became an opportunity for them to get out of the house (an exchanged glance when the stress got to thick all that became needed - and neatly circumvented many an argument), to sit side by side but exchange few words, the easy feel of the other’s company all that was necessary.

Susan loved these excursions, that felt so much like an escape from everything (from pretending to be a teenage girl so very hard when she still felt a woman, from the back and forth of begging and cold looks from her siblings that did not understand what she was doing, from her own self-doubt), but often felt guilty about this after, she truly did. Because she knew the reason behind that frown on her Mother’s face – she wasn’t a stupid woman after all– she could see how her family had changed. Her husband back from war and just a bit different because of it and her children – her children off, in so many little ways that couldn’t simply be chalked up to growing up.

Susan hopes that she gets to understand it all where she is now.


***


Time doesn’t seem to mean much to her. She drives in the day, in the night – whenever it suits her really. She quickly looses track to the days of the week, and honestly couldn’t tell anyone what month it was if they asked her. (She knows by her bodies own cycles that a number of months have gone by though.)

She judges things more these days by grocery stores, gas stations and small restaurants – the need to keep fed, to keep her little car fueled. Other small necessities like keeping clean are easily dealt with - she waits for rain or uses a jug of water (filled from tap – most people are willing to let her refill it for a bit of change), a wash cloth, and soap. It is inelegant but it works.

Susan feels startled once when she sees a reflection of herself in a store window - her hair has grown longer (she almost doesn't notice anymore the grubby feeling that had troubled her insistently the first two weeks - even a hard washing with soap and water does not clean hair as thoroughly as shampoo and a shower) and is tied away from her face - and her face – well her face looks rather different without the cosmetics she had grown used to. But after a moment it becomes comforting sight, she looks a bit more Narnian honestly. She had become a woman the first time in a place that they did not have things like make up, or rather not of the same sort as here (and then only occasionally, given as gifts from friends, suitors, or trading partners – there weren’t many humans at Cair Paravel after all - not like Archeland, they didn't have much need for such things).

And, like her body, the seasons change – it was just the beginnings of autumn when she buried her family, and she watched leaves change color and fall through bus windows on her zig zaging way through London. Went from the start of winter to the green break of spring in Spain (bundled under her coat and blankets at night while she slept in Bow). And now it is summer, the days marked by the heat, her windows open to catch any bit of breeze as she speeds along.

That is mostly what she does - drives, looking out the window. Just looking. Searching, searching for something – she really doesn’t know what. There are sprawling beaches (water never as blue as the Eastern Ocean where they would swim together; Lucy and her ditching elaborate royal dresses to splash and dunk each other. Pulling their soggy dignity around them and coming out with heads held high - and only a bit of giggling - in their salt water sodden slips, to the crossed arms and tapping paw of Mrs. Beaver), evergreen forests (with not a single dryad dancing playfully between the trees. None to spin close, trailing leaves, and whisper in Peter's ear making him blush before skipping away with a wink - and leaving the rest of the siblings to converge upon him, teasing and asking questions for the rest of the day), picturesque white village houses (so very different from those she had known built directly into the land. Certainly no Mr. Tumnus to share a cup of tea with on a stressful day, just sitting by the fire and listening stories of his youth.), and gorgeous old architecture (that just doesn’t look quite right – the angles off somehow.).

She parks and sits out on the hood of her car, with her back against the windshield, near the sharp mountains - listens for a long time for the bellows of the Western Wild…but this just isn’t Narnia so she doesn’t hear anything.

When she pushes herself back onto the ground and gets into Bow it has gotten dark and she feels cold, stiff and a little foolish. But Susan wants so desperately for something to feel real here, to click for her, to make her feel a part of all this again.

But instead it’s just incredibly beautiful and she still feels empty.


***

“You’re crying again, Susan,” are the first words that pass between them that night and she can hear the heaviness in his tone, the layers of guilt. And she has been there with him in this current dreamscape for awhile – all silvery planes of glass and odd rapidly growing vines – just curled against him crying silently. Usually she would rush to reassure him, but tonight - tonight, she just can't.

“I think you’re wrong, Aslan,” is what she says in reply, without looking up. “Not about the crying,” she cuts him off when she can feel his body move to start to speak and gives a smile that does not even reach half-hearted. “I have definitely been doing that. I mean about me.”

She pauses then and he gives her space to think – they both watch the vines move at their quick rate, intertwining and then separating, even seeming to fight each other at times.

“It’s just,” she begins, carding her fingers through his fur with a sigh, before settling them tightly in her lap nervously instead, “I don’t think I can do this," she admits, swallowing hard but then moving on quickly, afraid if she doesn't get it all out, she won't be able to say it. "I don't think I can find a bit of Narnia or even a place for myself here. I just want somewhere I can be useful again. But I can’t seem to settle, to connect, to do anything really.” Her words came faster and faster as she stared at her hands hard. “Nothing feels real -," the last word was whispered, like a confessed secret, "and I can’t find my use here, my reason,” she paused then and looked up then. Stared in his solemn eyes, “Aslan, I don’t think I have one. I don’t think I truly fit in this world.”

He doesn’t speak for a few beats and they just hold that eye contact. Then he gives a big sigh, part sadness, part guilt, part fondness (she is used to interpreting his sighs). “Susan, I know how much you feel – the emptiness and sadness that make your days seem so very long,” her head dipped down again as her throat felt tight at his words, the truth in them. She thinks sometimes that he forgets how much people feel when he speaks, the fact that just his name resonates in people.

“But,” he continued and she looked back up, “it hasn’t really been very long.” She glanced up sharply, ready to argue but he gave her a stern look that made her hold her tongue. “You have lost so much, Daughter of Eve – more than any should - don’t be so impatient, give your mind time to heal before you expect yourself ready to move on with your own life. It has experienced trauma as strong as any physical wound.”

“How long?” she asked, feeling very small, very desperate – the sort of exact measurement of time that had dropped out of meaning for her was now so horribly important. If she could only tie down to the day, hour, minute when this would end. “How long until I stop feeling like this. So empty,” it was practically an exhalation of breath for her.

“Susan,” he said and it was an apologetic sound (but his look of sadness and hurt made her wonder if he feels too much when she speaks as well, if he simply feels everything as strongly as he projects) and she knew that this was something she would have to figure out on her own.

“You will still be here though – like this," her voice wavered a bit at the thought of losing him too and she fought herself to keep it firm. "I’ll still get to talk to you in my dreams at night?” she wanted to make sure of it. Everything felt off right now and she needed to keep track of the one solid thing she had.

“Yes,” he said, with a surprising ferocity that almost had her flinching back (he was a lion, after all), “of course Susan. I will always be here for you in any way I can.”

The End?

You have reached the end of "And The Gentle Shall Persevere" – so far. This story is incomplete and the last chapter was posted on 4 Oct 13.

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