The church is quiet, a silent sea of black clothes and sombre faces, few whispers sounding as counterpoint to the droning voice of the reverend, hurriedly hushed.
Susan doesn't notice any of this.
Her mind is still registering the cold grey rain outside, the dark brown earth that she knows will soon bury everything she still held dear, enfolding them in its pungent, rich smell.
Her mind wanders.
Deep down, Susan knows Narnia is not a childish game. Deep down, she knows it is – was – more real than any silly party she has attended over the years.
She still remembers with a shiver of cold dread the horrible months after they were exiled from their country – the land she's loved and lost and denied because it hurt too much to keep it in a hollowed heart.
She doesn't acknowledge the truth, not even now.
She'd always struggled to appear level-headed, trustworthy, ever since childhood.
She'd had to grow up so soon, too soon, pushed by the war and her father's absence and her mother's exhaustion and her own instinctual wish to help Peter bear his burdens.
Because of that, she'd always been cool, rational, detached.
So sensible, so mature.
Never letting her mask of practical little woman down, never betraying that under her portrayed confidence, she was nervous, unsure of her ability to help her mother, to guide her siblings.
Later, she'd been just as unsure of her ability to govern, wanting to do her best for Aslan and her people, and not knowing how to achieve that goal; she'd hid that nervousness too, under the appearance of practiced grace and cool elegance.
Only Peter – her rock, her trusted confident, her brother, her King – had at times glimpsed her insecurities, reassured her or comforted her. In Narnia, though, where they were all truer to their selves. Not in England.
In England… her own choices had left her alone; though she didn't know what she could have done differently.
Like all of them, she had at first hoped. She had guarded the memories of her Home like a precious candle, to be protected from the harsh winds of her plain reality.
Like all of them, she had for a while indulged in recollection, and at times let something around her remind her of her lost past, or perhaps applied a lesson learned long before to the problems of nowadays.
For a while she'd held fast to the hope that she would be allowed back. She kept Queen Susan the Gentle alive deep inside, carefully weighing the actions her world required of her against her own Narnian values, waiting for the day when she would be freed and returned to her people once more.
But after crossing Aslan's Door she'd had to give up that hope for good, lose the only small light that still kept her depression at bay.
And what was left then?
She was trapped in this world and she knew, there was no place for Queens here. If she wanted to survive, if she wanted to stay sane, she had to adapt.
The others still insisted on keeping the memories alive and close to their heart.
Susan didn't. She refused to.
It broke Lucy's heart, she knew, the way she pretended nothing had been real, that all had been but a figment of their imagination. An entire life, reduced in her words and actions to nothing more than silly children's games.
But what else could she do?
She had no more memories that weren't tainted with the pain of loss. She did not want to rehash them, to be hurt again.
And what else was left?
She had been the first of them to accept the difficult transition and she had been quick to hide her suffering, because it was the sensible thing to do.
She didn't want to dwell on could-haves, should-haves.
She couldn't keep Queen Susan the Gentle alive in a world where she was nobody. So she had made herself forget. Soon, she had no memories left at all, nothing but half-formed dreams.
She had tried hard, right from the start, to regain what she considered her 'status'.
Acting mature so the adults would praise her.
Taking the 'lead of the pack' of her girlfriends at school, in the neighbourhood.
Resorting to make-up and trendy clothes to imitate the silks and jewels of Home, and collecting idiotic beaus instead of the suitors she missed.
At first, she had called them 'English equivalent'.
She had soon stopped, because the constant comparison made her current 'successes' pale even more in their shallowness.
But what else was left to her?
Then had come the anger, when she would lash out at any who mentioned Narnia in her hearing, and storm out of any room at the merest hint.
She did not want to be reminded of past glories, not when she could never hope for them again.
What was left of all that, anyway?
Anger hadn't last, however, it wasn't in Susan's nature.
Instead, she had resorted to simply denying Narnia. Completely.
She remembered all too well Lucy's heartbroken sobs after she had cruelly mocked her for the first time for still believing in their 'childhood fantasies'.
But she no longer had hope, or faith. She no longer had true memories. She no longer had dreams.
And what else was left, then?
Once, only once in all her years she'd been granted a taste of true happiness, in the form of a dark-haired Prince with courtly manners and a shy admiration for her strength and skill, flirting gallantly over a hunting horn.
And oh, how cruel it had been, to offer her a glimpse of what might have been, and then take it all away, tell her she had no right to it.
She knew she could have been a good Queen for Caspian.
He valued her as such, not as a trophy wife to parade around but as an equal monarch. She knew he'd seen her Gentleness and been captivated, seen her Strength and been awed. He hadn't frowned at her determination in defending their people, nor dismissed her thoughts as uninformed.
She knew she could have made him happy, too. She'd already felt the stirrings of affection, for the charming Prince and for the people he led. For her beloved country, that she had so hoped to be returned to.
But it was not to be.
And back to plain old England, what was left?
She couldn't be Queen here. She was just a girl and no-one wanted a girl to be strong, to be a leader.
She would never find a partner here; a husband possibly, but not a companion. She would never be respected in her own right here; as someone's wife, maybe, but not as herself.
In Narnia, perhaps, she would always be remembered as the great Queen she once had been under Peter's rule, as the great Queen she could have been at Caspian's side. Perhaps.
But how could Narnia matter here?
She'd fled to America as often as she could in the vain hope that it would grant her a life closer to the freedom and responsibility she'd once held so dear.
The war had brought many changes, but Susan was too young to be among the women who had tasted independence while replacing the men who had gone off to war. Instead, she took her first steps into the big world just as the women were required to give up their jobs to the returning men, and were thus encouraged to hide in their homes, to be flawless wives, selflessly devoted mothers, angels in the house. Nothing more.
She'd been the first to adopt the New Look, always on top of the pack of her shallow, petty girlfriends.
Unlike them, she'd realized the implication of that fashion.
It took time to put the New Look together, time the women now had as the men returned to their jobs in the factories and offices. It was the signal that the 'fairer sex' was not required to do anything more strenuous, or more useful, than dress up for their men.
She despaired; but still she skilfully applied her make-up, still she chose her clothes with care, still she learned to fake enjoyment for the meaningless conversations and the silly giggles and the shallow friendships as was expected from her.
For what else was left to her?
Peter and Edmund had had it easier. They were boys after all, and if boys talked about swords and knights and battles of the past, nobody found it strange. If they wanted to lead, if they talked of serving their country, everybody thought in admiration that they were so mature.
Lucy, bless her soul, was a child, she would always be the baby of the family, never required to grow up. If she danced on the wet grass in the mornings and laughed delightedly at sunbeams peeking through foliage, everybody just smiled indulgently.
A child, and now she would forever be one, encased in the dark soil, dead before she even turned eighteen.
What does Susan have left?
A tear falls slowly down her cheek, but she doesn't know anymore what she is crying for.
Strong and determined she might have been, but slowly this grey, cold world – so far, so different from her warm Southern Sun! – has taken everything from her.
And now, what is left to her?
She doesn't have Peter's fierce protectiveness, his charismatic personality and his strength of character. That indomitable fire that is now forever buried, snuffed in an instant by a wrecked train.
She doesn't have Edmund's deeply ingrained compass of right and wrong, his passion for legalities and the solving of disputes. He would have become a great Judge, she knows. He'd been one before.
She doesn't have Lucy's simple faith, her joyful nature and her ability to see a world in a raindrop, to feel amusement watching the leaves dance in the wind.
What is she left with?
And now, everything she always took for granted was lost, too.
She'd mourned the loss of her memories, of her hope, of her faith, of her independence, of her role, of her importance…
Now she grieves for a far greater loss, the irreplaceable loss of love, the most precious of gifts, her family.
What more will she lose?
What is she left with?
Her eyes fall onto the Bible in her hands, that she has unconsciously opened to the wrong page. But she isn't listening to the droned service anyway.
The words she's staring at haunt her. Matthew. 13.12:
For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance;but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
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