They loved him. Even after he said they couldn’t come back, they loved him.
Whenever we got together, you could see it in the back of their eyes; they didn’t talk about it all the time, but if they were around long enough – if it was Christmas, or if one of them was at my flat for dinner – it always eventually came back to that place.
Narnia. I can say the word.
They never grew up, not really. Oh, physically they did, of course. But you see, they’d grown up before, in that other place, and the shape never completely went away. When you’ve become a woman in a fairytale, you no longer quite fit the real world. Your shadow isn’t your own.
I wanted to go back. Did you know that? When we saw that tree of iron in the forest and gathered around it, Kings and Queens of Narnia, I alone said we should turn back. Back to the world I loved – for oh, I did love it. I was a Queen, and that’s not an empty word. Neither is “of Narnia”. I spent half of my life in Narnia, and I was of Narnia in my very soul.
We didn’t turn back. We left Narnia.
Then it happened all over again – the joy, the love, the adventure, Narnia – and at the end Peter and I were forbade her shores.
At first I think I was broken-hearted. It’s hard to remember now. And then one day I wasn’t anymore.
They thought I’d lost interest, I think. They thought I’d become a horribly silly young woman, caring only about lipstick and stockings and dances and boys. They thought I’d thrown off Narnia as you might throw off your dolls, disdaining them for childishness. They thought I’d wilfully chosen to forget. They thought I’d lost my soul.
Did they ever realise just how bitterly angry I was, I wonder?
Bitterly angry, for me and for the others. The younger ones still had Narnia, or the promise of it. He’d caught us all in the same dream, condemning us to pine endlessly to return, to be his puppets, his playthings, his toys.
I’d woken up from the dream and realised it was a nightmare.
Narnia was beautiful, yes, and oh yes, it was real. Whatever the others thought I believed, I never doubted it was real. Perhaps you will say I should have fought to return, perhaps you will say that I was never as happy again as I was when I ruled at Cair Paravel, and was Queen Susan the Gentle.
I am not gentle now.
Or perhaps I am: the children at the hospital tell me there is no nurse more tender-hearted.
But I will not tell them fairytale stories.
Peter, Edmund, Lucy – you never woke up from your fairytale dream, even when we came back. You walked sleeping through the world, his puppets in return as much as you ever were in his land. He owned you. He wrote your stories. And in some way I don’t yet completely understand, he ended them.
Oh, how you loved him.
I will write my own story, Aslan. I will be free. I will be wicked if I choose, I will be silly and conceited and impractical, I will care for stockings and lipstick and dancing, and I will be alive.
My story might be short, it might be dull, it might be sordid, it might be unhappy, it might never again capture the magic I lived during those few short years in the Narnia I loved so much. But however disappointing it might seem to you, it will never be disappointing to me, because it will be mine. I will be no man’s puppet, nor any lion’s either.
Go back to your own country, Aslan. You have taken them but you will never take me.