For a moment, he almost followed. A thousand possibilities flashed through his mind, a host of what ifs. His foot moved forward, his hand reached out, and then she was gone. Her soft, silky, dark hair flipped in the breeze, her gown swished about her ankles, and her brilliant blue eyes glanced his way once more, then she disappeared. That last look held every wish and longing never to be fulfilled, every regret and every tortured goodbye. Goodbye.
She almost turned back. Every consequence screamed at her, every change and every choice. She looked once more, caught his eye, and saw the same conflict there. His raven hair brushed his shoulders as he took a step forward, his new sword, the king's sword, moved against his leg then he was gone. Lucy tugged her onward and she saw a rushing train and a strange face. One step, and she was left with might have been.
He searched the water, looking for one more face. Nothing but the blue expanse stared back at him, taunting him with its barrenness. At last accepting the fact that she was not there, he swam back to his ship and let one of the sailors pull him aboard. Before him stood three people, shivering Lucy smiled, Edmund, pretending he was fine, grinned, and a strange boy complained and griped with a glare.
Edmund saw Caspian still scanning the waters behind him, as if expecting to see another person lost and bobbing about in the depths. He didn't think Lucy had noticed, so he walked to where the hopeful young king stood at the railing. "We're all there is Caspian."
"What's that Edmund?"
"Just the three of us Caspian."
Caspian gave Edmund a caught in the act look he tried to hide. "Of course, should there be more of you?" He didn't quite meet the younger boy's eyes when he said it.
"No, there shouldn't be. That's just it." Edmund placed his hand on Caspian's arm for a moment before going back to Lucy, who had just gotten a coat from a sailor. Caspian stood alone at the railing for a moment.
In that moment, so much passed through his mind. The ache of longing, the pain of knowledge, and the sting of regret. He had wanted nothing more than to see that dark hair swimming toward his ship to join him and be with him. But he knew that would not happen, she was never returning, and
there was nothing he could do to change that. He turned with an overly bright smile. He was indeed happy to see the King Edmund and Queen Lucy.
"King Edmund! And good Queen Lucy, how wonderful to see you!"
"Hello King Caspian, how are you?" Edmund stepped forward to shake his hand, they gave each other a courtly bow over their clasped hands, sincerely happy to see each other. Lucy curtsied with a shivering smile.
"Hello, K-King C-Cas-Caspian."
"You're freezing my lady. Come, we must get you into some warm clothes. He frowned for a moment, I'm afraid I've nothing but boys' clothes though."
"That's f-fine. J-Just, dry, p-please." Her teeth chattered and she pulled the coat of a sailor close about her.
Caspian was surprised at the attitude of the third person, a most un-agreeable boy King Edmund introduced as their cousin, Caspian didn't really see how one such as that was related to the four most wonderful siblings. Especially… but no, he must not let his thoughts turn to wishful melancholy.
"Is your cousin quite well Edmund?" Caspian frowned at the back of Eustace Scrubb.
"Oh, yes fine. Bit wet."
"Grumpy, griping, and rude. I know. It's an unfortunate image he often exudes. No matter though, nothing we can do now."
Caspian nodded. "You and I will be bunking with Drinian, my first mate, Lucy gets my cabin." Edmund nodded, not at all fazed by this. Lucy was the only lady, after all. Eustace did not find this at all agreeable when he found out.
"What? She gets the cabin to herself, while we are forced to bunk in these most horrid conditions? Lucy is stout and I am not, you know that Edmund. Surely it would be more sensible…"
"Have you no sense of honor, sir?" A bristling mouse asked of him.
"What is that! Get it away, I hate mice.'
"Eustace! Don't be rude." Reprimanded Edmund. "Reepicheep is right, as a lady, Lucy certainly has a right to the cabin." Eustace grumbled to himself, but nothing more was said of the matter.
There is no need for me to regale their adventure, for that is already to be found in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Suffice it to say, they had a grand time, during which Eustace really did become a very nice boy. Caspian tried not to think about the Queen Susan, as usual, and Edmund did some
surmising as to the extent of how many thoughts he actually avoided. So I bring you to the end of their adventure, and the beginning of another story.
Edmund had just finished arguing with Caspian, who was set on going to the edge of the world with them. Caspian stormed into his cabin, recently vacated by Lucy, and thought about the real reasons he wished to go.
"Susan. Gentle Susan." He sat on his bunk, his head in his hands. Three years, three whole years in which he had been subject to the memory of her soft lips, her smooth, alabaster skin, and her warm embrace. Even now, somewhere deep down, he had regrets about letting her go, about not chasing her. Some small piece of him wished he could have left his kingly duties behind and gone after her, never letting her leave him.
Now, now that he knew Edmund, Lucy, and their cousin were to return to their world through the end of this one, he had rashly decided it was his chance to her see again. He could leave Narnia in capable hands and right what had so clearly seemed a mistake. Edmund, he knew, was right. He cursed him for seeing through his cover. The younger king had recognized the desperate attempt at reversing choices made and called him on it, while, thankfully, not alerting everyone else to the deeper conflict.
"Who's there?" Caspian heard a deep and strangely familiar voice speaking in the stillness. Everyone else, he knew, was still outside and no one occupied the cabin besides himself.
"Caspian, my son."
He turned, slowly, to the wall behind him. "Aslan." He whispered. There, on the wall, the figure of Aslan was alive. It moved and talked to him.
"What troubles you so?"
"I- I want to see the other world, to explore as the kings and queens of old have done." Aslan said nothing, simply looked at him calmly. "I want to go beyond the edge of the world and travel to a different place."
"You would leave Narnia and your people for this?"
"I would leave them well cared for and taken care of."
"Do you question my plan for you Caspian?"
"No, Aslan. But- but can't part of that be that I go with Edmund and Lucy and Eustace to see Su- their world."
"Ah, now we come to it."
"I'm sorry, Aslan."
"I- I selfishly want to see her again."
"No, that is not selfish. Wanting to see someone you have felt so strongly about is never selfish. No, it is the way in which you would go about it that would be selfish. To abandon the kingdom you are responsible for, to leave your people alone, and to try to force the fate you have decided you desire: that is selfish. I have made a place for you, and it is in this world. It is not in another with someone you must leave behind. Yes." Caspian looked up in painful shock. "You must leave her behind. I know you have come to love her, but your destinies are not intertwined. Leave it at this Caspian. What you want and what is to be are not in harmony. Make it so again."
"I'm sorry Aslan. It's just-"
"I miss her, I wish to see her again, if only to say hello. I…" He let a tear escape down one cheek. "I love her."
"This too shall pass. You will find the one whose destiny lies with yours Caspian, do not despair, only hope."
"What if I had followed her? Would you have let me go?"
"You cannot know what would have been, only what is."
"No. Your path lies here and always has." Aslan looked sternly at him. "You will say goodbye and you will return to your people. That is how it must be. Do you not trust me?"
"I'm sorry Aslan, I do trust you." Then the figure was just that once again, an ornamental piece of gold. Ashamed, Caspian returned to his companions. He told everyone goodbye and let them go away. As he shook Edmund's hand, he spoke softly.
"Tell her I said hello." Edmund look deep into his eyes and nodded.
"I will Caspian."
"Thank you Edmund, for knowing better than I."
"You are a good king Caspian. Your people need you."
"You will find someone whose destiny lies with yours." Caspian gave Edmund a strange look, then smiled.
"You're right of course." Then they were gone. Caspian felt a jolt of familiar pain, then resolved to let it go. To let her go.
"How was America Sue?" Peter Pevensie asked his younger sister. The four Pevensie siblings were alone at home while their parents were out calling on an elderly friend.
"It was wonderful." She gushed. "Everything was bright and grand. I enjoyed myself. How was your stay with Professor Kirke? He always was such a dear."
"Very good. We got distracted a lot telling stories and such."
"He always told such fantastic stories."
"Yes, very good at it." Commented Edmund.
"He never tired of my telling him of our days in Narnia."
"Narnia. Such fun we had." Laughed Susan.
"Speaking of Narnia," said Lucy, "Edmund and I have news." She glowed with excitement.
"You do?" Peter leaned forward expectantly. "You were there over holidays?"
"Yes!" She crowed.
"It'd been three years their time." Edmund informed their older brother and sister.
"How was everyone?"
"Well, I believe. We didn't actually go to Narnia itself. King Caspian was at sea seeking old friends of his father's."
"Was he successful?"
"Yes, we went all the way to the edge of the world. That's where Lu and I and Eustace left, over the edge. Exciting really."
"Eustace? And in between?" Peter was excited but Susan remained silent as Edmund and Lucy told their story: their and Eustace's adventure and his reform.
"I hope to see Narnia again." Sighed Peter. "I miss it."
"Miss it?" Snapped Susan. "How can you miss bits of imagination? Go play with Edmund and Lucy if you miss it."
"Bits of imagination?" Peter questioned.
"Yes. Don't you all get tired of the same old game? There's an exciting unexplored world out there that I've been to and it's not a make believe world of magical creatures and chivalrous knights. So just go out into it and forget this nonsense about Narnia."
"How can you say that?" Asked Lucy.
"Because it's true, alright."
"You saw it, you've been there. You loved it." Said Edmund.
"You loved the land and its people." Said Peter.
"I loved a game and now I'm tired of it. Can we just drop it?"
"Just forget all of those memories?" Asked Edmund pleadingly.
"Memories you made up?"
"Memories we lived." Said Lucy urgently.
Peter stared at her. "You would walk away from everything? Everyone?"
Susan stood and headed to the door. "I already have."
She was at the door when Edmund at last spoke in the stillness. "He said hello Susan." She paused for a split second, fist tightened, back to the room. Then walked away.