The Queen In Exile
by LindaMarie

It has been five years since she was told she couldn't go back.

Lucy feels small, and cracked inside. The days tick by, endless, endless days of arithmetic, Future Plans, grammar, Latin, Responsibility. She's growing taller, hips widening, voice deepening to change from soft and cool to smooth and honey-rich. Her mother has talked to her about boys. She is no longer allowed to play as she once did, but must keep neat and clean and learn about cooking and scrubbing and Family.

And the worst part is, she's been through all this before.

Lucy remembers being this age as clear as she knows her own name. They were glorious times, and this new non-life, this rehash, is dim and sad and unnatural in comparison. When she was becoming a young woman, she was already being courted by nobels across the land, and those that really cared loved her not for her skills in the kitchen or laundry, but for the way she could (and would) outrun any boy her age, the way her hair ran daringly free and long without care. Everyone loved her because she was free and strong and she loved them all just as much in return.

Now, the boys in the schoolrooms scowl at her for silence. Her sister says she reads too much, her mother scolds her for causing future frown lines. Her grandmother says behind her back, "That child is in love with the Lord. She would make such a beautiful nun." She never sees Peter or Edmund alone any more. She sits for hours, alone, staring at pictures or wardrobes or closets, hoping, wishing for the magic that left her what seems like a lifetime ago.

There are no Talking Beasts here, there is no Aslan with flowing mane to soothe and comfort in this cold lonely time. Lucy already knows what the Lion meant when he said she could find him here, but no matter how she prays at her rosary, it is poor substitute. She needs someone to hold in both arms, to dote over and kiss and cry for. Mother says that pets are unnecessary distractions.

She remembers those first dizzy, dreamy days of returning to Narnia the second time, when she realized that Mr. Tumnus and the Beavers and everyone she'd ever loved or known growing up in that Other Life, that True Life, were long dead, lost in the distant past. Sometimes she lies awake at night, watching for walking trees or a great feline form outside her window, and tries to calculate how much time has passed in Narnia. There is no true way of knowing, but she feels achingly certain that everyone who saw her last, who loved her and might have missed her when she left--Caspian and Trufflehunter and all the rest--were just as lost. She feels overwhelmingly old at times, and understands why people live such a short time. Lucy does not know if she can bear it, this passing of years and accumulation of loss.

She doesn't know if she can, doesn't know if she wants to. Lucy can remember being a grown Lady and all that came with it. She has fought and killed with her own hands, but not these hands, these child-hands, these girl-hands, these premature images of what she became and what she still is inside where no one can see.

Girls who read books and daydream are not wanted. Genius children with freckles and crooked grins need to learn to speak seldom, wear face cream and close their lips when they smile. Mother purposely gives her white clothes to make sure she stays clean. Lucy can now walk with a book on her head (that's apparently the only use she'll have for them soon). She can dance the waltz and courtsey to the floor. But she could do all these things before, in another life, and because she was taught to walk straight by a willowy Dryad, and to dance by a dear little Faun, and learned to courtsey from her own handmaiden, it hurts and burns inside to have to learn over again.

Yes, there is shame in this re-learning. Each day she can feel her Queenly pride melt away under the gazes of pushy boys and teachers who say her name as if speaking of some sort of plague that might catch. She is fading, she is, so she reads books about sorrow and pain when they aren't looking, and she knows and she learns and she plans what she must do now, yes.

The wardrobe in her room is not so big, not so dark and encompassing, but it will do. She stole what she needed from the garden shed, and now she ties it around the wardrobe's high beam. If she stands on her dressing-table's stool, she is just the right height. The rope is in her hands and she remembers the knot from sailing days, from helping Caspian hang supplies in the storeroom. Over, under, around, in. It need not be tight. She slips it over her blonde head, feels old and young all at once. She pulls the door closed, for the first time not minding what a stupid thing she has been told this is to do.

In her mind's eye she sees Aslan tied tight on the Stone Table, silent, cool, in moonlight just like she is in right now. She sees the little mice chewing the chords loose from him, returning life and freedom. And she holds that thought as she kicks with one leg, hears a violent sickening sound, and is Beyond.


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