There is love, of course. And then there's life, its enemy.
Everyone—all the friends of Narnia, that is, the now seven that should have been eight—was both sympathetic and excited when Eustace and Jill came back from their most recent time—his second, her first—in Narnia. You had to be sympathetic, because leaving Narnia behind after any period of time was like walking away from spring, from childhood, from a place where you always felt was home from the first moment you saw it. Because the first few days back from the world of dryads and fauns and the Lion, the first few days back in the world of boarding schools and radios and cold and rarely-filled churches.
And you had to be excited, because even someone else's story was a way of touching Narnia all over again, of hearing of things long-dead in the round world that all but Jill and Eustace knew they'd never leave again in life.
Lucy was as much sympathetic and excited as anyone else, yet for some reason she left the others after Jill and Eustace finished for the first time. No one noticed for a while that she had risen from her chair in the Professor's library and slipped out of the room, not waiting for more details, not for the asking of, "Tell us of the giants again!", not for hearing of Rilian--
Not for for hearing more of Caspian's son, and not for hearing more of how very handsome he was.
Lucy did not wait for any of that. Instead, after leaving, she walked through the corridors into the little room that she was staying in for the moment. It wasn't at all like the one in the old mansion th Professor had once had, though the house was larger than the one Peter had spent a summer studying in. The summer that she and Edmund and Eustace sailed and saw an edge of the world. The summer that she and Caspian—
When her absence was noticed and the friends went to look for her, Edmund and Peter were the ones who found her sitting at the window seat and staring out at the river and trees.
It was Peter, when he and Edmund told the others where she was, who said to leave her be.
Lucy was not Susan.
But Lucy liked boys too, and after Eustace and Jill came back Lucy agreed to go for lunch with James Anders.
Susan and her mother fussed and did Lucy's hair, and the boys made threatening noises, and her father was looming, and when Lucy finally rolled her eyes and went out the door, she looked very much the girl of London.
She didn't think anyone from Narnia could recognize her at all this way.
Lucy would not admit that was part of why she'd allowed it to be done.
Susan was confused when Lucy told her that she'd decided to not see James again. It had been two months, and Lucy had smiled during them, and James had made it clear that he was mad for Lucy. Susan told Lucy that she was being silly for telling James so, that it wasn't as if Lucy had someone else she cared for more, and Lucy had paled and walked out of the room without another word. Peter told Susan, as he'd told others months ago, to leave her be.
Edmund, however, went after her, and he found her sitting in her room with her knees held tightly against her chest and her eyes staring out the window at the traffic on the street.
"All right there?"
"Oh. No, I—yes, all right, I suppose. Su was just being Su." She fell silent again, though, and Edmund was ready to leave the room by the time she spoke again.
She didn't bother looking at him as she spoke, voice slow and soft. "Eustace said Rilian is quite tall."
"Yes," Edmund agreed. He didn't quite understand, but he was slowly starting to realize what Lucy made Lucy silent and walk away, however much he wanted to be wrong.
"I don't think I'd have a son so tall," he thought Lucy said, her voice a near whisper, but she was talking to the window again instead of him. And Edmund could do nothing but move towards her and reach out to touch her shoulder.
He wished he could see her face more clearly.
Lucy would not go to dinner again with James, but she did go with a boy named Stephen, and she let him kiss her months later, on the day he took her to the seashore.
He tasted like the tea they'd been drinking, and she rather liked it.
He tasted like he was 16.
He tasted too young, and too much like a boy, and Lucy let his tongue touch her own and found that she was greedy for the taste that didn't feel right.
It wasn't not wrong for any of the reasons her father or mother, should they have seen it, would have said. It wasn't not wrong for propriety's sake, and she thought, as his hand moved along her side, as the kiss grew deeper, that it wasn't wrong because of Rules or Manners.
It was only wrong because of it being with Stephen.
He stopped a few moments later, and when she pulled away she saw saw that he was smiling and realized that she was as well. His hand slipped down so his fingers could twine with hers, and their joined hands swung a little as they began to walk again. They had an utterly lovely day, and he dropped her off only a bit late. Enough that it made Edmund frown, but not very hard. He understood that sometimes you could not help train schedules.
And Lucy went to bed, wrapping herself in her blankets, and looked at the wall and found herself thinking that it should be raining, for some reason.
It wasn't. It was a clear night, especially when compared to the cloud-covered nights of the previous week.
Lucy closed her eyes and dreamed of the sea and cried in her sleep.
It was on The Dawntreader that Lucy had begun to dream of him.
Some dreams had not been anything like proper, and those had been the ones that made her avoid Caspian the next morning, had made her wish the ship wasn't so small.
Most of the dreams had been simple and silly. Those had been the ones that had caused her to wake with a smile on her face as her eyes had focused on the lion across from her bunk.
But then she had returned to London, knowing this time was for good, and still Lucy dreamed of him. The smile she had when her eyes opened faded quickly to something somewhat sad and nothing like hopeful.
Stephen wanted to sleep with her, and she knew it. It was rather interesting, really, for the older Lucy the Valiant inside to watch, to be amused when he awkwardly tried to touch the side of her breast and make it look like an accident before he shifted away from her.
She knew he wanted to sleep with her, and she also knew that she wouldn't let him. Not because of the reasons she should be turning to, but ultimately because...
Because Lucy knew that she wanted someone else, someone far away who knew of the fairy tale queen and the real woman both. And it seemed that she couldn't help herself but think on it more and more. The first night she realized that, Lucy left herself cry before sleeping rather than in it.
It was a lovely day when she realized the truth. She was enjoying herself as she walked in the park with Stephen, his hand in hers. He stopped near a tree, glancing about in an exaggerated manner, and Lucy was laughing softly as he pulled her behind it and then kissed her mouth deeply. She sighed into it, content, and was smiling still as he pressed a soft kiss to the side of her neck. It was wonderful and lovely and the sort of thing that a fifteen year old girl would blush to admit but felt wonderful for having.
But she was only fifteen on the outside, and this for the second time. It was when she and Stephen began to walk again, his arm warm around her waist and holding her to his side, that Lucy realized that she would not die married.
She smiled, still, for the rest of the evening and kissed Stephen goodnight before heading silently up to her own room and bed. Lucy rather felt as if she should find herself silly, or dramatic, especially given how nice spending time with Stephen was.
Lucy realized, as she crawled between her sheets, that instead she simply felt calm and decided.
It was rather lovely, in a way, and Lucy closed her eyes and dreamt of the sea.
When Lucy awoke, it was to a plain plastered wall with a small cross hanging on it instead of a cabin's wooden wall with a golden Lion on it. But she still smiled at it, and this smile was neither side nor hopeful. It was, however, patient.
She knew that the next day she would go on a picnic with Stephen, and she would laugh, and she would go to bed alone again.
Lucy knew that she would never in her life have what she would most wish for, and she knew that she would die unmarried, and she accepted it.
She could wait.
Some things are worth it.