|"Happily, Susan addressed a final invitation |
to a certain dark-haired someone...."
Finally, the long-awaited holiday arrived, and Peter began to discuss with Susan the idea of hosting a holiday party.
Invitations were sent accordingly, and the responses came in short order. Eustace even asked to bring a school-chum of his, a certain Jill Pole. "We have a lot to tell you," he hinted in his letter.
Susan wondered what their cousin meant, but Peter suggested replying in the affirmative. As she was writing the reply, Susan saw an opportunity. "Since we're letting Eustace bring a friend," she asked Peter, "might I invite one as well?"
Peter's eyes twinkled mischievously. "What happened to your small party, Su?"
Susan rolled her eyes, and Peter laughed, "You may invite whomever you want, it's all right with me."
Happily, Susan addressed a final invitation to a certain dark-haired someone. Perhaps if He were there, she wouldn't feel so vulnerable.
The day of the party came, but it did not turn out as "safe" as Susan hoped it would be. Benton was late in coming, and the bulk of what Eustace and Jill "had to tell" turned out to be their most recent adventure in—where else?—Narnia.
"It couldn't possibly have been anywhere else!" Susan groaned to herself. She tried to change the subject. "That's a very beautiful dress you're wearing, Jill."
The girl shrugged. "It's Narnian, what can I say? I wonder that you and Lucy don't have dresses of your own."
Susan stiffened; would Benton ever show up? Finally, she heard a knock at the door. "Benton!" she cried happily when she answered it. There he stood, with snow in his dark hair, a twinkle in his eye, and a cake in his hands. "Come in!" she welcomed him, accepting the cake and setting it on the table with the rest of the Christmas goodies prepared by the women of the house.
Susan introduced Benton to everyone else, but just at that moment, the festive Christmas spirit had set her brothers and sister reminiscing about "that first Narnian Christmas." Susan worried that Benton would feel left out, so she directed him to the sofa on the far side of the room, away from everybody else. Benton tried to wave off her concern for him, but it was obvious that he did feel somewhat like an intruder. Susan was intent on showing him that all his teachings had not been in vain, and soon she and Benton were comfortably chatting away, uneasiness completely forgotten.
Presently, Lucy ran up and seized Susan's hand. "Oh Susan! We need another couple for the Snow Dance Eustace learned in Narnia! It's great fun! Won't you join us?"
Susan froze. She could feel Benton's eyes bearing on her. Unbidden, the memory leapt up in her mind of the marvelous Narnian dances, far more intricate and enjoyable than any in England. Would Benton really think ill of her if she appeared to humor her sister? But, truly, she thought, after all he's done for me, would it be discouraging to him?
Susan nursed in herself a desire to prove her merit to Benton. "Oh," she said pettishly, as she knew he would want her to, "there you go with Narnia again!" She sighed in that grown-up-memory way that is so aggravating to children, "What wonderful memories you kids still have! Fancy your still thinking about those funny games we used to play when we were children!" She glanced triumphantly at Benton, eager to bask in his burst of congratulation.
But the only "burst" that came was the tears from poor Lucy's eyes. She was too crushed to speak, but only rushed out of the room, crying. Susan's sensitive heart pricked her terribly, and she suddenly realized in humiliation that the whole room had heard her unfeeling comment, and not only Benton.
Benton himself, seeing the start of a potential family feud and having no desire to be caught in the middle, whispered to Susan, "I'll wait outside."
Susan grasped his hand as he left, "Benton, wait . . ." What had gone wrong? She saw Benton, waiting in the entryway. Good, he had not left; now Peter confronted her.
"Susan, what is the matter with you?"
Susan attempted an air of nonchalance, but in her bewilderment it came across more like insolence. "Don't know what you mean," she returned.
"You know very well what I mean, Susan Pevensie!"
Peter's tone was more stern than Susan had ever heard him use, except as K—no! She mustn't!
Peter continued, "Ever since you've taken up with that Benton fellow, you've put on airs and been altogether miserable! And now you've wounded your own sister with your pride, just as Edmund did under the influence of the White Witch!"
Susan's temper flared at the insinuation, and she set her jaw. "The White Witch doesn't exist, Peter! I wonder what's gotten into you, that you believe it's all still real! I can't believe you're encouraging it! You've got to face the facts Peter! The game is over! You may be older in years, but I don't believe you're really grown up until you realize that Narnia is dead."