A buzzing in his ear told him the fairies wished he would come play with them, but he wasn’t in the mood and as he told them so, he swiped the girlish pixies away one-handed.
Of course, Peter Pan not being in the mood to play was almost unheard of, so the pixie took offense to his words and bit his ear as she fluttered off in fury to tell the other fairies. By the time she returned to the celebration and saw the beauty of the moment, she only had room for her happiness and so let the anger fade, leaving Peter much more alone than he’d been before she’d been flipping her wings in his ear.
Peter was sure he had never felt such a feeling before, for it was the first time that he had ever felt lonely in Neverland. That wasn’t entirely true, though he believed it to be, since he had forgotten what it felt like the first day without a mother and the first day without Wendy, but on those such occasions he had surely felt similarly heartbroken.
Dark gray clouds began to glaze their way across the sky and a slow shower began to fall. The Pirates packed up their things and retreated to lower, safer levels, all sails limp in the breeze-less skies. The fairies, miles away it seemed, rejoiced in the soft patter of raindrops upon their treetrunk homes, and the Lost Boys covered themselves with giant fronds to keep the rain out and huddled in a warm mass in their hideout, waiting for Peter’s return.
Neverland was a horrible place when Peter’s emotions were sore, as his sadness, anger, despair, or happiness seeped into the very soil underfoot and spread in fiery haste throughout the island, jungle, and beyond. As he was normally happy or afraid without much room for any emotion in between, the strange loneliness that enveloped his small form also enveloped the weather in Neverland and while it rained there was also a mist and even a bit of sporadic snowflakes that fell. Suddenly, it was so cold and flowers curled into their roots for warmth.
It was several hours later, though nobody had a clock to know for sure, when Peter felt a soft, warm body beside his own.
“You are wreaking havoc on our harvest,” Tiger Lily spoke, her words wise and brave in his presence, as she gazed out over the Pirate ship with him. Unlike other girls who could pass for her age, Tiger Lily was not petite, nor was she concerned with girlish things like playing with dolls or chasing boys. In fact, there was only one boy she would ever interest herself in and she was quite sure it was all merely a game to him. Her profile was strong, like her father’s, with a straight nose that came to a gentle and elegant point, and her eyes were pale but intense, full of the history of her family and the future she believed she held in Neverland. Unlike most of the Neverland inhabitants, Tiger Lily was quite aware that living here was more or less a dream that could end the moment Peter opened his eyes. She would have loved to tell him to remain asleep forever, but when the clouds rolled in like that, she was often afraid for him and the sadness he withheld on so many occasions for the sake of his strangled happiness. Tiger Lily was, perhaps, years older than she appeared.
Peter refused to look at her but laughed anyway. “Am not,” he argued, grateful to have his silence interrupted and perhaps to start an adventure after all.
“Oh? So you call this storm a welcomed insistence upon our happy spring planting season?”
“Yes,” Peter said, nodding emphatically, “I would.”
Tiger Lily wrapped the large bear fur her father had recently given her around her slender shoulders. Underneath, she was clad only in a simple deerskin hide, which she had sewn herself and beaded with gentle adornments. Barefoot, her hair long and raven to her waist, she huddled closer into the fur and shook her head, rustling the beads in her ears. “I am sure you would, though we don’t have such a sense of humor.”
Peter snorted and stood up, hands on his hips, looking happier than ever though the clouds hadn’t shifted. “No sense of humor! I must be off to help that long then. The Lost Boys and –”
“Why are you unhappy, Peter?” Tiger Lily’s question was frank and caught Peter off guard. With a knowing look, she continued to gaze out over the rocks. “There has not been such an odd tempest since Wendy left to grow up, and I am sure I have not seen any new mothers come and go since, so I am confused at your sadness.”
Peter looked caught. “I’m…I’m not sad!” he argued, puffing out his chest. “I dare you to prove I am!”
“The clouds are proof to all who occupy this small land,” Tiger Lily whispered, the sadness beginning to freeze her, so she was glad for the bear’s fur.
“Did someone tell you I was sad? Peter Pan is never sad, for he doesn’t understand sadness or know its nature! You can tell that to Captain Cutthroat and he will learn his lesson for meddling in Pan’s rumors!”
Tiger Lily looked up as she moved to kneel at Peter’s feet. Reaching up, she touched his hand and held it still when he skittishly tried to jerk it away. “Do you think me stupid, Peter?”
“Of course not! Tiger Lily is one of the smartest girls I know,” Peter affirmed.
“Then sit and talk with me. You are sad. There is no doubt of that. The only doubt is why, for you have everything at your feet, least of all the love of every single creature in Neverland and children in realms beyond. You have sunlight any time you call it, the wind at your back as you soar through it, clouds that taste of candy when you find you are hungry, food that never molds at your touch, and the adoration of an Indian Princess, more than a dozen Lost Boys, and even that of the Captain of the Pirate band. You will never grow old, you will never know the pain of death or of knowing death, and you –”
“Stop it!” Peter cried, throwing her hand away and flying several feet away. “You are filling my head with nonsense!” He laughed, the sound dry and breathless, and he knew too he had lost the game of pretending he hadn’t an inkling of what she told him.
Tiger Lily surveyed Peter’s pain-stricken face and knew instantly what the matter was and knew in the same breath she had lost her Peter, that he would never be the same. “You have grown older, Peter,” she whispered in despair. “How long has this been happening?”
“I…I’m not older! I’m not!”
“Then explain your emotions. You are crying. You have not cried in a very long time since.”
“I am not crying!” Though when Peter felt his cheeks, he knew he was wrong and couldn’t pretend the wetness away. “I…I am crying? Why am I crying?”
“You have been crying for hours, if the storm corresponds to your tears as it must.” The beautiful Indian leaned forward, took Peter’s hand, and led him back to her. “What have you done to make yourself grow so quickly?”