Peter Pan: A Novel

the continuation of Peter Pan, in which Peter is haunted by visions of growing up and falling in love

The Nursery…continued {2} November 6, 2007

Filed under: chapter two,peter pan — snarkytea @ 6:24 am
Tags: , , , ,

{ 1,663 words }

            “Oh, like the elf?” Theo chuckled, shaking his head. “Well, Peter, you are doing a sore job of tying your tie, so I suppose your mother always used to do it for you.” Noting Peter’s flinch as he took the tie and began to knot it, Theo bit his lower lip. “Sorry, mate. I know you’re new and all. I shouldn’t have teased you. Hell, I know how you feel. I lost my mother at your age, probably younger,” he added, judging by Peter’s height and slight weight, “and I really didn’t mean anything by it, but around here, you’ve got to really keep your chin up and try to overcome those kinds of thoughts.” He leaned in, giving the tie a firm tug to tighten. “Or you’ll be dead meat, as they say. There you are – all done. Now, let’s get down to breakfast and then I’ll show you to your school.” As they headed down the stairs, Theo continued to speak and Peter found the sound of his voice somewhat comforting. “You’ve never been yet, have you? It’s a real challenge, honestly, but a good one, starting in a new place and all, without knowing a single soul.”

            “A challenge?” Peter asked, finally intrigued enough to ask a question. The thought of a new challenge, something that was hard for everybody else to overcome, filled him with sudden delight.

            “Well, yeah,” Theo said, pulling Peter along down a hallway and into what had once been a sitting room but what had now been made into a dining room, complete with a long table. It wasn’t clear to Peter, but the whole room had the feel of something that had been demolished and rebuilt. It was vaguely familiar and yet so fresh to his mind that he was sure he’d never seen it before. “I mean, school is always a challenge, especially if you’re from another country, which no doubt you are. Swedish?”

            “What’s Swedish?” Peter asked. “If it’s something awful, I’m sure I’m not it, though if it’s pleasant, I might be inclined.”

            Theo gave him a once over, slightly taken aback, and then covered his mouth to keep from exploding with laughter. “Peter, you’re going to have to learn your manners and answer people straight away when they ask you a question,” he said through his amusement, still chuckling but trying to clear it away as they entered the dining area. He forced Peter to hold back and whispered in his ear, “There’s Madame. You’ll want to watch out for her. If she catches you in my clothes, she’ll holler something wicked, but as you’re new and she probably hasn’t caught on yet to your appearance, you should be safe. Just keep quiet and stay calm, and when you eat, make sure you’ve got your mouth closed.”

            “Mouth closed while I eat?” Peter gasped. “Where’s the fun in that?”

            “Shh, we’ll be seated now, so stay close to me and keep quiet.”

            Peeking around the corner, Peter was surprised to find around twenty or thirty boys waiting at various parts of a two-room-long Maplewood table. They were not rowdy or clamoring for attention or laughing – all of them stood behind a set chair, their hands behind their backs and proper postures all around. Every single boy wore the same thing, and the only real way to tell them apart was their eye and hair color, as well as various hairstyles, though most were tamer than Peter’s frazzled blonde curls. Upon the table sparkled settings of the finest silver, better than Captain Cutthroat had ever hoarded aboard his finest fleet, and soft velvet place settings marked out a spot for each of the boys, including Peter if he could count that high. And at the head of the long table sat an old French woman, with ancient lines drawn down her face and a tight-lipped, mirthless look upon her withered face. Dark bags hung under her vivid green eyes, which were trained upon Theo sternly.

            “You are late,” she said and waved them in.

            Theo grabbed the cuff of Peter’s sleeve and tugged him along to a seat at the table next to him, which had happened to be vacant for months, until now. “I am sorry, Madame,” Theo said quietly, bowing his head and pressing his own fingers over the back of the chair as the other boys had done. Finding it a very quaint and droll sort of game, Peter mimicked the action easily, thinking to himself that he did it quite better and faster than even Theo had managed.

            “I shall do the honors this morning,” Madame said, and without warning all heads bowed and all hands clasped in front of them. Peter followed suit of course, as he normally would playing follow the leader, though as Madame said morning grace, he couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable in her presence and he admittedly peeked with one eye to look at the old woman as she prayed. She looked a great deal like Captain Cutthroat to him, without the beard, mustache, and gold teeth, and she seemed incredibly frail, as if any moment she might collapse, though the line of her mouth told him she was strong and not old enough yet to wither.

            But looking at her, Peter felt sick. She was old. She had passed growing up and was now towards death, the skin at her neck droopy and elastic, and the lines along her cheeks, eyes, and mouth growing longer every day. Her wrists were skinny and brittle, and her fingers looked like hooks to him, her long nails doing wonders for his imagination. Worse of all was the fact that he could not see her hair from under her ________ (nun’s garment?) and it made her look like an aged queen set on her deathbed.

            “Amen,” she whispered with a nod, making motions at her chest, forehead, and shoulders, which the rest of the group, including Peter, copied eagerly. “You may be seated, boys, and enjoy your breakfast.”

            Peter nearly lunged for the empty bowels in front of them, but Theo steadied his hand before he could move, and luckily Madame had looked the other way to usher in several other nuns, who were several decades younger than Madame. Carrying trays of food, they gave each boy an equal amount of oatmeal, toast, and jam, and Peter found it quite disappointing that the jam was the only element of food that had color to it. He realized the last time he had eaten it was a phenomenal feast of blue and yellow and even silver fruits, nuts, and grains, but all of that seemed ages away from him now, and it was even starting to get hard to remember what exact color the chocolate gumdrops were he’d had for dessert the previous evening. Or was that a week ago?

            After breakfast, Madame excused herself and the room broke into a quiet sort of morning discussion between various friends and cliques.

            “So what year are you?” Theo asked as he finished off his toast. “You look around eleven or so. Perhaps twelve?”

            “Certainly twelve,” Peter said, thinking whatever number best suited him it ought to be an even one.

            “Well then that puts you into 8th year over at the secondary school (??). That means you’ll be coming with me. I’m a couple years up, but I’ll walk you at any rate. Haven’t got a schedule, I suppose?” When Peter shook his head no, not quite knowing what a schedule was, Theo shook his head and brushed his auburn hair away again, slicking it handsomely back on his head with both hands. “Blimey, they really ought to have you prepared on your first day. I suppose you came here in a rush? Aren’t you going to finish your oatmeal? You won’t get another bite until tea.”

            “It tastes awful,” Peter said, blanching at the thought of having to eat more.

            Theo laughed again and shook his head. “Suits me fine, but I’d better eat it so Madame doesn’t think you’re being ungrateful.” Theo promptly spooned the rest of the meal into his mouth with a wide grin and even made Peter snort with laughter as he mimicked the way Madame ate her food – much like a bird, with bobbing motions and sharp swallows.

            As they made their way outside, Madame handed each of them a small sack for lunch and waved them all on their way, though Peter got the distinct impression she would have not minded if less of them came home than had left. As they stood outside in the snow, Peter shuddered until he felt Theo’s warm arms rubbing him.

            “That ought to put some warmth in you,” Theo said grinning. “Need to ask Madame for a coat or you’ll be freezing. With how bad off your clothes were, no doubt you’re not used to our English winters. They can be brutal.”

            Suddenly, Peter flinched, as he felt a rough bite at his ear. Grabbing at it, he pushed whatever had bitten him away and as he caught up to Theo, who had walked away, still talking about the winters in England, several boys gestured up to the sky, where a tiny light had danced away.

            “What was that?” an older boy asked, squinting at the sunlight, which now blocked the small light from view.

            “A dragonfly!” one of the small boys whispered, in awe.

            “No, a fairy!” another cried, “I saw it, I swear!”

            “A dragonfly in winter?” the older boy scoffed, hands shoved in the pockets of his coat, “What an ass – that was just a leaf falling from that tree, you nitwit. Honestly, a dragonfly!”

            “I really think it was a fairy,” the youngest repeated when the oldest boy had gone. “I saw its wings fluttering. It was after that new boy.”

            The two boys watched as a single light danced along behind Peter’s shoulders and occasionally nipped at his ear.

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