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
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{ 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.


The Nursery November 5, 2007

Filed under: chapter two,peter pan — snarkytea @ 7:16 am
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{ 1,267 words }

            When he arrived in London and crouched upon the tiers of Big Ben, Peter was exhausted and without much of a happy thought except seeing Wendy and Moira and telling the both of them at once that he was to be their son and brother, respectively. He had already rehearsed the scene in his head several times. He would confess his love for the both of them and they would delightedly accept his brilliant proposal to live with them. He would fit in nicely in their beds, he wouldn’t take up much space or eat much food, as he was used to eating imaginary food at any rate, and he would be loved and love in return so politely. Overwhelmed with such a happy thought, it should have been easy to fly to reach the house he knew so well and land upon the windowsill unnoticed.

            And indeed, his plan was to arrive as quietly as possible. He wanted to surprise Moira especially, to see the delight on her face when she woke to find a new brother beside her. And then of course, Wendy would rush in and flush in enthralled enchantment and clasp Peter close, comb his hair properly, offer him clothes and some breakfast. And Joseph would pat his head, tell him he was a strapping lad and that boyish clothes quite suited him. He would eat a quiet breakfast, go off to school as perhaps he had always been meant to do, and would return to play with Moira and the others afterwards. Joseph would ask him at dinner about his schoolwork, Wendy would draw a bath for him, and both of his new parents would tuck him in comfortably.

            Breathing heavy as he hopped off of the large clock while it struck midnight, filled with this new joyous future, Peter didn’t even notice that the season was very much different than the last time he had been to see Moira. Then, it had been a cool spring evening where the windows were easily to forget about and leave open the entire night long. Now, there was a chill in the air that signaled autumn was long gone and winter had firmly settled in, a snow just on the horizon, and nearly every window was closed, including the small nursery where Wendy and Joseph raised their children. Even that didn’t slow Peter down, nor the strange number of beds that seemed to surround the dark room as he nudged the window open and slipped inside.

            A gush of air rustled his hair as he closed the window and peered out from the inside as Wendy had often done. It was odd, looking out at the night sky from a small room, knowing whatever life you were about to live was about to change drastically and you may never know anything of the other kind of life you lived.

            But though Peter was sad to lock the latch on the window, he found an empty bed and grinned into the pillows as he pulled the covers over his face and huddled into the warmth, contentment radiating from his small frame and excitement bubbling within, for tomorrow brought the grandest of adventures Peter had ever known.

            Sleep was almost immediate, and when Peter awoke, it was not as rehearsed.

            The noise and rustling of clothes and bedsheets, of teeth being brushed and water running through nearby pipes startled Peter from his pleasant and much-needed slumber. As he sat up, it was hard to remember what he was doing in the small blue and white room with twelve beds or who the other boys were who dashed around in front of him, chatting and dressing on their way out.

            “You’d better get up,” one of the boys said to Peter, “Or else Madame’ll skin your hide for sure. Are you new?”

            Nodding, for he was sure he wasn’t old, Peter slipped out of bed. “Who’s Madame?”

            The boy snorted with a laugh and grinned to Peter, looking him over. “Good dreams last night, I suppose? I bet they threw you in here late, too, so you’ll need a better rest tonight.” He glanced up at the sound of a tin whistle and cursed softly under his breath. “My name’s Theodore but everybody calls me Theo. We’ll have time to talk later, but for now, you’d better get dressed and meet us downstairs or you’ll be getting off to a rougher start than I did.”

            Thinking it a bit of a game and a test of his skills, Peter dusted himself off and headed for the door. He didn’t expect Theo’s fist to curl in his shirt or for the other boy to haul him backwards and toss him onto the bed.

            “You don’t even have proper clothes on!” Theo crowed with a laugh. “Here, you can borrow some of my old clothes – they’re far too small on me, but you look just the size.” Rummaging through a trunk at the edge of his bed, Theo tossed a pair of dark slacks, a gray vest, and a starched, folded-white shirt to Peter, who caught them all hazily, still too overwhelmed to speak. “There,” Theo said, shaking his auburn bangs from his blue eyes. “That ought to do. Go on, get dressed, I won’t peek.” Throwing Peter a wink, he gestured to the trunk once more on his way out. “There are shoes and socks in there too – help yourself. I’ve got to help the others get ready, but I’ll come back for you and show you down to breakfast.”

            When Theo had gone, leaving Peter alone with two other boys who sat across the room trading papers as they dressed, the room seemed quite silent, despite how the noisiness from moments ago had woken him. Mechanically, and because he wasn’t sure what else to do, Peter dressed himself in the foreign wardrobe and a full length mirror across the bedroom showed Peter his image.

            Startled, he felt something strange strangle in his throat. For a long moment, he simply stared, following the lines of his body down from the shiny buttons at the collar of his new shirt to the faded black of the worn shoes adorning his feet. Somehow, he couldn’t ever remember wearing shoes like this before, nor did he recall a need to do so. It had never been strange to be barefoot before…whatever before really was. Something clanged to mind in the back of his head, a name, a woman, a vision.

            “Wendy…” he whispered, fingers on his slack tie in the mirror.

            “Who’s Wendy?” Theo asked, entering the room and shooing out the other two boys who made their way quickly and together.

            “I…don’t remember just quite,” Peter said, brow furrowed boyishly, “Though I am sure she was someone important and beautiful.”

            Theo quirked a brow. “Won’t find much of that kind here, seeing as how there aren’t any girls here, least of all women. Well, except for Madame and the other sisters, but having any kind of impure thoughts about them will get you into more trouble than a caning for sure. What did you say your name was?”

            “Peter Pan.”

            “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.”