Look, all time exists simultaneously, so, really, it’s practically Wednesday.
This week, I’m posting something so hot off the press, it’s not even finished. This one, I haven’t been working on for over 10 years. But, I thought I’d shake things up.
This is the beginning of my untitled/unfinished novel about Wendy Darling and her second adventure in Neverland. This is a very rough draft.
Wendy opened her eyes to the feel of the sun on her face and birdsong in her ears.
She knows right away that is wrong. There is no birdsong anymore, no time to lie in the sun and dream. Her life is blood and pain, drying bodies and putrefying flesh. It’s mouthing soothing noises to shell shocked boys with horror ringing in their ears. There is no more adventures, no more wonder. Only duty gone horribly, horribly wrong.
But she’s not there. She is on a beach with sand on her skin and sun in her eyes. There is the smell of salt and flowers and the impossible stinging her nose.
Wendy sits up. Her body aches everywhere, but when she tries to remember why, her mind shies away. There’s a hole in her memory. Something has been stolen, or locked away very tightly.
She worries at the void a moment. Shakes at the locked drawer, trying to free the memory. Only, it makes her feel ill and all the aches hurt worse, so she soon lets it go. It can’t possibly matter, not here.
For she knows where she is, though she can scarcely believe it to be true. It’s an island she knows intimately, all splashes of color and mermaids and flamingos and fairies.
Peter Pan never had returned for her He had not kept his promise. He had, in fact, quite forgotten all about her.
And so, Wendy Moria Angela Darling had grown up. Slowly, at first. Quite unwillingly. She had clung to childhood as long as she could, playing games and telling stories of Peter Pan and Neverland. She’d stayed behind as her schoolmates had blossomed and matured, giggling over boys and love. She’d resented her body as it betrayed her, growing taller and softer and more womanly until, one morning, very unexpectedly , a woman had appeared in the mirror. A woman with Wendy’s face. All grown up and nowhere to hide.
And then came the War.
John had left first. John, so desperate to go and fight. His mind full of glory and honor and no idea of reality. John, who ran away one night with a false name and inflated age. John, who disappeared into the trenches. The first.
Other boys followed. Some came back. Others didn’t. Those who did were changed. Some were lost.
Wendy couldn’t bear it. Couldn’t bear staring home and doing nothing. So, she pinned up her hair, kissed her parents and brother good-bye, and left. She’d given a false age and signed up as a nurse to mend broken bodies and shattered minds.
She’d grown up. And, yet, here she was.
Feeling as if she might fall apart any moment, Wendy got to her feet. Her head spun and limbs ached. She shuffled to the edge of the lagoon, body tired and heavy.
The water felt crisp and cool on her face. It refreshed her, washing away the cobwebs.
She’d been running.
The memory came to her with a painful intensity that made her gasp.
Someone had been behind her. Chasing her. He’d wanted to hurt her. She’d run for her life.
The drawer refused to open.
She lowered her face to the lagoon once more. The water stilled enough to reflect her image: dark brown eyes and high arching brows. Shadows from too much work and too little sleep. Hair falling from its bun, tangled and wild. A bruise at the corner of her mouth where her secret kiss should be.
Someone had stolen her kiss.
Wendy began to cry. Where the pain and locked memory had not done it, the stolen kiss did. She had sworn to keep it safe, right at the corner of her mouth, protected. For Peter. Always for Peter.
She sniffed and wiped her nose with the edge of her scratchy wool cloak. Tears continued to fall, rolling down her face and dropping one by one into the lagoon. The water rippled out from where the drops fell, creating rings and distorting her reflection.
A face popped out and thrust at hers.
“Oh!” Wendy gasped. She fell back.
The mermaid grasped the edge of the lagoon. She pulled herself up, head tilted. She studied Wendy.
Then she laughed.
A fire lit in Wendy’s belly. It rushed through her, making her cheeks burn. “Go!” She leapt to her feet. Stamped and pointed. “Go away, you nasty thing. Go!”
The mermaid flinched. She hissed at Wendy.
“I said go!”
She hissed once more before diving back into the water. Several times, she leapt back out, splashing and flashing her tail.
Wendy watched the mermaid until it joined the others on a rock. Then, as they began to laugh and point at her, she turned away, head held proudly.
The heat of her rage subsided, but the warm, wet air still pressed against her. Her face was flushed and damp with sweat. Her blouse stuck to her and heavy winter cloak cooked her until she steamed.
She pulled it off and hung it on a branch. The dark, long sleeved dress had been designed for warmth and efficiency. It buttoned to her throat and was covered by a white apron. Underneath, her wool stockings grew heavy with sweat.
She sat down and began undoing the buttons on her boots. They came off, as did the stockings. As for the rest, well. It would be inappropriate for her to go about dressed only in her underthings. Even in Neverland. She would simply have to make do.
“Until what?” a rebellious little voice whispered. “Inspection? Face it, Darling you’re beyond the reach of proper etiquette now.”