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Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

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As you look at Wendy, you may see her hair becoming white, and her figure little again, for all this happened long ago. Jane is now a common grown-up, with a daughter called Margaret. When Margaret grows up she will have a daughter; and thus it will go on, as long as children are gay and innocent and heartless.
     --J. M. Barrie, Peter and Wendy

She sees him, standing in the back of the room, amidst the other men and women, who have come to pay their last respects to her mother. He's dressed in a black suit with a red dress shirt and a silver tie, but she recognizes him instantly even in the anonymous costume: the long black hair, the groomed beard and mustache, the pierced ear, the piercing blue eyes. And of course, the missing hand, the final confirmation that the man she sees is the one she remembers from the fantastic voyages of her youth. He's not wearing his prosthesis, simply allowing the sleeve of his jacket to fall past the point where his arm simply stops.

He once seemed so old to her; now, she thinks he looks so impossibly young. He is, as he was and will forever be, in the prime of his manhood, even as she has grown old and feeble, as had her mother before her.

He doesn't come forward, doesn't join the line of people traveling past her mother's coffin, stopping to whisper their condolences to her and to her uncle (Michael; John succumbed to cancer six years ago), simply makes eye contact with her for a moment.

She isn't surprised when he comes to her that night, doesn't ask him how he got into her house or what it is he is doing there. He's still dressed in the black suit, and the glaring anachronism of it almost makes her smile. "I did not know if you would come, James," she says.

He nods. "It is not as easy for me to move between worlds as it is for Pan," he admits in his crisp Etonian accent. "Faith and trust are not exactly qualities I possess in overly great quantities."

"No, I suppose not," she muses as she sits down besides him. "I knew Peter would not come, of course."

"Of course not," James agrees, his voice bitter. "To face death, to really face it, would mean to grow up."

Jane nods. She knows now that death is not, as Peter once claimed, some awfully big adventure. It is simply the relentless conquest of time as all falls to its oblivion. All, that is, except for Peter and James and the other inhabitants of the Neverland. She thinks of Stoppard: "the absence of presence, nothing more; the endless time of never coming back; a gap you can't see, and when the wind blows through it, it makes not sound." She thinks of Shakespeare, he whose writings James so loves, and of so many yesterdays lighting fools their way to dusty death.

"I did not know if you would know to come," she tells James.

"I knew," he says. "All of the Neverland is in mourning. The fairies have lit up the sky. The Redskins perform their ritual dance. Even the mermaids fill the lagoon with their wailing. It is only the Lost Boys who play on, as if oblivious." The bitterness in his voice is palpable. Jane reaches across and rests her hand on his.

"I still remember her, your mother, how she looked the first time I saw her," James says. "A scared little girl in her nightdress, her hair flowing in the wind. So young, so beautiful. She made my heart young again. And now she is dead, to return to dust."

Jane says nothing, and the two of them sit there together in silence, together in their mourning.

"You have no idea how much I envy your mother," James says at last. "To leave the Neverland, to build something with her life, to raise children and grandchildren, and then, when her days are at an end, to be able to let the burden pass away. It's...." He trails off, not finishing.

"'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished?" Jane offers.

James accepts this with a nod and a sad smile. "For over a century I have played pirates with a boy clad in skeleton leaves. I tell myself that all I have to do is capture him, kill him, and then I will be free, but I know it will never be. It has become my hell, Jane."

Jane examines her old lover with curious eyes. "Yet it has not all been bad, has it?"

"No, of course not," he says, catching her meaning immediately. "Wendy, you, Margaret--you were so beautiful, all of you." He looks at Jane. "And you have only grown more beautiful since."

"It is kind of you to say so, James," says Jane. She stands. "Come with me. I have something I want to show you."

He follows her up the steps and into the small bedroom of a pre-teen girl, Jonas Brothers posters lining the walls. The screensaver of an open laptop fills the room with a soft glow. In a bed in the corner, sleeping, is the girl herself, a young child on the cusp of womanhood.

"Margaret's daughter?" James asks.

Jane nods. "Her name is Sally."

"I can see her mother in her," James says as he stares down at the girl. "And you as well, and your mother, even."

"The world has changed, James," Jane says. "It asks its children to grow up far too quickly now. Take her with you. The Neverland will be good for her. And if I am not mistaken, she will be good for you."

"And then she will leave the Neverland, and me, to return to this world and make a life here," James says. "I do not know if I can bear that heartbreak again, Jane. I beg you not to ask it of me."

"Then I will not ask you," Jane says. "But I leave you together, now. If I could free you from your hell, I would. I cannot. But perhaps she can provide you at least some respite from your pain, James. There is no reason to force yourself to suffer without need."

She exits Sally's bedroom, then, and as she does she can hear the girl stirring behind her. "Who are you?" she hears her granddaughter ask, and smiles, sadly, as history begins to repeat itself once again.