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That Place Between Sleep and Awake

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It was one of those restless, muggy summer nights in London. A night to leave the large bay window open in hopes of a gentle breeze to rustle the hair of the three children in their separate beds; though only two were sleeping. The odd one was not even considered a child any longer, Wendy Darling was a fresh eighteen. The years had shaped her from a bud into a bloom. Her figure was as full as her lips and her curls fell between the blades on her back. But she knew naught of a woman's wiles nor did she have any desire to find out. Her heart still fluttered with the innocence of childhood. Perhaps that was why on this night of all nights, laying on her side on her last evening in her shared bedroom, she eyed the opening to the sky with an anxious ache in her heart.

As she lay in wait, she recalled that stifling afternoon with trepidation. Her mother had begun to reluctantly hand her information about proper suitors, already knowing her daughter would reject for one reason or another. Each time Wendy's slender fingers would turn the pages back across the polished table, her mum would sigh as she shook her graying head. "What am I going to do with you?" She hummed. "For someone so matronly, I thought you would be eager to start a family."

Matronly. Mother. That was right, she had so many children throughout her life, her Lost Boys and her brothers, yet none of them were her own. And she was glad for that. Now that John and Michael were attending school and properly able to take care of themselves, she felt a sense of freedom and relief that she never knew she could feel. Why should she give that up? "I'm not sure I want a family, mother." She chewed on the inside of her cheek after viewing her mother's shocked face.

"That's what life is about my dear." She cupped her daughter's cheek. "Children are the only source of true love."

"The only source?" Wendy furrowed her brows in confusion, her eyes seeking assurance of her mother's misspeaking.

Mary Darling took a seat by her now cooling tea. "Certainly." She motioned for her daughter to be seated. "Wendy, there's something I should tell you. Arranged marriage has always been the way in our family. It ensures good breeding." She grasped her daughter's cold fingers. "Love at first sight is a story." She spoke that statement quickly, taking more time in the explanation. "It takes effort and time to build a lasting connection like the one between your father and I. The only thing that comes instantly is the warmth in your heart when you hold your child in your arms." Wendy looked pale and confused. "It's free, it's easy, and it comes naturally. Nothing else in this life is like that."

Her daughter was silent for a moment. She swallowed though nothing was in her throat. "I don't believe you."

"You don't believe you'll love your children?" Her mother cocked her head to the side, becoming agitated.

"No, I believe in true love!" Wendy shook her head. "Why would it be in all of these stories if it wasn't true?"

"Wendy…" Her mother chided, "There are a lot of stories that aren't true. Still clinging to your childish notions at this age, honestly, do you still believe in fairies too?"

Wendy felt her heart drop. That was one answer she couldn't falsely give, for fear of one dropping dead from the sky. "I do." She stood upright.

"Oh sure. And flying boys and mermaids and…?" Her mother continued her tirade, focused on killing off the characters in Wendy's twelve year old tales.

Blue eyes, deep and angry as the sea that they sailed upon, flashed to her mind. "Hook!" She shouted childishly, as if it were an underlining point to her argument.

Her mother threw up her arms in frustration. "Good lord girl, am I going to have to institute you? There was a time for these stories, but that time has passed."

Wendy knew she sounded half-sane, but John and Michael were there…

"Which is why you are meeting with Mrs. Moore's son tomorrow." Her mother continued cooly. Wendy looked up at her with wide eyes. "And we're separating you from your brothers. Perhaps that should help you grow some."

"But the window…" was all Wendy could muster under the barrage of new information.

"Yes, yes. You'll have your own window in your father's old study. It's about time a young woman like you had a room of her own."

"But…"

"Wendy Moira Angela Darling!" Her mother slapped the papers on the table, sending some fluttering downward like pieces of her heart.

She could not argue sense with nonsense. "Yes." She cast her eyes toward the floor.

"Go pack your things, it'll take a day to get your new room ready." Her mother smoothed hair out of her face.

"Yes." She repeated as she turned with blurry eyes towards the steps.

She heard her mum's voice up the stairwell, "Make sure you wear that blue dress tomorrow. You know, the one that makes you look like a proper lady."

This was the reason for Wendy's agony as she stared up at cloudy sky begging for her savior from all those years ago.

Suddenly, as if an answer to her prayers, a familiar shadow crept over the window sill and she couldn't help from yelping in joy. She didn't care about the dangers of Neverland, if only she could make time stand still for one night and not face tomorrow.

The shadow crossed its legs as it perched on Michael's bed.

"Michael! John!" Wendy shouted gleefully as she ran over to hold the shadow's foot and it danced away from her. She landed atop Michael with a thud.

"Wendy!" he screeched in an annoyance, "I'm trying to sleep here!"

"What's all the racket?" John mumbled as he placed his glasses across the bridge of his nose.

"It's his shadow, Peter's shadow!" Wendy pointed emphatically.

John adjusted his glasses with a little more enthusiasm. "Where?"

"There!" Wendy followed her finger, but it was gone.

"Wendy, wasn't that just a story?" Michael was rubbing his eyes, "I mean it was a really good one, but…"

"Michael!" Wendy scoffed, "You were there!"

"The imagination is really something, isn't it?" He blinked at her with a smile.

"John?" She looked to the older brother for assistance.

He was looking down solemly at his bedspread. She knew that he had received a similar talk about adulthood from his father earlier that morning. "John?" She queried again, her voice cracking. Michael may have been too little at the time to distinguish between dreams and reality but surely her other brother…

"I think we're tired Wendy." He said as he slowly took off his glasses. "You must have dreamt it." With that, he rolled over and tucked the covers tightly around him.

"Coward." She whispered as she padded out the bedroom door.

"Hey!" John pushed the blankets off and sat up to retort, but his sister had gone from the room.


 

"He must still be around here somewhere." Wendy encouraged herself as she paced around the backyard in her nightgown. A glow illuminated the path before her. The moon must have been peeking out from the clouds. As she looked up to see if she could glimpse the stars, she recognized the familiar light was not celestial. "Tinker Bell!" She exhaled as the fairy's arch of flight came to an end on her picnic table. "Is Peter here?" Wendy asked.

Tink stuck out her tongue and shook her head. "No?" Wendy retorted, "But I saw his shadow!"

The pixie raised a tiny eyebrow and pointed at the girl mockingly, laughing in silence.

Wendy felt a slight desperation as she place her hands around the slim, doll-like body. Perhaps if the fairy was closer to her ear she could hear her. "Please, tell me what's going on? Where is he?"

Of course the little thing bit her finger. "Ouch!" Wendy released her quickly. Before she opened her eyes, the fairy was flying like a lightning bug straight into the sky. "Wait, please!" She felt her heart going after her. Was Peter alright? Was he captured and his shadow sought assistance? Of course Tink would be the last to ask for help, but she had been there too…

Her head spun as she looked down at her glowing palms. "Pixie dust." She was mesmerized by its sparkle. But, oh, it was so hard to think of a happy thought right now. A myriad of images floated to her mind as she tried to imagine her happier days in Neverland. Weren't there a lot of near death experiences? Somehow by the time she had an image of a certain pirate's broad back covered in crushed red velvet she was hovering above her yard. Which thought was it that made her fly? She wondered with laughter. She didn't care, for now she knew she was headed away from tomorrow.