Friday, December 30, 2016

For Hungry Readers

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't read the book yet, maybe wait to read the epilogue.

Escaping Neverland
by Melissa Lemon

Note: Please see copyright information on sidebar.

              Peter closed the bathroom cabinet and leaned toward the mirror, inspecting his smooth chin. Jane would love it. He smiled as he thought of the way she playfully recoiled every time he’d tried to kiss her over the last several months. Since facial hair was an anomaly on Neverland, Peter had made experimenting a bit of a hobby over the years—sideburns here, a goatee there, nothing too crazy.
                “How many jumps do you have today?” Jane called from the bedroom.
                “Three,” he called back.
                Peter inspected the crow’s feet taking shape around the corner of his eyes until a sparkle caught his attention. A white, wiry hair stuck out from the side of his head, just above his right ear. He reached for it, using the mirror as a guide until he grasped it between his fingers. He debated yanking it, but only for a second. The word monumental came to mind. Peter knew what this meant.
His mind drifted back to all those years ago. After leaving Neverland, he and Jane had struggled for months just to scrape for food. She sang on street corners for every meal and their train tickets back to London where they were able to find Jane’s nanny. They’d been too afraid to seek out the Talley Man and knew it best to disappear as soon as possible. Jane’s nanny Olivia had been ecstatic to see her. They’d embraced for so long Peter grew uncomfortable waiting on the front porch of where Olivia now worked as a nanny for a wealthy family.  Then one of the children had come to the door.
 Peter grew faint as he remembered. He leaned on the bathroom sink and drew in a deep breath. Even the short interaction with the child had sent him into a panic.
                Jane had never left his side. Through name changes, fake ID’s, therapy and dead end jobs she’d been more loyal than the Never blue sky in Summer Quarter. After she asked him if he was ever going to propose, they’d married, but with one stipulation.
                “No children?” Jane had asked, looking so forlorn it had nearly broken Peter’s heart. “Ever? What about therapy? You haven’t had a panic attack in months, not even around children.”
                “You almost done in there?” Jane called, snapping Peter out of the past. He turned on the faucet to finish rinsing his razor.
                Jane opened the door. “I’ve got to go. I’ll see you at the pub later? I’ll be singing something new that I wrote last week.”
                “Of course. Wouldn’t miss it.”
                “Sounds serious,” she said, giving him a pouty look. “Want to tell me about it?”
                Peter sighed. She really did need to get going, but he didn’t think he could wait the entire day to tell her. “Do you remember when I proposed?”
                “You mean when I proposed?” She pointed to her chest, her collection of bracelets sliding down her arm. She wore skinny jeans, ankle boots and a graphic tee that said “Have a mice day,” and was complete with a picture of a small, realistic looking mouse. She’d begun designing graphic T-shirts shortly after he’d finished training as a sky-diving instructor. Many of her T-shirts had been designed with a bit of Neverland inspiration, like the one with a drawing of the Talley Man’s face on a coffee mug that said, “Have you seen this mug?”
                Peter forced a grin. “No, I proposed.”
                “After I gave you the idea.”
                Peter shook his head, opting to give up the age old argument rather than engage in her invitation to banter.
                “Look,” he said, pointing to his head.
                “Look at what?” She stepped into the bathroom and peered up above his right ear.
                “Do you see it?”
                “See what?” Then she gasped and covered her mouth, probably hiding an enormous smile.
                “Peter, you’ve got a gray hair.”
                Peter looked in the mirror once more. “I think it’s white actually.”
                “Peaceful,” she said. “Aging is peaceful, just like the white fairies, remember?”
                Peter nodded. “I remember.” He leaned on the sink again, awash with emotion. He peered at his reflection once more, thinking of what he would look like when all his light brown became “peaceful.”
                “Are you okay?”
                “You don’t remember what I said when I proposed, do you?” He glanced in her direction, his hands still pressed against the counter for support.
                “That’s because I proposed to you.” She tilted her head and grinned, taunting him with those facetious eyes. “You shaved?” She reached out and rubbed his face. “Finally,” she said, and Peter received her peck to the side of his mouth with glee.
                He grabbed her hand before she could take it back and held it to his face. “I’m sorry I didn’t propose first,” he said. “But do you remember what I told you? And what I said about getting older, and gray hair?”
                Her phone began to ring and she fumbled trying to grab it with her free hand until Peter took it and silenced it. Only then did it seem to dawn on her. Her expression sobered, and all of her previous rushing seemed to vanish. “Peter, if this is a joke—”
                “I’m not joking. You know that really isn’t my style, especially when it could hurt you.”
                “You told me you wouldn’t consider having children until you started to get gray hairs.” She pulled her hand away from him, and she looked as though she was trying to process not only the memory, but the idea of it, her brain probably ignited with imaginings of their own little brood.
                Peter nodded. 
Her eyes brightened. “Children?”
                Peter smiled at her. How could he not when she grinned like that?
                “Our own children?”
                “Well, I was thinking we could start with one. See how it goes.”
                Jane let out a laugh and threw her arms around his neck, nearly knocking him over. Peter held fast, sinking his face into her neck. She sniffed and he pulled away to check for tears, which she not only wiped but insisted on denying the existence of.           
                “I’m fine, really. Awesome actually.” She continued to swipe her cheeks. “Now I’m going to have to fix my make-up.”
                “You look perfect,” Peter said, an adoration that he could not contain swelling in his chest. “As always.”
                She hugged him again, this time squeezing him around the middle. “Love you,” she said.
                He held her close and planted a gentle kiss on the top of her head. “You’d better go. I’ve got to finish getting ready, too. First jump is at ten.”
                She slipped away from him, blowing a kiss as she walked out. He guessed she’d have a hard time erasing that smile for days. Wouldn’t hurt her stage appeal, though. Peter loved watching her perform, and after their recent discussion, was all the more anxious to see and hear her tonight.

*   *   *

Peter’s last jump of the day had been a bit later, causing him to miss Jane’s first few numbers, but she looked electrified when she saw him come in. Peter ordered a sandwich at the bar and took a seat at a table facing the small stage stashed in a corner as Jane finished her current number.
                As Peter paused his chewing to applaud, Jane spoke into the microphone. “I wrote this song today after a rare and lucky strike of inspiration, and I’d like to dedicate it . . . to Peter.” 
                 A warmth flared in Peter’s cheeks. He hated when she mentioned him. For a moment, he bowed his head, self-conscious about the stares that might be coming his way. Trying to forget it, he took another bite of his sandwich, the salty beef and perfect bread nearly melting away the embarrassment. Jane picked a tune on her guitar, and as soon as the words began, Peter grew uneasy again. She’d written a few songs about Neverland, and it always unnerved him the first time he heard them. He checked over his shoulder to make sure the Talley Man wasn’t there. Even though he knew better, that they were now safely tucked away in Ireland, with a new Irish surname, and were careful to avoid having their pictures published in any way, it always frightened him to go back to the memory of it, at least in this setting. Peter’s worries increased when he realized the song was not only about Neverland, but him as well. He tried to relax and just enjoy the sound of her clear voice, and the picture of her sitting on that stool, legs crossed, arms hugging her guitar, and eyes closed so she could just feel the song. By now she was to the chorus.

"And you never thought you’d get away, from the fear that lived inside.
And I watched you time and time again, try to push it from your mind.
And even though
We made mistakes
I’d do it all again. I’d come to Neverland again.
To help you escape."

Enthralled, Peter focused on the words of the second verse.

"When insects glow in every shade,
And the seasons never seem to change.
When clouds and streams come and go
But everything else stays the same.
Try to remember where you’ve been,
But don’t forget where you are now.
All the lovely things you’ve seen
Are coming back to you somehow."

An instrumental bridge led into the chorus. Peter closed his eyes this time, and just listened, imagining himself standing on the cliff at the Black Caverns, looking out over Endal Ocean. No pirate ship threatened; not even a glimmer of fear could reach him. Gold and white fairies danced around him, and the perfect Summer Quarter sky enveloped him with warmth. The music slowed, and Peter thought he could feel the spray of a runaway ocean wave.

"And you never thought you’d get away, from the fear that lived inside.
And I watched you time and time again, try to push it from your mind.
And even though
We made mistakes
I’d do it all again. I’d come to Neverland again.
To help you escape."

The guitar finished, with Jane oohing along. Peter opened his eyes just in time to meet her gaze and see that smile, not the playful one, but the one that reminded him of the dimmed blue of the Never sky in Spring Quarter. The color of dawn. The color of a fairy who feels calm again after being worried. The color of reassurance.


Loralie Ricord said...


aunt katie said...

Finally got to read this - wonderful!!