My Darling Love

Chapter 78 – The Never Ending Story

"God gave us memories so that we may have roses in December."

-J.M. Barrie

"Mama!" Mary Elizabeth screamed, and then fell from her bed.

"Mary Elizabeth … Mary Elizabeth … What's wrong my precious baby?" Harriet shouted as she and her husband quickly ascended the stairs and ran into their daughter's room only to find her not there.

Mary Elizabeth was not a stupid child, when she awoke, she ran into her great grandmother's room. It had once been the old nursery when the Darling family lived there. Now only one remained, Wendy. Harriet found her daughter safely under the blankets alongside of Wendy, aged and wrinkled, nearing a century old. Wendy nodded to Harriet and Edgar, "Everything is alright, dearest hearts. I will talk to Mary Elizabeth and then send her back to bed."

Her doting parents left them alone for a few minutes and Mary Elizabeth began, without taking a breath, "I had the worst nightmare, Granny Wendy, I was flying with this boy called Peter Pan and he told me he could take me to a magical kingdom where I would never have to grow up. There was this queen he told me to be afraid of, so I was, but only until she told me I couldn't stay in her kingdom because if I did, then I would never get to see you, mommy, daddy, and Nana Jane again. I didn't believe her at first Granny, because Peter told me all these awful punishments she cast upon him, and Granny, I saw his scars with my own eyes. But she just said, he was very bad and was always trying to steal little children away from their mommies and daddies. She told me Peter wanted to turn me into a goldfish and then take me to a pet shop and drop me into a tank where I would get scooped up and sold to someone as a pet. She said she really didn't do all those nasty things to him, he's just a liar Granny Wendy, and you know what Nana Jane says about liars, 'tell one lie and no one will ever believe you again', like the little boy who cried wolf. Anyway, she said she does do some stuff, not that bad though, to teach him a lesson, like when daddy spanked my fanny for drawing on the wall with my crayons. Only Granny, that silly Peter Pan is stubborn and doesn't listen when she tells him not to do bad things. Really Granny, she's only mean because she doesn't want him to hurt somebody else that don't deserve to get hurt. She told me to escape I had to I had to eat a marshmallow and so I did and now I'm here in bed."

"What an amazing story! Well that settles it, no more ice cream with chocolate syrup before bed. What was the queen's name in your dream?" she asked, holding Mary Elizabeth about the shoulders close to her chest.

"She said her name was Martine. She said she knew someone named Mary Elizabeth and she thought my name was funny, too!" Mary Elizabeth whined. "I hate my name, Granny Wendy, it's so formal and fancy. 'Come to supper Mary Elizabeth…Don't get dirty before school, Mary Elizabeth…Put away your toys, Mary Elizabeth…Time for bed, Mary Elizabeth…' Oh, why can't my name just be Alice?"

"Oh no, Mary Elizabeth, your name is lovely, truly it is. And you are named for my mother, and that alone makes your name more beautiful than any other your mommy and daddy could have chosen. It is an honor to be named for someone who lived before you and accomplished great things in their life. It is a blessing, almost as if they are your personal guardian angel in heaven. Think of Nana Jane, she was named for my little sister. And your own mother, Harriet, she was named for my Uncle Harry and he was an amazing man. As a matter of fact, I think your Great-great grandpa Harry is second only to my own father, and there you have at least twelve uncles with the name of either George or Harry … Not to mention at least two dozen more cousins named that as well. And there are other family names, Michael, John, Joseph, Millicent, Margaret, Caroline…Goodness, Mary Elizabeth, you even named your own teddy bear, 'King Harold George Joseph Michael Bear', and insist on everyone calling him by his full title. 'Its tea time, King Harold George Joseph Michael Bear, remember your top hat and dress coat, the Queen is coming!' Now, if that is not a fancy, formal, regal name for a stuffed bear, I don't know what is!"

Mary Elizabeth giggled at Granny Wendy's imitation of her own silliness, but Wendy was very serious, and comfortingly she continued, "You see dearest, we give our children names of those out of the past, whom we loved tremendously, to keep their memory alive in our hearts. Just hearing their name spoken reminds us of all the good times, the happiness, the pride and joys they gave to us, and the hopes we need, the faith we must have in the future. And even though, they are heaven, they live on in the spirit of another, and so my love, because of this, they are never forgotten. Now, there is only one Mary Elizabeth, and that is you, sweetheart. You know, Mary Elizabeth is my very favorite name and that is why your mommy and daddy picked it. They wanted to name you Jenny, and for a time I agreed, but then I held you the very second you were born and your mommy asked what name would be fitting to a newborn as lovely as you, for Jenny would simply not due. And I told her, Mary Elizabeth for my mother, and my beloved, Mary Elizabeth Fisher you are," Wendy finished.

"I did tell Queen Martine that, Granny, I told her that was your mommy's name! I guess my name is alright, really, Granny, I do think it pretty, sometimes," Mary Elizabeth conceded, shrugging her shoulders and giving her great-grandmother such a funny expression of innocent acceptance, having been fated with the name, 'Mary Elizabeth Fisher,' Wendy, again, had to laugh. "At least I don't have to share my guardian angel with any of my cousins … and to be named 'Jenny', well, that would be just awful …

"Anyway, Granny, back to my story. So, Peter said Queen Martine was very ugly, but I thought her rather pretty and polite. And Granny, she told me I could eat anything I wanted in her gingerbread house and then I would get really sleepy and when I woke up I would be home. I was still a little scared -- you know mommy and daddy say I'm not supposed to take candy from strangers. She told me I was smart, and she never thought of that before. But then she said I was only dreaming, so it was okay. I told her I like toasted marshmallows, so she let me toast mine over her fire before I ate it. Then she kissed my cheek and told me to make sure I lock my window when I go back to sleep tonight, just in case. She said bad old Peter Pan is very daring now. He is a big fat old liar and I don't like him anymore! I told her my Granny Wendy would never let him take me to no place where I would turn into a goldfish. I said just be sure that I was well protected I was going to sleep in your bed with you tonight!"

"Alright, Mary Elizabeth, that is quite enough. Now Granny Wendy is tired and needs her rest. Go back to your room and I will tuck you in. Now dearest, please." Harriet and Edgar were listening at the door and hearing their own daughter go on about her imaginary land and friends made her parents giggle. Edgar lifted Mary Elizabeth into his arms and hugged her tightly, kissing her forehead, as she was already sleepy eyed once more. "Please, daddy, can't I sleep in Granny Wendy's bed tonight? I'm afraid of nightmares."

"Only if it is okay with Granny Wendy, Mary Elizabeth," Harriet spoke up from behind her husband.

"It's alright, Harriet and Edgar, she can stay tonight." Wendy granted her permission so Mary Elizabeth's mother and father allowed. Edgar gave Wendy her own kiss on the cheek as he departed back to the parlor and his evening paper.

Once her father left, Mary Elizabeth turned to Wendy and proudly said, "Queen Martine told me when the new baby comes, I have to stand guard and keep nasty old Peter Pan away because I will be the big sister and that's her special job! So that's what I'm going to do!"

"Oh really, a new baby, you say…" Wendy replied smiling to Harriet as she gave Mary Elizabeth her beloved teddy bear, King Harold George Joseph Michael Bear.

"It was to be a surprise," Harriet answered, trying her best to sound cross, as her lovely daughter revealed the special secret that was to be a birthday present to her grandmother, Gwendolyn Angelina Darling Dunange. But all for naught, Harriet only grinned from ear to ear as she sat down on the edge of the bed. "Edgar is hoping for a boy, and if it is, we shall name him James, and he will be another one of a kind, just like his sister."

"Thank you, Harriet. You see, Mary Elizabeth, he will not have to share his guardian angel either."

"Alright, now, Mary Elizabeth, to bed!" Harriet commanded, and her daughter obeyed after snuggling up with her stuffed bear, but not before telling her Granny Wendy after her mother turned out the light and retired herself, "The Queen also wanted me to remind you to say your prayers tonight before you go to bed."

Wendy was a little baffled for she always said her prayers. "That's all she said?"

Mary Elizabeth rested on the pillow next to Wendy just about to doze off. "Uh huh," she replied, nodding slowly.

"I will then, Mary Elizabeth, sweet dreams," Wendy told her softly.

"I love you, Granny Wendy." Mary Elizabeth's expression changed to one of sadness as she touched the wrinkled cheek of her great grandmother.

"I love you too, dearest," Wendy replied, turning off her bedside lamp.

In the darkness, Mary Elizabeth cuddled closely next to her Granny, and although Wendy could not see her great granddaughter, she was aware, Mary Elizabeth was not sleeping. "Dearest, what is wrong, you are not still scared are you?"

"No, its just…Granny, are you scared of pirates?" Mary Elizabeth whispered, a little scared herself.

"No, not at all Mary Elizabeth," Wendy replied, rather valiantly. "You know, Mary Elizabeth, some of my best friends were pirates when I was a young girl."

"Really, Granny?" Mary Elizabeth said excitedly, only to be shushed by Wendy as Edgar called up the stairs, "It does not sound like a sleeping little girl up there, Mary Elizabeth! Now go to bed!"

"Oh yes, Mary Elizabeth, now why would you ask such a question?" Wendy asked softly.

"There was a pirate ship that was sunk off the shore of Queen Martine's kingdom. It was awfully scary looking, Granny, all rotted away just sitting in the calm sea. Peter Pan told me that it can rise like a ghost from the dead at a moment's notice with a phantom crew that helms the mighty vessel. And when it does, Granny, that ship floats over the clouds of Queen Martine's kingdom and scoops up all the little children playing and takes them to a very bad place. He told me the Ghost Captain of the ship and him battled a long time ago, and Peter Pan won, so the Ghost Captain is not as strong as he used to be. Now he is a big huge chicken and hides when Peter Pan tries to catch him, he still wants to fight him, Granny, but the Ghost Captain is very good at the game of Hide and Go Seek, and poor Peter Pan has been 'it' forever! I was still to be wary when walking along in the fields of wildflowers and pastures of green grass, Peter Pan warned. He said the Ghost Captain is an ally of Queen Martine and helps her sometimes, although he did say the Queen and Pirate Captain really don't get along. Even the Ghost Captain thinks she is too mean and nasty. Peter Pan said she is supposed to be punishing the children for playing when they should be working, but sometimes she gets carried away being mean to him and the Ghost Captain has to take care of gathering up all the children and disciplining them. Peter Pan says when the Ghost Captain and his crew get all the children loaded on the ship; the vessel disappears off into the horizon and the children are never heard from again. But that bad old Peter Pan was probably just lying, trying to scare me, right Granny? I mean I don't have to worry about the Ghost Captain coming to get me and the new baby too, do I? I meant to ask Queen Martine, but I forgot…"

"So that's where you've been, Captain Hook," Wendy whispered, too quietly for Mary Elizabeth to hear.

Wendy looked toward the window and the moonlight that poured in through the open shades. "I'll have you know, Mary Elizabeth, pirates are rather charming gentlemen, that is, once you get to know them. And I'm sure that even if what Peter Pan said was true, and the little children get scooped up, I assure you the only place they are taken is home to their parents where they belong and are surely treated like first class passengers while on that pirate ship. Oh, I wish I were young again! What a sight that must be to see, a ghost ship rising from the dead and taking the sky, floating about the clouds like waves on the ocean. I'd dance in the grassy fields, hoping they would scoop me up and take me on that magical ride."

Mary Elizabeth giggled gleefully, "Oh, what fun that would be! I've never been on a boat before, Granny," covering her mouth with her hand to hush the noise of her laughter, "Tell me a story, Granny Wendy."

"Alright Mary Elizabeth, just one story, and then you absolutely must go to sleep."

Her great granddaughter gave her word; "Just one story about pirates that are nice and make the story end in a kiss, and I promise to go straight to sleep!" and so Wendy began:

"The name of my story is Beauty and the Beast. Once upon a time there was a pirate captain, named James Hook, and it was rumored throughout all the lands that he was the most dreaded and feared pirate of all. Now, there was a very young girl, her name was Gwendolyn, and it just so happens that this very fateful day, the dread pirate captain and the young girl unknowingly found themselves in the same place at the same time."

"Oh no!" Mary Elizabeth gasped.

"Oh yes," Wendy answered, "but you must be very quiet and not interrupt, Mary Elizabeth, or this story will take all night to tell, and you have school tomorrow. Now, where was I? Oh yes, here we go, on this day in particular while walking along in the forest path picking wild flowers, Gwendolyn lost her way. She was staying with her friends (we'll call them the 'lost boys,' Mary Elizabeth) and Gwendolyn was very frightened for she knew the pirate captain was out and about in the forest as well. It was only made worse, when she slipped on a pebble and hurt her foot, falling into the pond."

Mary Elizabeth chuckled, "Gwendolyn is clumsy," she whispered. Wendy smiled and nodded in agreement.

"Gwendolyn was soaking wet, and could not get up out of the water. She would have called for aid, but she was scared it would be a pirate captain that would come to the rescue and not her friends. She tried to stand, only to fall over once again, this time she got caught in the lily fronds that pulled her underwater. Now, she would have surely drowned had not someone lifted her out and carried her to the sandy beach near the pond, which, my dear, is exactly what happened. Her valiant savior told her, "You are alright now, beauty. Just rest in the sunlight for a bit and when you feel better, follow the rose petals back to your hut."

"Hut, granny?" Mary Elizabeth asked.

"Yes, when Gwendolyn stayed with her friends, the lost boys, she stayed in a tiny little hut they built for her."

"What did Gwendolyn do after she was rescued, Granny?"

"Well, she opened her eyes and saw the outline of a man standing above her. But she could not see his face, for the sun was directly behind him overhead. Twas' such a bright light that poured down from the heavens that day. She could see nothing, only hear his reassuring voice, and so, she listened. She rested a bit, and when she felt better, she rose and followed the rose petals, and they were a lovely crimson, back to her hut. She asked all of her friends, every one of them, if they had been the one to save her, and all denied that even knew she had ventured out into the forest that day. 'There was only one other person in the forest, and he was searching for us, to capture us and make us walk the plank on his pirate ship, so we know he is not the one who saved you!' they told her."

"Well, who saved her, Granny?" Mary Elizabeth questioned, intrigued by Wendy's tale.

"Captain Hook, of course," Wendy replied.

"He wouldn't save her, Granny…would he?" Mary Elizabeth queried. "I mean, how do you know?"

"I will tell you, Mary Elizabeth, now listen." Wendy changed her tone, speaking very softly now as she heard Edgar and Harriet climb the stairs of the old Darling House, on their way to bed. "Gwendolyn wanted to know for sure that it was in fact Captain Hook that rescued her from the pond, so she took another walk on that very path another day when she much older, a fair maiden, if you will. And just like before, she slipped on a pebble and fell head first into the pond. Only this time, she didn't drown; she just sat in the water and waited. Oh, it seemed as if I waited, I mean, she waited all day for him to come. And finally as the moon was high in the sky, he finally did. But he did not carry her out of the water, he only offered his hand and said, 'One does not become a mermaid by simply sitting in water. I have to tell you, fair maiden, if you are waiting to grow fins, you may have to wait forever. And even then, I'm not sure that will do it…"

Wendy laughed while recalling the memory, especially the look on her James' face as he tried to contain his hysterics, as she stood from the pond, covered not only in water but mud and muck as well. Wendy looked down and saw her great granddaughter had drifted off to sleep. "It's such a lovely tale, I must finish it, if only for my own ears," Wendy reasoned and so she went on.

" 'Wendy, darling,' Captain James Hook sneered and bowed before me. 'How lovely to come across you so late in the evening all alone and unattended by your trusted and loyal comrades.' He offered me his arm, just like a gentleman, and so I took it and began to stroll with him back into the forest. 'You know Captain Hook, I have been waiting all day for you,' I told him quite frankly and he gave me the most shocked looked, mockingly, you understand, but surprised at my words, nonetheless. 'Why ever would you be waiting for me?' he asked, as if he didn't know. He did, but just to be certain, I told him, 'To thank you for saving me from that very pond when I was a small child. I know it was you, Captain Hook, you need not deny your chivalrous act.'

" 'Oh really, fair maiden, and how do you it was I and not your Peter Pan?' He asked me, still in that annoyingly mocking tone. So I explained how I knew for sure it was undoubtedly he that was my knight in shining armor, 'You called me Beauty, Captain Hook. Yes, you said, "You are all right now, beauty. Just rest in the sunlight for a bit and when you feel better, follow the rose petals back to your hut." I know it was you for you think me beautiful.

" 'I most certainly do not,' he replied arrogantly, straightening his dress coat, shifting about uncomfortably on his feet, so much so it made me giggle and more determined for him to see the truth of the situation as clearly as I. I simply told him, 'Yes, yes, you do.'

" 'Oh really…' he sneered, as if I would lie about such a thing, so I again corrected his error with, 'Yes, you called me Beauty again, only a day later…therefore I know you think me beautiful.'

" 'I did? I called you Beauty? Oh no, you must be mistaken.' he retorted, rather surprised to find my memory better than his own.

" 'Yes, only a day later while onboard the Jolly Roger you said "Go ahead, Beauty, give Pan your precious thimble.' I reminded him bluntly. 'That proves Captain Hook, you think me beautiful.'

'Oh yes, now I remember. And you gave Pan your thimble. He is the one who thinks you are beautiful,' he conceded with an odd disappointment. But I could never allow him to think it was Peter Pan that still held my heart, so I said, 'I was just a girl then, I am a woman now…'

" 'And your thimble is still for him,' he replied dismally, but at the same time almost relieved. Oh yes, he nearly choked on his tongue when I corrected, 'No, my thimble is for you.'

" 'Ah Beauty, how fickle a woman's heart is,' he jested, and with that simple sentence he captured my heart forever. 'See, Captain Hook … you called me Beauty again…' "

Wendy lost in her own mind had not noticed Mary Elizabeth stirred from her slumber. "Did you kiss him, Granny?" Wendy turned her tired old head down to her great granddaughter and smiled, "Not on the mouth, he only my brushed his lips gently over my hand that night, see Mary Elizabeth, I told you pirates were gentleman. Good night and sweet dreams, my love."

Wendy said her prayers and rested her head back on her pillow closing her eyes after she was sure Mary Elizabeth was busy in her own sweet dreams. There was a strange wind that blew into the room, and Wendy opened her eyes to see the outline of a boy standing on the sill. "Wendy?" he whispered.

It was very dark without the lamp, and only the ashes left smoldering in the fireplace gave the old nursery its light. "Peter? Peter Pan?" Wendy asked softly, doing her best to sit up.

Now Peter could not see Wendy, only her shape in the shadows. "I heard you telling a story and I just had to come back…" He could not see Mary Elizabeth either, only able to sense the presence of a child not ready yet to grow up in the room. "Is that John?" he asked drifting near her overhead looking down.

"No, Peter, John is gone."

"Michael then?" he questioned happily.

"No, Michael is gone too, many years ago in fact."

"Ah…so this is a new one?" he said, landing at the foot of the bed.

"Yes, she is only a little girl. Her name is Mary Elizabeth Fisher, and you have already made her acquaintance, so I've heard," Wendy answered.

"Mary Elizabeth … sounds familiar," Pan whispered in the cold night air. "I thought you once told me your parents could not have more children, Wendy?" Peter suddenly jerked his head about the room, placing his attention on the door that lead to the hallway, "Your father isn't home, is he?"

"No Peter, my father isn't home, nor is my mother. They have passed on."

"Passed on? You mean they're dead! Then whom does this child belong to?" Peter laughed at George and Mary's demise, and questioned Mary Elizabeth's paternity with great interest. "She belongs to her parents, Harriet and Sir Edward Fisher. And I'll have you know, they are both at home, asleep in their bedroom."

"So why is she here with you? Are you her guardian angel? No, you're not an angel. You are her nanny!" Peter made his best guess, as Wendy shifted to turn on the light. With a flick of the switch, the room was illuminated and Peter Pan cast his eyes to Wendy Darling Dunange, an elderly woman unrecognizable in her aged beauty. "Who are you?" Peter shouted as he jumped across the room back to the window.

"I am Wendy, Peter, and I am not a nanny. I grew up, and got married and had babies. My babies had babies, and their babies had babies and so on. Mary Elizabeth is my great-granddaughter, and I ask you kindly to stay far away from her as she has already told me of your adventures with her this night."

As Wendy recounted her life story in short, Peter Pan cried tears, repeating, "No, no, no, no Wendy…" over and over again.

"Yes, Peter, I married James, my James and had four children by him. Now, my eldest child, my eldest daughter who is the spitting image of my pirate captain, her name is Jane. And Jane gave me Harriet and Harriet gave me Mary Elizabeth. Isn't she lovely, Peter? Can you not see him in her? Oh, she is an angel from heaven. Is that why you snatched her from her bed?" Wendy looked up to see Peter Pan on his knees weeping real tears.

"She is pretty, Wendy, so very pretty. She promised to stay with me in Neverland forever, and then she just left. All children leave now, no one stays anymore and I am alone. Can I not take her back with me and keep her forever?"

"Oh no, Peter. You cannot have her for she belongs to her parents and me and Captain Hook. He would never let you take her from us."

Feeling her stare, Peter quickly stood and pulled his dagger, "Where is he, where is Captain Hook? Let us battle tonight for this little girl's hand and end this forever. I'm tired of playing this game! NO MORE HIDE AND SEEK! Captain Hook thinks himself smart and very sneaky! I can't see him, but I know he is there sometimes in Neverland! I can hear Queen Martine and him fighting, yelling and screaming at one another, as the full moon rises high into the sky and heavy fog and cold encompasses the island! Its not supposed to snow when I am in Neverland! Now there are cruel blizzards that last forever and I freeze while that wicked queen toasts marshmallows over her cozy fire in her comfy castle. She never suffers! Why am I always the one that has to suffer now! No matter what I do, I cannot tempt Captain Hook back into our game! It is an endless torture to have to always fight a girl! Queen Martine does not play games and she never lets me win! Look what she has done to me, Wendy, LOOK!" Peter Pan stepped into the light to show the evidence on his body of the hell he lives in at the hands of his new foe, an evil Queen, who knows not mercy or compassion.

Wendy did not look at Peter Pan. She held her gaze to her great granddaughter as her ears fell deaf to his words. And so, Peter Pan continued in the same troubled tone, intent on being heard, "I wish to do battle with a Pirate Captain, Wendy, who lets me win sometimes just to be nice! Where is he? You go get him for me right now! I KNOW HE IS HERE WITH YOU!"

Wendy smiled, and removed a framed picture of her and James taken on their wedding day from her nightstand, truly not at all listening to his crazed ranting. It was James Dunange in the picture, at least to everyone else that looked at it. But to Wendy, it was and would always be Captain James Hook at his happiest, her immortal beloved frozen in time, forever. Touching her hand to his face, gazing at his handsome expression, she sighed and clutched the photo to her chest. "He died, Peter, long ago …"

"Hah! I told you, Wendy! If he was real he was going to die! And now he is dead! No wonder I can't see him anymore! He truly is the Ghost Captain of Neverland! Good! And you are all alone! And unloved! And very old and ugly with all your wrinkles! HAH! FINALLY! I WON! I WON! At least I still get to win where that fool of a pirate captain is concerned!" he interrupted her, and danced about gleefully in his victory, taking to his happy thoughts that made him airborne, cavorting near the ceiling.

"I may be old, but I am not alone. No, I have children that live, and grandchildren, and great grandchildren, even my brother John is still living, Peter. He has children that live, as well as grandchildren, great grandchildren…why he even has a great-great grandchild, if you can believe," she gently brushed a few strands of Mary Elizabeth's dark hair from her face as she slept peacefully.

"And they all love me and I love them. Death may have parted Captain Hook and me here on earth, but in heaven … well, that is another story. So, go on, Peter, go back to your endless adventures, for I have plenty of my own that will live on far longer than you will. And there is nothing you can do to rob me of them. When I die, which I pray will be soon, Captain Hook and I will be together, for eternity. Now, please be kind to the elderly woman I am now, and close the window when you leave."

There was a loud thump in the room, the sound of a boy who chose not to grow up and learn the lessons of love and life, falling from the ceiling, his happy thoughts of endless misadventures stolen away. He knelt before Wendy's bed and removed his dagger from its sheath. "If the heart offends thee, dearest, cut it out…" Wendy whispered.

Peter Pan looked intently at the dagger, its sharp blade shining in the moonlight, "NO! It's my heart and I'm not giving it up for nobody! I'll show you, Wendy! One day … yes, one day, you will want me to save you again and take you to Neverland! And it will be too late! For I could never love an old lady like you! HA! What do you think about that?"

If Wendy thought anything, she didn't say it aloud. She only softly spoke her nightly prayer, "Please God, have mercy on Peter Pan and forgive his sins. Guide him back to the lights of Your heavenly graces and shower upon him compassion and mercy," and drifted off to sleep. But there was another in the room, another soul present that had an opinion on the matter, and as Peter Pan slowly stepped to Wendy's bedside, that soul moved from the shadows and into the moonlight to give voice, "Proud and insolent youth! Prepare to meet thy doom!"

Peter Pan ran full speed to the window and leapt out into the night sky, the second the first syllable of that bone chilling purr hit his ears. Frightened for his life, he flew just as quickly away as he would have had he been filled with happy thoughts, as opposed to the terrifying feelings he had grown strangely accustomed to. Her royal highness, the dreaded and feared, Queen Martine slowly glided across the room to the window. She rolled her eyes, quite annoyed that anyone, least of all Wendy Darling, would be praying for the lost soul of Peter Pan. As she looked out after the fleeing Pan, she cast her gaze to the heavens and sneered, "I thought You said this was going to be a very challenging game? Tricky and daunting, yes, that is what You said. Really, 'tis no competition at all, it's just too easy. I've actually grown bored of this…"

"I imagine it being too easy, as you say, is what makes it boring. The tricky and challenging part will begin when you are ready to save Pan, as opposed to the punishment of his poor tortured soul you delight in now. Where others have failed, you must succeed. I am aware you think it untrue, but vengeance is Mine, my girl, not yours. Now, it will be a daunting task, I assure you, when you embark on that adventure, for Peter Pan IS proud and insolent. But, within the heart I have entrusted him, he has the potential to do great good. There will be no more children brought to Neverland; the game has ended here with Mary Elizabeth Fisher. Lucifer has already conceded his defeat, yet again, and waved the white flag. And so, your majesty, you may commence with the next phase of our plan as soon as you return to your kingdom. Allow Me to make one tiny suggestion?"

Martine frowned and crossed her arms over her chest, "Fine …" she acceded reluctantly, shaking her head.

"Follow James Hook's advice, dear heart. If a darkened heart cannot save Peter Pan, perhaps now, an enlightened one will."

"And what of your foe, Lucifer? I wonder what he would say about his prize soldier changing sides. Surely, even if he has conceded defeat, he would never agree to that …"

"Since you have asked, Lucifer has deemed Peter Pan a mere casualty in his plight. He thinks of Pan as weak and cowardly, and as always, he has abandoned him. I must say, Martine, you seem quite confident that your new mission will be an effortless one, that the victory I have asked for is already won."

"I never said that, Dearest Lord. But, I will not accept defeat! No one will rob me of my salvation! Now, if You would excuse me, there is much work to be done." Martine bowed before the Lord, and blinked instantly back to her castle.

"SMEE!!" she shouted, and as her second-in-command came scurrying, she again yelled, "As soon as you see Peter Pan out and about, kindly, and I MEAN KINDLY, SMEE, invite him to the castle for tea with the Queen. And if he should happen to decline my invitation, I want you to tie him up and DRAG HIM HERE! Fret not about his ability to fly away, powerless, alone and unloved, he has no happy thoughts…" she continued as she stalked to her throne and took a seat pompously upon it.

"One more thing, Queen Martine, please remember that patience is a virtue, as are kindness and mercy. And you will need to learn them before you can even hope for success and salvation. Educate yourself with the simple lessons quickly, my dear. A wise man once said, you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink."

"Alright, alright …" Martine waved her hand, shaking off the almighty Lord's words. "Fine!" In a much more welcoming and -- dare say -- polite tone (if that was possible) Queen Martine repeated her command, "Mr. Smee, please invite Peter Pan to the castle for afternoon tea. If he declines today offer him a blanket for warmth, a gift from me, Queen Martine, as an act of good faith. We shall seek him out tomorrow and ask him nicely again, this time we shall give him something else to show we are peaceful and compassionate to his most unfortunate situation. And we will ask him each day after that, just as nicely, until he accepts. Thank you."

Alas, she was still wicked, and shrieked, "NOW DO AS I SAY THIS VERY MOMENT FOR I AM TIRED OF WAITING!"

Queen Martine looked heavenward and yelled, "IF YOU WOULD BE SO KIND DEAREST LORD, TELL THAT PIRATE CAPTAIN TO MIND HIS OWN BUSINESS FROM NOW ON BECAUSE I AM SIMPLY TOO BUSY TO BE BOTHERED LISTENING TO ALL HIS FOOLISH IDEAS AND EVEN MORE STUPID OPINIONS ON HOW TO COMMAND THIS KINGDOM! THIS IS A CASTLE AFTERALL, NOT A CANOE!"

"If I remember correctly, you were the one who originally asked for his advice," God sent a bolt a lightening to put the period on the end of his sentence, which hit the marble floor nearest Martine's throne, causing the wicked queen to cower. "I assure you he is the one who will be too busy to be bothered with you from now on. And heed my words, young lady, I will never return Captain Hook to Neverland evermore … not even for you."

Martine stood up on her throne proudly, about to give voice with another rude and rather discourteous comment she had become infamous for. But she was silent for God warned, "Don't make me come down there, Martine Penelope Darling!"

"Granny…" Mary Elizabeth spoke shaking her great grandmother awake.

"Yes, dearest …"

"Mommy says she will bring up your breakfast in a minute. I'm off to school now, I love you." Mary Elizabeth kissed her cheek and was gone in flash. Wendy only had enough time to peek through her tired eyelids and see the lovely little girl dash out the bedroom door. "I love you too, dearest, always …"

Wendy closed her eyes and returned to her slumber. As she drifted further and further away, she listened to her heart beat. It pounded in rhythm, "James, James, James …" Suddenly it stopped … and then began again, Captain Hook, Captain Hook, Captain Hook …"

Wendy opened her eyes …

Gwendolyn Angelina Darling stood on a beach, not of Neverland, but another paradise she had never seen. She was in her mother's wedding dress, a gown she always had dreamed of wearing, with a bouquet of pink roses in full bloom clutched in right hand. She was now as she appeared at the time Captain Hook knew her best. She looked off into the horizon as the sun rose on what was to be the first day of her next awfully big adventure. In the waters of the calm sea was the good pirate ship the Jolly Roger in its glory, with sails raised, waiting to embark onward. Captain James Hook stepped out of his cabin and to the rails as the sunlight poured down from the heavens.

Wendy, seeing him emerge, quickly ran to the water, ready to swim to the ship to see her darling love if need be. As the skirts of her dress touched the first drops of salt water, Mary Elizabeth Baker Darling screamed out, "Dearest Wendy, don't ruin my dress!"

Wendy jerked her head to see her parents sitting across from one another in a rowboat, rowing to shore. George and Mary Darling, dressed in their Sunday best, younger than Wendy ever remembered them being, even as a child, helped her on board.

"You didn't think God would make you swim to the ship, did you, dearest?" Mary asked, holding a parasol as Wendy took her place next to her father. Her mother was dressed in the prettiest peach spring gown and her father a handsome suit of cream complete with yellow tie, spectacles and hat. He wore his wedding band and pocket watch, which Wendy was correct in her assumption; "I was very cross with your mother when she buried me without them."

Mary also wore her wedding band with Uncle Harry's engagement ring keeping it company on her finger, "He asked your father if I could still wear it, and he told your Uncle Harry he would be honored," Mary explained, grinning to her handsome husband turning the boat about with the oars.

But that did not matter where they were now. "Away we go on this lovely morning with the two loveliest ladies I have ever seen in my lives," George offered as he began to paddle. Wendy looked both her parents over thoroughly, delighted to see them. They made it to the boat without getting wet, and even helped Wendy up the rope ladder to the ship. "Now remember to stop by and visit with everyone! There are those, Gwendolyn, that are, pardon the expression, dying to see you!" Mary called out, waving to Captain Hook after Wendy was safely on deck. He bowed respectfully to the Queen of hearts and her King.

"You are not coming along, too?" Wendy asked her parents as they gazed adoringly at one another as if not another person in heaven or on earth existed except George and Mary.

"No, dearest Wendy," George responded. "But if you ever want to see us, we'll be there." Her parents smiled to her once more, blowing a kiss before returning their eyes to the other as they drifted off into the waters on their rowboat together out of sight.

After a passionate welcoming kiss that made Wendy all but faint, she asked, "What were my parent's doing here? Why did you not come and retrieve me. Still busy chasing after Peter Pan, I heard…"

Captain Hook held her from behind and tenderly rested his head on her shoulder. "Peter Pan? Whatever made you think of him, Gwendolyn? I wanted to come and retrieve you, but your mother and father are the ones, my darling love, who insisted on guiding you home … just as they always promised. As for Peter Pan…" Captain Hook could not complete his sentence. There was to be no sadness in heaven, thus, Captain Hook could only gaze outward to the open calm seas before him.

Wendy turned and faced him. "You must know by now, you have my heart, James, please do not let the mention of his name ruin our eternity." She touched his cheek and again placed a perfect kiss upon his lips.

"I did all that was asked of me. I played my part to perfection and am to be rewarded now. If it were not for me, Peter Pan would never have a heart, or a chance for redemption and salvation. But there is no reward if the worry of his well-being shadows your mind. He must serve his penance as I served mine, and when he is done and has proven himself worthy, he will not have only saved himself, but Martine Darling, the evil Queen of Neverland, as well," Captain Hook replied stepping away from her toward his cabin. "Maybe it is best that you stay with James Dunange and your family that awaits you on shore." Captain Hook extended his hand, and Wendy followed the direction, whirling about to see everyone from Aunt Millicent to Grandpa Joe waving from the sandy beaches. She flew back around to see Captain Hook, who in that moment, was gone from her sight.

"NO!" she cried out and collapsed to her knees. And as she fell to the wooden planks, she fell into Captain Hook's arms, where she truly wanted to stay for eternity, thus she whispered, "Where did you go?"

"Away."

"And why did you return?" she asked and he answered in the same hushed tone, only with a hint of sarcasm, "Either you really are daft, or still just don't listen. Your parents told you, when you want to see them, they will be there, did they not?"

Wendy thought of her parents and there they were, still dressed as they were in the rowboat, only now standing arm in arm at the rail of the ship. Mary gave Wendy a backwards glance and casually remarked, "Heaven is a rather unusual place when you are not used to it, Wendy. Please take some time, as you now have forever, and get used to it. Not that we mind seeing you, dearest love, but we just saw you only a moment ago. Is there not someone else you would rather be with right now?"

George agreed with that, and added, "Yes, your mother and I wish to be alone, just her I, together, undisturbed, forever. I'm sure we will see you again soon…but not too soon." With that being said, George and Mary vanished.

Wendy perked up and gazed at Captain Hook wide-eyed, excited by the very simple lesson she learned rather quickly. "You know, Captain Hook, forever is an awfully long time," she almost sang as she stood and pulled him to his feet. "And now that we have forever, we shall follow the good example my parents set, and stay together … forever … undisturbed."

Captain Hook did his best to stutter a rebuttal, "Don't you want to see …" But no matter what name he thought up, Wendy only shook her head and repeated, "Nope, just you and I … forever!"

Finally, he conceded with a chipper grin, rather uncharacteristic of his normally somber disposition. "As you wish, my Beauty," he replied, bowing elegantly at the waist before her. He took her hand in his and twirled her about on the deck, "Shall we dance?"

"Yes, let's waltz to a lovely melody…" Wendy giggled, meeting his steps in flawless timing. He dipped her quickly and began ravaging her neck, showering her with kisses, "On no, fair maiden, today we must tango …"

Their lips met, in the perfect kiss found only in heaven, and together, they lived happily ever after.

THE END

"For Anna…"

Author's Note: I want to thank Cheetahlee for all her wonderful hard work reading, rereading, and at times, reading it all over again once more. Your patience with all my plots and subplots, seen and unseen, was priceless and greatly appreciated. I've said this once before, but I must repeat it, thank you for waving your magic wand over my torrid tale, enchanting it into perfection! Your comments and questions throughout, inspired me more than you will ever know and led me to places I would have never thought to go. Thank you…

Thank you to my readers that kept on through the darkness and shadows, determined to see the glorious light at the end. There are some downright awful chapters, painful on the eyes, believe me, it was just as hard to write them as it was to read them. I got lost within the story myself at times, thank you for your persistence to follow behind me, trusting that I knew where I was going with all of this. Thank you for your valiant and very courageous efforts. Thank you for all the feedback, good and bad, it helped me along immensely.

If you've been reading along, and have not yet left feedback, please do. I'm very curious of how my readers feel about this story. It was, and still is in a way, my obsession. Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments.

COMING SOON: "The Pirate Princess"