Disclaimer: Peter Pan, all characters, places, and related terms belong to J.M. Barrie. However, the plot belongs to me.
Author's Note: Just another fluffy plot bunny that hit me this afternoon. Please let me know what you think!
"He loves me, he loves me not." Two petals were gently pulled from the flower's head. "He loves me…" a third, "he loves me not…" and a fourth.
Tootles sat down in the shade next to Wendy who rested her back against the rough bark of an oak tree, taking a break from the fierce battle he and the others had been fighting among themselves for the last half hour. He was distracted from watching his comrades by Wendy's quiet mutterings, and he watched with puzzlement as she plucked a petal from the delicate daisy with each "he loves me" and "he loves me not."
"What are you doing, Mother?" he asked.
Wendy jerked her head and stared at him for a moment in surprise, then lowered her eyes, her cheeks flaming in embarrassment. She had not been aware of his presence.
"I'm playing a game," she said in low voice, fiddling nervously with the daisy.
Tootles eyes lit up in excitement. "Ooo! A game? Could you teach me?" He had never seen anything like this game before and was greatly interested.
Wendy was astonished by Tootles's sincere, innocent request. "I suppose," she stuttered.
Tootles smiled happily at her and jumped excitedly to his feet. "Twins, Slightly, Curly, Nibs, John, Michael!" he called to the others.
They stopped their fighting and turned to Tootles.
"Mother's going to teach us a game!" he cried joyfully.
Wendy gaped at the boy, completely speechless. She watched with half-anticipation and half-dismay as the other boys cheered wildly and hurried towards her. She swallowed hard as nervous butterflies fluttered in her stomach. Eventually the boys all seated themselves around her and gazed at her with admiration and expectation. Wendy took a deep breath.
"Well, you take a flower and pull off a single petal, saying, 'he loves me,' then you take another petal off and say, 'he loves me not.'" She demonstrated. "And you just do it again and again until all the petals are gone."
The boys all started speaking at once.
"One at a time, please!" Wendy raised her voice. "Nibs?"
"What is the game called?"
Wendy knitted her brows together. "I have never heard what the game is called; I'm not sure if it does have a name."
"Why do you pull off all the petals?" one of the twins questioned.
"Because the last petal will tell you if…you are loved or not," Wendy explained, blushing again.
"The poor flower!" Curly mourned softly.
"This seems just the sort of game a girl would play," Slightly whispered to John.
"So, who is the 'he' in the game?" the second twin asked.
Wendy searched for an answer. "No one really, like it's just what you have to say."
"Loved or not…by a parent, or a child?" Tootles wondered.
"Er…yes, uh no, sort of…it's kind of difficult to explain," Wendy flustered, refusing to meet any of the boys' eyes.
"What kind of love is there besides that of a parent and child?" Tootles wondered, understanding Wendy's words better than the other Lost Boys.
They all looked at each other questioningly and shrugged their shoulders – all except John who stared down at the green grass at his feet, and a telltale blush slowly mounted in his face. Wendy noted her brother's strange state but did not have time to wonder about it.
"So during this game you are not actually thinking of a certain person?" Slightly asked.
"Do you think of anyone, Mother, while you do the game?" asked Curly.
Wendy shrugged nonchalantly. "No. It does not matter. It is only a game."
"Can we try?" Michael requested.
The others all nodded their heads eagerly and clasped their hands in an imploring manner, which was both touching and amusing.
Instead of feeling embarrassed as she had since the boys gathered round her, Wendy was filled with amusement and stifled the giggles that bubbled up inside her. The boys wanted to play a girlish game? A game, she had been told, that revealed if the one you loved (not the love you held for a parent, child, or friend) returned your affections? An older cousin had explained the matter to Wendy. When you played the game, you thought of the one boy you loved in all the world and repeated, "he loves me, he loves me not," discarding a petal each time. If the last petal was "he loves me," then it meant the boy also loved you. But if it ended with "he loves me not," then, her cousin had claimed, you would die of a broken heart. Wendy had been told that it was really a girlish game that older girls played.
This was the first time Wendy herself had played it, and she was not really sure if she did it in seriousness or jest. She had pictured one boy as she played, but she would never admit it to the boys. No, never. She had suffered enough embarrassment for one day.
"Well, it is really a game only girls play…" she began to answer Michael.
The boys immediately objected. "Oh, please! We want to play! Do let us! May we please try! We have been quite good children! Dear pretty mother! Please!"
How could she refuse them? She was also outnumbered. "Very well," she consented.
The boys were cheering when Peter joined them; he had been in another part of the island. Wendy hid her face behind her hair and, peeking once in a while at the boys surrounding their leader, listened as they, talking over each other in excitement, explained to Peter about Wendy's new game.
When all had at last been related to him, he grinned and said, "I would like to play, too."
Wendy nearly fell over at these words. And her embarrassment returned.
Soon everyone was once again seated, with a daisy in their hand and they then began. Wendy stopped them all after one petal had been discarded.
"You should say, 'she loves me,' not 'he loves me.'"
"Why?" the twins asked together.
"Because you all are boys, and it is a girl you are wondering about."
"But we don't know any girls. Besides you, Mother," Nibs added quickly.
"It is just a game," Curly said to him. "You don't have to actually think about a certain girl."
Wendy watched the game continue. It went pretty well after that first interruption. Though sometimes someone would say "she loves me not" twice in a row and would get all confused when she tried to correct. Also once in a while several petals were accidentally pulled off at once instead of just one. Only Tootles, John, and Peter did not make a mistake during the course of the game. Nibs finished first.
"I have 'she loves me,'" he stated, holding up the final petal. He looked questioningly at Wendy. "Is that a good thing?"
"Yes, Nibs. That means…you are loved," Wendy said, her cheeks pinking.
"What if we get 'she loves me not'?" Slightly piped up.
"That would not be good; you are unloved then. But it is only play," she reminded him.
Gradually, as each boy finished his flower and rejoiced that he got 'she loves me,' they all wandered off to amuse themselves. Now Wendy's only companions were John and Peter.
Gently, her brother plucked the last petal from his flower and whispered, "She loves me." He met Wendy's eyes and grinned happily. Returning his smile, she wondered if this had not just been a silly game to him.
"Wendy, you never finished your flower," John said, pointing to the flower that rested forgotten in the palm of her hands.
Wendy lifted the daisy up and resumed her game. "He loves me, he loves me not. He loves me, he loves me not. He loves me, he loves me not…"
Peter and John watched each petal float to the ground in a perfumed shower.
"He loves me not." She held the last petal in her hand for a moment before the wind took it away. She smiled, a little sadly perhaps, and laughed. It was only a game after all.
John looked at her with understanding sympathy before he, too, went off. Wendy turned her eyes to Peter as he also finished his game. The boys' laughter drowned out his voice. But she knew the outcome by the satisfied look on his face.
With a quiet sigh she moved her head to face the boys and watched as they began a game of tag. She was unaware of Peter reclining himself next to her until he gently took her hand and squeezed it. All secret feelings of disappointment dissolved, and a tiny smile of contentment touched her face. Now she was in bliss.