Some childish things are never put to rest
Have you ever stopped to wonder what life would have been if you'd never had to grow up? What you may be doing at this very moment were you not tied down with the trials and tribulations of everyday life? You would be free. Not a care in the world. Only possibility, hope and curious excitement every waking moment knowing there was another adventure to conquer just around the corner.
While we all may wish to remain children forever, there are those of us who know that cannot be. There are responsibilities in the world. There is order and propriety and all of those things that young children despise. With all of those abhorred things ahead, who would ever long to grow up?
Wendy Darling, famed in Neverland for her adventure with the nimble young Peter Pan was thinking of suchthings as she sat perched beside the large window of her old nursery, looking out into the dark, snowy London night before her. The air outside the window was cool, and the crisp night air whirled past her like a lost playmate.
She had grown up.
Peter had never come for her again. She'd never hear that sweet boyish melodious strain of his victorious cry again. She'd never even had a glimmer of the excitement in London, the way she'd had in Neverland. Peter would never return. But had she ever tried to call him back?
She almost thought she could hear his distant laugh.
"Oh Peter..." she whispered wistfully.
The young woman spun around to face behind her looking to her mother in surprise. She hadn't even heard the soft padding footsteps of her mother, evidently she had been immersed in deep nostalgia.
"Mother," she said with an uneasy smile as she came in from the cold, her dark hair knotted from the wind's explorations of her hair, some faint remnants of snowflakes sticking in parts. "You startled me."
"It wasn't my intention." The older woman's eyes crinkled as she glanced around the room and at last her daughter and spoke. "You haven't been in here in ages."
It was true. Michael and John were at an all boys boarding school, getting the education they so richly deserved according to her Aunt.
Meanwhile, Wendy had been moved into a room of her own as the years went on and finishing school was completed. A room where according to Aunt Millicent, 'young ladies' should reside.
Wendy Darling was just shy of twenty now, and while she still retained that of childlike innocence, she was almost completely a grown up. How she hated that term. How she hated being grown up. She was always polite, always on her best behavior.
Oh, how Wendy longed for her past adventures. Mermaids, Indians, pirates...a distinct villain appeared in her subconscious then, a tall man with a hook for a hand and she shuddered at the memory. If there was one thing to taint her memories past, it was Peter's past adversary, Captain Hook.
"A bit." Wendy lied, closing the window behind her as she made her way to the door of the nursery. She looked at the long forgotten toys she used to play with, the clothing she used to dress up in as she, John and Michael had battled the high seas.
What had happened when she returned from Neverland? What had happened to her? When did she seemingly die inside? Where was her sense of adventure? Had it all been lost at that finishing school Aunt Millicent had boasted on and on about?
Wendy suddenly heaved a large sigh, wishing to fall into her waiting bed as soon as possible. Images of a laughing Peter, of curious lost boys and menacing pirates floated from her mind, replaced with that of her latest (completely dull) novel about manners and all things tedious.
She smiled though, knowing that a newly found book on mermaids and fairies would surely make its journey up from between her mattress and onto her lap.
"Aunt Millicent wishes to see you before you retire." Her mother was talking again, waking Wendy from her momentary reverie. The younger girl nodded darkly, looking up a moment.
"She usually does."
Wendy left down the stairs primly, not screaming at the top of her lungs as she slid down the banister. No, only her flat palm made contact with the aforementioned banister, and she was sure to take her time making her way down the staircase. She didn't wish to see her Aunt more than necessary.
She was suddenly aware of her mother's presence on the stairs not even two steps behind her and this worried her slightly.
"Mother," Wendy said absently looking behind her, "I thought I was to see Aunt Millicent alone."
"No dear." Mrs. Darling was beaming slightly, looking to her daughter with a grand smile. "We're all meeting in the study, along with your father."
Wendy's stomach sank at the mention of the three of them. She and the three adults in the study? This could only mean that something truly horrifyingly serious was about to occur, she tried to calm the tremor in her stomach.
She stepped into the study, with her mother closing the door behind her. She saw her father and Aunt talking dimly to one another until they heard the door close, in which their attention was completely drawn upon the young Wendy.
It was then that Wendy noticed the small piece of parchment in her father's hands. Wendy's eyes widened as she noted this, and felt her mother gently prodding her into a nearby chair. She fell into the chair, not able to take her eyes off of the item in her father's hand.
Mr. and Mrs. Darling beamed at each other as they turned to their daughter, her normally pallid looking father looked extremely excited and this only caused Wendy's stomach to drop further.
"Jack has made his intentions clear." Her father burst out, not even giving her a chance to collect herself. Wendy already felt the swelling, suffocating feeling taking over.
"And I have given my consent." Mr. Darling finished proudly.
Jack Belstow was an eligible man. He was handsome, polite, well off but in Wendy's eyes, completely dull. When she'd tried relaying her many adventurous stories he'd given her a patronizing smile and pat on the hand before he informed her he' wasn't one for stories'.
Wasn't one for stories? Was that even possible? Wendy had known then that she could never love Jack. Not just because he was dull and unbelievingly uninspiring, but also because he had never been able to elicit the slightest of butterflies in Wendy's stomach. Something she found to be quite worrisome. Even his kisses were demure, boring even. Where was the passion she'd read about? The kind of fire that men killed for! The kind that star-crossed lovers fought for! The dramatic, timeless love stories she'd grown up with!
No. Jack Belstow would never do.
It was time her parents should know this. She'd played the charade of the polite daughter quite enough. Polite was one thing, but to sign her life away all for supposed propriety was quite another.
"I do not wish to marry." Wendy managed to choke out, finding the whole process of rebuffing her would be lover to be much harder than imagined.
"What was that sweetheart?" Mrs. Darling offered with a terse smile, wishing the prior sentence away.
"I said," Wendy muttered darkly, her voice almost a growl "I do not wish to marry."
"What is wrong with Jack?" Millicent said, busying herself with wringing her hands together worriedly. "He's a most kind, eligible bachelor."
"It's not Jack." Wendy said, finally drawing her gaze to meet that of her family. "I just do not wish to marry."
There was a lapsing silence in which the older parties looked to one another in confusion. Wendy could hear the distant ticking of the grandfather clock for a full moment before someone found the courage to speak.
"Ever?" Her father gulped, looking more lost than ever.
Wendy's voice was firm, the power behind her words steadying her. It was the fluttery Aunt Millicent that eventually broke the hypnotic hold of the moment in her usual brash fashion.
"Nonsense." Millicent trilled with a haughty laugh. "Complete and utter hogwash."
"It's not nonsense." Wendy said calmly, her hands clenching on the sides of her skirt. "I have thought the matter through thoroughly, and this is my decision. I do not wish to marry Jack. I do not wish to marry ever."
"Still so childish." Millicent mocked testily, "What will come of you then Wendy? Off for some more adventures in that silly little dreamland of yours?"
Wendy felt the fury within her growing at her Aunt's words.
"Off to learn sword fighting and cursing like some loathsome trollop?"
"Millicent." Mr. Darling warned softly, but Millicent heard nothing and Wendy was beginning to quake slightly in her chair as her Aunt finished with an acidic comment she would soon regret.
"Only to become a poor shrew that nobody ever wants?"
"You mean become exactly like you?" Wendy boomed, her face an ugly scarlet. Millicent's lips quivered in indignation, but she said nothing as Wendy continued her tirade furious.
"Ending up some wrinkled, miserable old gold digging cow that nobody ever wants around?"
"WENDY!" Mrs. Darling had gone quite white in the face. "Obviously you must be ill. You're not yourself."
"Such a temper." Millicent finally said angrily, her face flushing. "You'd think that finishing school would have trained it out of you."
"I am not an animal to be trained!" Wendy said standing suddenly, overtaken with a rage she hadn't felt in so long. "I am a free human being! And as such, I am leaving."
"Wherever I please." Wendy said furiously, turning on her heel as she finished over her shoulder, "And I wish to remain, undisturbed for as long as I wish."
"You will not speak to us like that." Mr. Darling warned, his voice taking on a slight tinge of warning, which Wendy still feared. He may have been a slight and mostly mousy man, but he was her father.
She suddenly felt the tight grip of her father's hand on her elbow and realized he was leading her up the stairs. She tried to wrench free of his grasp, but found she was no match for her red-faced father. When they reached the landing, he led her into the nursery.
"You will not venture outside this room until you are civil enough to come down and apologize to your Aunt. She has been endlessly supportive with you and your brothers."
"Supportive?" Wendy whispered shocked, "John and Michael are miserable at boarding school. They wish to come home! I have the letters to prove it!"
"They are getting an education that your mother and I alone could never give them. They will thank us and your Aunt, in the end."
"She's got you completely under her thumb." Wendy growled, ignoring the vein that jutted from her father's angry red looking neck. "I will never apologize to her!"
Her father was moving from her, his back growing straighter with every passing step. Shying from the fury and truth being thrown at him by his childlike daughter.
"Then you shall remain in here until you've grown up just a little, Wendy." Her father said at the door, closing and locking it behind him soundly.
"I never wanted to grow up in the first place!" Wendy shouted at the closed door. Her furious cries soon turned to fresh tears that had her entire body shaking. How could her parents have turned so easily against her for an old sow like Millicent?
How she wished for John and Michael at that moment. They would call their Aunt horrible names, and to cheer Wendy up, they would put on their best shadow puppet play, making her laugh through it all. How she wished for a life nothing like this. She regretted not staying in Neverland. Why did she think life would ever be different when she returned those long seven years ago?
She stood then, wiping her eyes quickly and staring at the large window across the room. She was becoming hysterical, and thoughts that she never would have considered before began to surface.
What if she were to simply jump out the window of her beloved nursery?
Then it started. Familiar long lost prickles of intrigue had started on the back of her hand, moving up her arms and to the back of her neck and face. Making her positively thrum with curiosity. That childlike curiosity she thought had been long lost.
"They'll regret everything they ever did to me." Wendy whispered dimly, moving towards the large windows. She was almost in a trance, a horribly dark trance. Her eyes were fixated on that small slip of a ledge just outside the large windows. Just enough to balance on before the inevitable.
There would be pain, surely. But only a bit. It would be nothing in comparison to the hell that she would have to endure if she were to wed Jack. To bear his children. To listen to him drone on about his dull workload whilst she mended his trousers and socks. The mere thought was overwhelming.
She could never apologize to her Aunt. She could never look into that horrid face and find mercy. She couldn't force herself to do it. Besides, her eyes were drawing to the windows again; It was such a beautiful night.
She could see her parent's faces now when they found her corpse the next morning. Mrs. Darling would scream and clutch at her paling husband who would be in utter shock.
"What have we done?" Millicent would shriek, fainting onto the street next to her niece, who looked like a dramatic, sleeping doll. There would be much fuss at her funeral, many tears shed.
But she would be free.
She opened the windows then, her eyes completely glazed over. She barely realized what she was doing. She slowly pulled herself out the window, balancing in her bare feet on the thin ledge just outside the window.
She had her back against the window of her room, holding it behind her slightly for support. When she'd steadied herself a bit, she looked down, seeing the cavernous blackness of the London streets below and the snow that danced around her. It wasn't as daunting as before. Perhaps in the end, it would be like going back to Neverland.
Like coming home.
Peter's voice suddenly sounded in her head, To die would be an awfully big adventure.
"A most grand adventure." Wendy agreed with the long lost Peter. One hand was making its way from the window to the open space in front of her. She was going to do it.
Her heart was soaring with exhilaration, but suddenly, images of Neverland and Peter were replaced with that of John and Michael and she felt deep sorrow. Her mother's gentle kisses and her father's timid hugs were suddenly overtaking the argument they'd been thrown in together moments before.
"What am I doing?" Wendy suddenly stammered, waking from this trance like suicide attempt. This wasn't who she was. This was just plain idiotic. She turned then, preparing to step back inside the nursery back to apologize for being obtuse to her parents. She was almost turned completely around when -without warning- her left foot slipped on the icy ledge.
And with all images of family and Neverland disappearing from her mind, Wendy fell off the ledge of her nursery window and into the darkness below.