Author's Notes: Um?
he is called Husband
Wendy meets him when she is nineteen years old. His name is Robert Sweetheart and he has brilliant red hair and soft brown eyes. He is to be a teacher of English Literature, his mind full of stories and adventure, mouth curling around words that are enough to frighten her, make her laugh, make her cry. He speaks and Wendy follows his fancy, feels herself on the wings of his easy description.
He is confident and funny and a little proud, and Wendy falls face over feet.
They are married in April, when the first petals emerge from the apple trees outside. Instead of a veil, Wendy wears a crown of flowers and leaves, woven into her hair and waving in the wind. Robert takes her hand and gives it a squeeze and says, "I do."
Afterwards, at the reception, Robert spins her around and around and for a moment, Wendy can swear that she is floating. She thinks she sees a shadow sprint across the room, a shadow with no owner, but she blinks and it is gone and Wendy finally, for the first time, lets it go.
She cleans, and cooks, and writes. Her parents disapprove of the hobby, but Wendy couldn't bear to live without it; sometimes she feels the words piling up inside until it feels that she might burst with them. Robert always asks to see them but she always says no; the words are hers, and she doesn't care to share them.
Jane Sweetheart is born on the 18th, a Saturday. The little baby wriggles in her arms and clings to her finger and beneath her baby tears Wendy can hear Robert's joyful sniffles. She teases him lovingly and then falls asleep, the baby still pressed against her chest.
It takes Wendy two years to work up the courage to tell Jane a story that isn't about magical kittens or snowmen that can talk. It's only that she can never decide if she wants Peter to come; can never decide if she is too ashamed of her height and her clothes and her quiet, happy life to let him see it.
Part of Wendy longs to see him, even if only one more time, thinking that perhaps he can give her some sort of closure—she is an adult now, and he would still be a child, and surely she has outgrown him.
But it has been ten years since her last trip to Neverland. Only now can she think of him without regret; without sorrow; without longing. Only now can she remember those adventures with fond recall, rather than a bitter taste in her mouth. She has grown out of Neverland—and though it is not the life she had imagined, Wendy loves her husband and her family and her life.
She does not want Jane to grow up to become her mother. She does not want her to be touched by Peter Pan and never have his fingerprints burned from her skin. She does not want her to know of Neverland—and yet, at the same time, does not want her to believe that this unforgiving world is her only home.
Wendy fights with herself for two years, and then she speaks, slowly at first, and then quicker, falling into the old rhythm that she never properly fell out of. "Peter glanced up, the quiet tick, tick, tick of the clock haunting his every footstep. The gator was getting closer and he must be careful . . ."
He does not come immediately. Wendy had not expected him to. It takes years for her words to breach the indeterminable space between London and Neverland; night after night, her quiet voice slips from the window and valiantly echo towards the second star—but clouds and cars and building roves get in the way, tangling in their legs and pulling them back to the dirty streets.
It is not until Jane is twelve that at last her words succeed, pushing past the noise and sticky fingers of the city and breathing in Neverland's eternal summer air.
Peter wakes with a start, Wendy's voice washing over him like cold rain.Peter stared Hook down with fearless eyes, his hands on his hips, his sword at his side. Tinkerbell brushed him with fairy dust and he rose, slowly, into the air . . .
He doesn't stop to consider—he rarely does. Peter simply climbs to his feet and follows the familiar path to England, to London, to the Darling house.
The window is not shut, and it is not barred, but Wendy no longer lives in the nursery. Peter watches from the shadow as a tall man he does not recognize enters the room, his low voice cutting Wendy off in the middle of her story.
She stands—she's grown so tall—and laughs at him, pressing her hand against his chest, pressing up onto her tiptoes, pressing a thimble to his lips.
Peter knows this man. He is called Husband.
He wants to fly in and claim the man's thimble for his own; Wendy gave it to him, promised it was his forever, and no one has the right to steal it.
But just as he moves to enter, Wendy stands and leaves the room. Baffled, Peter hovers at the window, peering in all the corners and the best hiding spots. But she is in none of them.
Her voice is soft and familiar and he sinks down until he is standing beside her in the courtyard below. The door to the house is open and a light shining from within. Wendy is not wearing shoes or a coat, despite the cold.
She is tall, so much taller than him.
"I knew you'd come eventually," she tells him, after a beat of silence.
He looks up at her accusingly. "You're old now."
She simply smiles down at him, her lips twitching a bit at the corners. "That's not a polite thing to say, Peter," she scolds lightly, just like she used to. "Have you been taking your medicine?"
He nods proudly. "Every day." Wendy bites her lip, another familiar gesture, and he puts his hands on his hips. "I saw you give that man a thimble," he tells her angrily, "even though you already gave it to me."
At his words, Wendy's eyes widen guiltily; then her expression softens and she sinks to her knees, so that they are eye-to-eye. "Peter," she explains slowly, carefully, "the thimble that I gave you was very special. It was my hidden thimble, which only ever belongs to one person. I cared about you very much." He isn't moved, and continues to stare up at her, so she adds, "I gave you a special thimble, a one-of-a-kind. The one I gave to Robert is an everyday, ordinary thimble you wouldn't have wanted anyway."
He forgives her, and to prove it he says, "The hideout is messy without you."
Wendy closes her eyes, slowly. "You know I can't come clean it," she says, and is surprised to find that the words don't hurt the way she thought they would, don't produce the dull, throbbing ache she had anticipated.
In Neverland she slept on the floor and was always dirty and never had time to read or simply sit quietly; those were things she hadn't valued as a girl but now . . . things are different.
Peter looks disappointed. She couldn't bear that expression on his face as a child and can no more do so now. "Perhaps Jane would go with you," she says finally. "Why don't you come back in the spring? She'll be happy to clean for you."
He nods once, pleased, and places an acorn in her hand before flying off, not thinking to say goodbye.
The little object burns in her palm as she closes her fist around it, knowing she will never see him again, knowing that with a new mother, Peter will forget all about his Wendy-lady.
She drops the acorn into her garden before she goes inside. She'd hate to tread dirt into the house.