A/N: Small revisions as of 7/13/12 for typos and minor issues. Thanks to my original beta, Manic-Cheese-Fairy.
The Biggest Pretend
Wendy Darling had always known since the tender age of two that she must one day grow up. Everyone has to grow up, and she was no exception.
Even knowing in advance, Wendy found, didn't make the notion any easier to stomach. Especially when one was straddling the edge of childhood.
"Oh, just think, Wendy," Mrs. Darling exclaimed from Wendy's right. Mr. Darling, Mrs. Darling, and Wendy were awaiting their announcement so that they could enter the Dashwood's grand banquet hall. "This is the last ball where you'll be announced with father and I. Are you not excited?"
In fact, Wendy was not excited at all. Tomorrow was the debutante ball, where Wendy and the other debutante's would come out to society for their first seasons.
At age sixteen, Wendy would finally be considered something of a lady, and she dreaded such a title. But, dear mother was so excited; Wendy didn't want to disappoint her, and for this reason, she gave Mrs. Darling a large (but, of course, lady-like) smile.
"Oh, very much so. But what if I trip when they call my name?"
"Why, don't worry Wendy," her father interjected. "When your mother came out, she tripped down the stairs. Nearly took out the line of debutantes in front of her!"
"George! I did no such thing!" Mrs. Darling gasped.
"Of course, it's what made me notice her," Mr. Darling continued, giving his daughter a wink. "She was the Girl-Who-Tripped."
Wendy giggled, unable to imagine her elegant mother tripping down stairs, before realizing her family was next to be called.
How lucky that John and Michael have "caught a cold" and are permitted to miss the ball tonight, Wendy thought of her younger brothers as she pulled on the light blue bow that held half her golden-brown curls back with a sigh. It was her favorite hair accessory, but after tomorrow she would probably only be allowed to wear it to bed; the bow was of a child-like style, not the ribbon of a young lady.
"Mr. and Mrs. Darling", the announcer's voice rang out, and Wendy followed her parents through the entrance way.
Poor bow. You've been on oh so many adventures with me.
Despite the hesitation, however, Wendy still knew she was doing the right thing. True, she did not want to become a lady (for to become a lady was to never be allowed to jump on beds, play pretend, or do anything adventurous ever again.) But what Wendy wanted was to feel, and in particular, to love. She wanted the true love of a husband and the enduring love of one's own child. If it meant growing up in the process, well, it was worth it.
This was exactly what she had said that night, years ago, to…
No, I mustn't think of such things, Wendy reprimanded herself as she sat down next to her mother at their assigned table.
"Good evening Mr. Darling, Mrs. Darling," a voice beside Wendy said. She turned in her seat to find James Worthington, the son of the wealthy merchant, Mr. Thomas Worthington. Three years her senior, Wendy had played with James as a child. She remembered one of their favorite games, where Wendy's younger brothers would be the pirates, the local playground their sailing ship. Wendy and James would play the roles of the Spanish Armada, always prevailing for the "good" side.
How quickly things had changed; it had been many years since the two had talked beyond polite chatter.
Turning to Wendy with a smile, giving his curly brown hair a nervous, quick tug, James asked, "Miss Darling, would you do me the pleasure of joining me for a dance?"
Mr. and Mrs. Darling gave each other a knowing glance, not unnoticed by the younger company in front of them.
"Now now young Mr. Worthington, our Wendy hasn't come out yet. You'll have to wait until tomorrow to pursue any courtships," Mr. Darling teased with a twinkle in his eye, causing both youngsters to blush furiously.
"Oh, dear," Mrs. Darling interjected. "A dance won't hurt. Of course, you two may share a dance."
As James and Wendy walked out to the dance floor, the young girl felt a flutter of…something. Nerves? Fright? Or something else? Something else like…excitement?
The pair reached their destination, and James tentatively placed one hand on Wendy's hip, grabbing her hand with the other. The two began waltzing around the floor.
"You look very lovely tonight, Miss Darling," James said to the girl with a smile on his face.
"Oh. Thank you, Mr. Worthington," Wendy replied, hoping that this was the proper response. Secretly, she was thrilled; she spent more than one hour selecting the perfect dress for the occasion. (A light pink and blue gown, if one must know.)
"Are you excited about tomorrow?"
"Oh, most definitely not!" Wendy answered with a roll of her eyes, before freezing in horror. Had she just said such a thing, and with an eye roll as well? How most unladylike! Surely her dance partner would no longer wish to waltz with her.
James let out a laugh. "Why, Miss Darling, do wipe the horror off your face! I am not offended by a young woman speaking the truth."
Wendy smiled back at the young man as the two resumed dancing, part in relief and part in giddiness.
"After all, coming out seems quite tedious," James continued.
"I am dreadfully worried about tripping in front of all of society!" she responded, relaxing.
And there's the growing up bit.
"I understand completely. Makes me glad I get to be a 'dashing young gentleman' and not an 'elegant young lady.' You are quite graceful, though, Miss Darling. I am certain you will float elegantly down those steps."
The song came to an end, and the two broke apart.
"I believe I must return you to your family now. But, Miss Darling?" James began, giving his hair another nervous tug. "May I request the first dance with you tomorrow? That is, if no one has asked you yet?"
Another bothersome flutter rippled through Wendy's stomach.
"No one has asked me yet, but I believe Mrs. Meadows is organizing the first dance," she replied. Mrs. Meadows was the lady who had instructed the debutantes and was hosting the grand ball the next day. "I believe you'll have to speak to her."
"I will make a point to do so, then, with your permission."
As Wendy once again took her place amongst her parents, she noticed their pleased faces.
Much later, long after the Darling family returned, finding "invalids" John and Michael jumping on the bed, Wendy found herself unable to sleep. She sat up in her canopy bed, looking around her room. Four years ago, Wendy's parents made her move out of the nursery and into her own chamber. Indeed, it was a rather nice room, Wendy had to concede; she had her own walk in closet, vanity table, and tea table with matching chairs.
But it lacked the excitement of the old nursery, where John and Michael resided. Wendy missed the games she used to play with her brothers and the stories she use to spin for their enjoyment.
One story in particular…
Wendy wandered to the window at the back of her bedroom, and climbed up onto the cushioned seat that allowed her to overlook the sleepy London street. Sticking her head out the window that was always left open, she breathed in the night air.
Tomorrow she would be considered a young lady. Growing up loomed in the very, very near future. A single tear drop rolled down her cheek as Wendy thought of a young boy, dressed entirely in green.
"I fear you will be lost to me forever, Peter," Wendy uttered out loud, melancholy in her voice. And then, with a sigh, she did something she had never done before.
She shut the window.