Slightly splashed his feet in the water of the beach. He was supposed to be out hunting with the other boys, but he couldn't bear the thought of leaving the shore.
Before Peter had exiled Captain Hook, the beach was strictly off-limits to the Lost Boys, and for good reason. Had they been spotted by the loathsome pirate, they'd have had a canon ball blasted through their middles within seconds.
Now that the shore was safe from any such piracy, the boys were free to splash and play in salty ocean water to their heart's content. Except, of course, when Peter had other plans for them. Slightly was getting better at pretending - he'd never missed a hunting trip, and even managed to act excited when Peter made them pretend they'd caught a hare for dinner. His tummy had rumbled incessantly that night, however.
Instead of going on another faux-successful hunting trip, Slightly hid himself in a bush at Peter's first crow and remained there until the last of the Lost Boys had sauntered off into the woods to not really capture another hare.
He was nervous at the thought of Peter perhaps noticing his absence and, upon his return, banishing Slightly for treason (though, if he thought about it, Slightly wasn't so sure Peter knew what treason meant). He comforted himself with the thought of how good a pretender Peter was.
"If he cares enough to really want me there," Slightly reasoned with himself, "then he'll have no trouble pretending I'm there. Maybe he'll even pretend I caught a hare! Or a lion! That'd be just fine."
Slightly continued his musings as he kicked sand into the water.
Maybe he'll pretend I tamed a wild beast and claimed him as a pet! he thought to himself, laughing aloud.
"Slightly!" he proclaimed, standing atop a large rock. "King of Beasts!" Slightly jumped into the water below him. The splash soaked his clothing on the sand, but Slightly didn't care to notice.
His eyes were no where near the shore. They looked beyond the beach, the water, and finally rested on the sky. In the distance, a speck of red seemed to be coming closer. No, it was coming closer. The speck became a dot, and the dot became a sphere. It twisted and turned with the breeze, and Slightly noticed something like a tail attached to the end of the sphere.
As it drew closer, Slightly's arms went up and his hands opened.
When it was just above its head, Slightly noticed that the sphere did indeed have a tail. It was just long enough that, even though the red sphere passed right over his head, Slightly was able to catch the string and pull the sphere back. He waded out of the water, holding his arm high above his head so the string would not get wet.
Peter's crow rang in the air, and soon after, the pitter patter of Lost Boys' feet shook the beach.
"Did you see its face before we caught it?" said Nibs, his face pink with excitement.
Tootles laughed. "His wide eyes! Knew he had no chance!"
The chatter of the boys drew nearer and nearer until Slightly could see their shadows on the sand in front of him.
"Slightly! Good job catching that rabbit," said First Twin, nudging him in the side. Second Twin cupped a hand around Slightly's ear.
"We know you didn't really catch a rabbit," he whispered. "But Peter thinks you did - "
"- so we're going along with it," finished First Twin. "Say, whatcha got there?"
The twins were looking up at the floating sphere now, as were the rest of the Lost Boys. Peter crowed once more, and flew into sight. He sat cross-legged in the air across from Slightly.
"Say, Slightly's got a ball!" he exclaimed. "Boys, get into position. It's time for a game of catch!"
"I don't think it's gonna work," Slightly said, but Curly had already snatched the sphere out of the air and pulled the string out of his hand.
"Slightly, go on, now!" Peter instructed, pointing to Slightly's usual position in a game of catch. Slightly slumped into place and turned toward Curly, silently hoping his new sphere wouldn't suffer any damage.
"Ready… and… catch!" Curly cocked his arm back and forced the sphere forward. The boys immediately spread out with their arms raised, all trying to catch the ball.
But the ball didn't thrust into the group of boys. It rose above their heads, its string tail twisted and leading it in different directions.
"Peter, catch it!" Slightly exclaimed. He was echoed by the other boys, all terrified of the prospect of losing a new toy.
Peter ascended after the sphere and pulled it by the string just before it struck a tree branch. He drew it back down to where a circle of Lost Boys was waiting.
"This isn't like any regular ball," he said, scratching his head. "You can't really throw it. It floats away."
"I think I remember something like that," Slightly said. "I remember it from before I was lost."
Immediate sounds of disbelief followed Slightly's words. Scoffs and groans filled the air.
"Not another one of your memories, Slightly," Nibs said.
"Yeah, Slight, you don't really remember anything," Peter said. "We all know that."
Slightly grimaced. The boys never believed his memories, especially not Peter. Of course, no one was allowed to know anything Peter didn't know, so if Peter didn't know exactly what the sphere was, Slightly surely couldn't, either.
"Say, I know!" Peter said suddenly. "It's a special kind of ball for people who can fly! That's why it floats."
Peter let go of the string, hit the sphere, and chased it over the treetops. The Lost Boys looked after him sullenly. Most of them had already used up their pixie dust for the week. Curly was the only one with any left, but not enough to make up for his lack of trust. That was the thing about Curly - he always seemed to have plenty of faith and pixie dust, but hardly ever enough trust.
Peter flew back to them with the ball in his hands, looking extremely proud of himself. The boys looked at him sullenly.
"Peter, is there any chance we could play?" asked Tootles.
"Well, sure!" Peter said excitedly. He hit the balloon again. "First one to catch it gets a king's feast for dinner!"
The boys all hurried after it, but it was too late. Even the string was already too high in the air for them to reach. Peter caught it and laughed at his cleverness.
"I did it, I caught it!" he yelled.
"It's not fair!" Curly exclaimed. "We can't fly like you. We'll never catch it."
"Huh," said Peter, floating down to sit on a rock. "I hadn't thought about that."
He toyed with the feather in his hat for a moment, thinking. Finally, a smile lit up his face.
"I got it!" he said. "Tink! Tinker Bell!"
A sound of bells greeted the beach air as Tinker Bell zoomed out of the forest. The Lost Boys followed her with their eager eyes.
"Tink," Peter said when she came to a stop just in front of his nose, "give these boys another dose of pixie dust, why don'tcha?"
Tinker Bell hit Peter on the nose and made several dissatisfied sounds.
"Yes, I know they've had their pixie dust for the week," Peter said, "but they need more. Come on, Tink, please? For me?"
"You silly ass," she muttered. She sulked away from Peter. The Lost Boys cheered as she covered them in pixie dust, and one by one they rose into the air. Peter crowed and beat on his chest with his fists. The boys mimicked him.
"Thank you, Tink!" they said as she flew back into the forest, shaking her head at their antics. What was the point of giving them an allowance of pixie dust each week if they always demanded more?
"Boys! Attention!" Peter called. The boys stopped like soldiers in midair, saluting Peter. "Get into position! We have a game of catch to play."
The air above Neverland's beach was alight with the cheers and squeals of the boys for the rest of the night. The breeze added excitement to their game, drifting the ball away from its intended catcher and forcing the boys into a chase. Though Peter was the only winner, all the boys found enjoyment in the game. Even Slightly, who originally resented the idea of sharing his discovery, cackled with joy every time someone from his team caught the ball.
Their excitement continued for hours, and their game migrated from the beach to the forest, and from the forest to the briars.
"Catch, Curly!" Slightly yelled as he hit the ball in Curly's direction.
"I got it, I got it!" Curly said, his hands reaching above him. He tried to hit the ball back up into the air, but, instead, sent it hurtling into the thicket just below.
A deafening POP broke through the cheers and laughter. The boys stopped their squealing and floated down to the ground.
"What happened?" Peter asked. "Why did the game stop?"
"And what was - "
"- that sound?" the twins wondered.
The damage lay in front of them. The carcass of their red ball hung off a thorn in the thicket, the string falling limply behind it.
Slightly was the first to approach it. His teeth dug into his bottom lip and his cheeks turned pink. His fingers reached out to touch what remained of their toy, but fell back to his side. He sat on the floor with his knees tucked under him and cried.
The rest of the boys soon followed. Some stood, some sat, but they all cried. Tears streamed down their fat pink cheeks as they stared at the end of their enjoyment. Even Peter, the toughest of them all, flew into a nearby tree and wiped his tears with a leaf.
And as the Lost Boys cried, a young girl in London looked up into the sky. Her eyes searched its vastness, but did not find what they were looking for.
"Wendy?" an older woman's voice said. "Was is it, dear?"
The little girl looked over her shoulder at her mother who sat on a nearby bench with her arms outstretched. She walked into the embrace and rested her head atop her mother's large stomach. She felt the baby inside kick against her cheek.
"I let go of my balloon," she sighed. "I watched it go as far as the clouds. It disappeared there."
"Don't worry, love," Wendy's mother said. "We can get you a new balloon. A blue one this time, to match your dress."
Wendy smiled sadly. "Thank you, mother," she said politely. Her mother took her hand and lead her toward the balloon vendor.
"Mother," Wendy said quietly as her mother handed a penny to the vendor.
"Yes, dear?" her mother said. She tied the string of the blue balloon to Wendy's wrist.
"Where do balloons go when children let go of them?" Wendy asked.
Mrs. Darling laughed a laugh like bells. "Well, let's see. Where do all lost things go?"
Wendy tugged on one of her loose curls. "I don't know," she said finally.
"Lost things go to Neverland, dear," Mrs. Darling said. "They go where the lost boys go."
"So my balloon went to a lost boy?" Wendy asked excitedly. "Like Peter Pan?"
"Yes, I do believe so," said Mrs. Darling. "All lost balloons find their way to lost children, like Peter Pan."
Wendy grinned the whole way home. She imagined her red balloon in the hands of Peter Pan. Would he know what it was? Would he share it with the Lost Boys? She hoped he would. Sharing was polite, after all.
When they arrived home, Wendy took extra care wiping her feet on the mat outside the door. It was growing dark out, and the first of the stars were starting to wake from their daily slumber.
"Wendy, dear!" Mrs. Darling called from inside the house. "Hurry along, now. Your father will be home soon."
"In a moment, mother!" Wendy called back. She looked down at her wrist where her mother had tied her balloon, and back up at the sky. One star shone particularly brighter than the others. Wendy's eyes locked on it, and she smiled.
Her fingers tugged on the knot at her wrist until, finally, she was able to untie it. She watched with wide eyes as the balloon rose into the sky and disappeared amongst the clouds.
"Enjoy, Peter," she whispered. Wendy stepped over the threshold into her living room and closed the door behind her.