The doorbell rings again and I sigh in my head. On my face, however, I wear a dazzling smile - one to rival my mother's, or so I'm told. The fabric of my ball gown rustles as I go to greet the guests. Over 60 people are arriving to Mother and Father's mansion for a masquerade ball in honor of my latest art show. Though, my parents hate the paintings I make - especially Father.
"Mr. Jenkins, what a pleasure it is to see you again." I move to let in the average looking man. He has average brown hair and average green eyes on his average looking face. Mother invited him in hopes of me letting him court me, but he's far too stiff and serious for my tastes. "It is positively delightful that you were able to attend this evening."
Mr. Jenkins grasps my hand and bows over it slightly, giving a kiss to the back of my hand. The kiss lingered a little too long for my liking, but Mother has engrained in me the ways a lady is to behave so I allowed him his affections before closing the door.
"The pleasure is by all means mine, my dear, dear lady," Mr. Jenkins gushes in his boring, stale tone.
I'm saved by the doorbell chiming again. I give Mr. Jenkins a brittle smile. "Well, do make your way to the ballroom. I have to welcome more guests, so please excuse me."
Mr. Jenkins frowns a bit before nodding and heading the way I pointed. I would let out a breath of pure relief, but this blasted corset is prohibiting me from doing so. What I wouldn't give to be a child again...
Swinging the door open, I glance over the next guest. Most people have their masks on when I answer the door, so it doesn't surprise me when the gentleman before me has his face hidden behind a half-Indian mask.
I step back to allow him in and remember I'm not wearing my smile anymore. Bloody balls and their socializing. I attach a smile to my face even though I'm pretty sure it isn't very convincing. "Good evening, sir, it's such a delight that you are able to attend on such a fine night." He flashes me a smile and a foreign fluttering spreads through my stomach. Well, not exactly foreign, but it is a feeling I haven't felt in almost 9 years... I clear my throat, realizing that I've been silent a little too long. "Pardon me, but I do not believe I recognize you. I adore your mask, by the way," I add honestly.
The gentleman flashes me another smile that causes me to go weak in the knees this time. "Why thank you, kind madam. Is it not the point of a masque to be someone other than yourself for the evening?"
A blush feathers across my cheeks and I desperately hope he does not notice. "Well, I suppose you are right." I'm feeling suddenly bashful towards this man - and I do not usually feel bashful towards anyone. How odd. "Well, dear stranger, might I - " The doorbell rings again and I inwardly damn it. I give the masked gentleman a sad, apologetic smile. "I apologize, but I must get the door. Please, go ahead to the ballroom, just that way." I turn to answer the door yet again, but my delicate hand is suddenly encased in a strong, larger one as the gentleman pulls me gently back.
"I will accept your apology and excuse you to answer the door on one condition," he states, his clover-green eyes sparkling with mischief.
"And what condition would that be, sir?" I ask, my voice quivering slightly.
He bows slightly and bestows a soft kiss to my hand. I find myself wishing his kiss had lingered like Mr. Jenkins' did. "You must honor me with a dance later, for i wish to dance with a beautiful maiden in the hope that I can find out why she looked so distraught answering the door."
My face flushes again and the doorbell rings, twice this time. I fear I will somehow make this moment inferior if I were to speak, so I give him a nod. His breath-taking smile slowly envelopes the half of his face that I can see as he releases my hand. He gives me a wink before sauntering off in the direction of the party.
I take a small breath and this time a true smile breaks across my face as I accept the newest- and thankfully the last - guests to arrive.
Heading to the parlor where several other ladies are waiting, my feet are already throbbing. Bloody heels. I'm half-tempted to just take them off; it's not like anyone could see my feet underneath this atrocious tent. I take that back - my gown is anything but atrocious. It's actually rather spectacular in an ocean color scheme. The neckline goes lower than I'm comfortable with, but I love the flowing sleeves. It matches my latest painting.
The women in the parlor all give me envious looks, which I ignore. Look at them all - dressed to bait a few suitors, no doubt. Inwardly, I sigh. Mother applied my make-up in hopes that a gentleman could overlook my personality just because he took a fancy to my face. The mirror in the room assists me as I wipe off most of the caked on substances and check my hair. I prefer the natural look, another thing Mother despises about my decisions. My chocolate locks hang to my hips in curls with two combs made of shells holding my hair away from my face and just behind and above my ears. Small pearls and tiny sea-shells are pinned and braided randomly through my hair. I like it - but the make-up was just too much. I did leave my eye shadow because it matches my gown and brings out my grey eyes.
When I can look at my face - now with minimal make-up - and recognize myself, I head out of the tiny lounge room full of ladies fixing themselves up with last-minute touches and adorn my mask. I love my mask; I made it myself. It stops at the tip of my nose, covering only the top half of my face. It's a swirl of blues with a light shading of lilac swirling, accompanied with a light dusting of grey. Pearls and sequins outline the frame and around the holes for my eyes. Lace in ocean colors hangs from the sides at the corners of my eyes so that it falls with my hair and frames my face; I look like a goddess of the sea.
At the door of the ballroom, the attendant (and my parents' butler) is calling the room to attention for my grand entrance. I loathe this part, but I have learned to live with it. Every time I hold a successful art gallery, Mother and Father hold some type of party or banquet. They do not do it because they are proud of me - on the contrary. They only do it because they like to be in the spotlight and keep up appearances. Any reason to throw a party-of-the-year and they take it. It has also become an occurrence in which they try to shove suitors on me.
The orchestra stops playing their music and the partiers, all masked, come to a stop. 60 or so people stare at the top of the grand staircase as I gracefully walk to the top step. Mother and Father stand just at the base of the stairs, putting on their little show and looking proud.
"Ladies and gentleman, you are all honored guests on this fine evening. Your hosts, the highly esteemed Mr. and Mrs. Darling, would like to thank you ever so much for joining them on such a wondrous occasion. May your night be merry and hold much joy. Without further adieu, I would like to present to you our lady of the night to which we are celebrating another glorious achievement in the arts; the lovely, Miss Wendy Darling."
Applause spreads through the room as I makes my way carefully down the staircase. My face feels hot and I know I'm as red as a ripe tomato. My eyes glance through the room as I try to catch a glimpse of the mysterious man in the Indian mask, but I only succeed in seeing Mother's angry glare as she notices that I've gotten rid of most of the face paint she bestowed upon me.
The room quiets back down as I reach the bottom. Mother and Father both pantomime a kiss to each of my cheeks and I give a shy smile to the large audience. Clearing my throat, I say what is expected of me. "Thank you ever so much for being here tonight. I do hope you enjoy the paintings; you may see them again in the gallery room. Please, enjoy yourselves this evening, and thank you again."
Everyone claps again and I smile. Inside I'm throwing a fit, because now I have to spend the rest of the night mingling. The orchestra starts back up with a waltz and couples head towards the dance floor. I spot my brother, John, walk out with his wife, Lucy, to dance. On the other side of the room my other brother, Michael, is flirting with a flock of young ladies. I shake my head and smile fondly.
The string of people wanting to speak with me stops for a moment and my eyes glance around again in search of the Indian-masked man. I wish I knew his name... Oh, no. I turn around and head towards a smaller, secretive staircase when I notice Mr. Jenkins making his way towards me. I am most positive that he wishes to dance with me, but I am entirely not interested. The servants staircase leads to the main floor of the house and I hear giggling from one of the rooms. When some of the guests can't leave their children at home, for whatever reason, they stay here with my brother John's children and their nanny, Martha.
I walk into the large nursery and smile as the children are sitting in a circle and interrupting Martha repeatedly as she tries to tell a story. Mary, my brother's oldest, runs to me as soon as she sees me.
"Auntie Wendy!" She squeals, jumping into my arms. Mary, named after my mother, is only 4 years but she's intellegent for her age. "Is that really you, Auntie Wendy, is it?"
"Why of course it is, Mary!" I laugh, kissing her forehead and taking off my mask. My niece smiles and kisses me back on my cheek. I set her down and grab her hand, pulling her back to Martha's chair.
Martha looks at me with pleading eyes. "Miss Wendy, would you mind telling the children a story? They all prefer it when you do."
The seven children in the room all chorus in agreement. I smile at them, especially Mary and her younger brother, John, Jr. He's only a year and a quarter younger than her and Lucy is expecting another, although she isn't showing yet. The rest of the children are children of a few guests for the ball.
"Well, what story shall I tell?" I ask, sitting in the seat Martha got up from. Little John climbs into my lap and I place a kiss to his temple and brush his fine hair with my fingers.
Mary speaks up since none of the other children do. "Auntie Wendy, can we hear the one about the flying boy? The one where he and his friends saved his fairy on that icky man's boat?"
I smile. Mary loves to hear my stories about Peter and the Lost Boys. An ache in my heart suddenly spikes as I think about them. I try not to, since it's been so long. Sometimes I am almost certain that I dreamed all about Peter and Tinkerbell, Neverland and all in it.
John tugs on a lock of my hair to get my attention. "Believe in fairies?"
A laugh escapes as all the children chorus it again. "Alright, alright. I'll tell you about the time when the horrid Captain Hook almost beat the brave and amazing Peter Pan..."
"Can you say it with me? I do believe in fairies, I do. I do." Her soothing voice wafts out of the nursery full of little children, none older than 7. The little tikes all say it with her, squealing in laughter as she tells the story.
Wendy. Wendy Moira Angela Darling. I had my doubts that the young beauty that answered the door was her, but all doubts have been wiped from my mind. To make things better, she even remembers everything. She remembers... me.
After she left Neverland, my view changed. I still don't want to grow up, but I didn't want to stay a child. I wanted to follow Wendy no matter where she went. And then, finally, I thought I'd be ready to find her again. Earlier, when the man in the puffy suit announced her name I was shocked. I thought that the Wendy I knew had chosen to grow up. Until I saw the paintings and until I heard her tell the stories...
I wonder if she'll recognize me now?