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“Hello, my name is Peter”.
Wendy Moira Angela Darling pushed her wheelchair back and let the gentleman in. He was a young lad in his late twenties, very tall, skinny and shy looking. His slow and clumsy movements were a clear sign that this chap must be at his first experience.
“Good”, she thought, “maybe this time I won’t get bored to tears during the trip”.
The young man picked up the old lady’s things and pushed her wheelchair to the door. The luggage got caught in the doorway and he clumsily pushed it past the frame, flattening one of the old suitcases’ corners. Wendy caught that with the corner of her eye and chuckled as she realized he was trying to look as if he had full control of the situation. Sure enough, as she had foreseen, as soon as they reached the veranda, the lad and the luggage collapsed to the floor.
“I take it you don’t have much experience at this?”
“No ma’am, it’s my first day…and last, I hope. I usually drive the ambulance, I don’t handle patients directly. I’m only substituting a friend who got injured on the job.”
“If you’re not careful, you’ll have to call him back to substitute you.”
Their eyes crossed for a brief moment as he was picking up her personal belongings, which were now all over the veranda. That brief moment of embarrassment was now broken and they both burst out laughing.
Although life had not been kind to her, Wendy had always remained a positive thinker. Deep inside her she knew that a smile can clear away the darkest clouds and a good laugh can even heal wounds. Unfortunately, all of the smiles in the world could not cure the illness that was slowly but surely dragging her away from the living world. Five years in and out of hospitals had weakened her physically, but her smile could never be erased.
“Sooner or later, the Great Landlord will ask us to leave the flat we occupy”, she would tell her niece and nephew, Johnny and Margaret. “He’s not mean, he’s just being fair. ‘You’ve occupied it for a long time now’, he’ll say, ‘and now it is time for someone else to move in’.”
The younglings of course didn’t grasp the meaning of those words, but they knew she was old and wise and thus, had to be taken seriously. At six and seven life is but a game and the landlord has not even come to claim the first month’s rent yet. Wendy on the other hand, knew her movers were just around the corner, but it didn’t scare her. She wouldn’t put up any resistance when the time came.
She sat back on the bed as the chemo fluids started flooding her veins. Today, the needle didn’t hurt going in, but then again, she had grown immune to pain. Time and time again her skin had been pricked by a needle: during therapy, during labour pains when she gave birth to her only child, Jane, and before that…no, some things are better forgotten. And yet, the feelings such memories evoked! What an incredible power they had over her. Her strong personality, her incredible sense of humour was bent by those sad reminiscences, the only thing in the world powerful enough to erase the smile from her face.
The clouded memories of that hospital slowly seeped back and filled her heart with darkness. All that suffering, the tears, the years, the medicines could never erase what she didn’t want to forget, what she fought to keep alive inside her…that name: Peter.
Often, when people don’t want to face a problem, they simply remove it. If it’s a bad memory, they hide it in some distant corner of their mind. If it’s a person, they lock him or her away, far from sight. That’s what they had done with her after her last return from Neverland.
“She suffered a severe trauma during her abduction and her child’s psyche has transformed her captor into a flying boy”, explained the child psychologists to her parents, “and now she believes he comes and takes her away every spring. That explains why she runs away. This is a serious form of schizophrenia which must be treated medically in order for her to be properly reintegrated into society.” This was their way of denying she had actually been there, much like they had when they were her age. Instead, they preferred to believe she was kidnapped and had gone bananas! So they locked her up and filled her with drugs for five endless years.
Little did they know that all that time in a hospital bed and all that therapy had only engraved that name deeper into her soul. Peter, that wonderful name, that wonderful boy who took her places she’d never been before. Why did he never come back to save her whenever she screamed his name?
“Grandma! Grandma!”, shouted Margaret as she burst through the door followed by her mother, Jane.
Jane had always had a hard time controlling her children. She just couldn’t tame their wild spirits. Wendy saw much of herself in them, especially Margaret with whom she had a very close relationship.
“Marg, leave your grandmother alone. Can’t you see she’s got a needle in her arm?”. The child managed to climb onto the bed and Wendy wrapped her free arm around her to protect her from Jane, whom in the meantime had caught up and wanted to take her away.
“No Jane, she’s not bothering me. It takes more than a little child to remove these needles. My skin has hardened so much over the years that it would take a jackhammer to tear them out. Let her be.” Jane retreated to a chair to dry off some sweat as William entered carrying John in one arm and a bag of goodies in the other.
“Hello all. Look who’s here ma? It’s Johnny!” Seeing his grandmother, Johnny stretched out his arms to hug her, but Jane intercepted her son.
“No Johnny. Can’t you see your grandma has her arms full already? You’ll embrace her later.”
“C’mon dear, they only get to see their grandmother once a month.” William was the pacifier of the group, always intervening to soothe his overly apprehensive wife and his overly permissive mother-in-law and mediate between two very strong personalities, which rarely saw eye to eye.
“Come to grandma, Johnny.”
“Grandma!” Johnny jumped up onto the bed and crouched next to Wendy.
“You’ll end up spoiling them if you always let them have their way. They have to grow up and learn to take ‘no’ for an answer!”, squealed Jane.
“They’re still children, Jane, so let them be. When their time comes, they’ll grow. They’re not all like Peter Pan, you know!”
“Mother, please stop saying that name and putting those silly ideas into their heads or they’ll end up thinking kids can fly!” Although Jane had shared in some of the most wonderful secrets with her mother, somewhere along the line she had decided to forget and refused to believe that there is more to life than life itself. “C’mon kids, it’s time to go.”
“No. Let them stay with me tonight and I’ll tell them about the time Peter was saved by the Never Bird.”
“Not with those stories again! Mom Nan”, that’s how Jane referred to her mother, “we have to go.”
“Let them stay…please”, pleaded Wendy.
Jane looked up at her husband beseechingly, hoping for support, but got none. Seeing herself outnumbered, she gave up.
“Alright, they can stay, but I don’t want you filling their heads with crazy things, okay? Mom, I love you, but you have to forget the past.”
“Like you have?”
Mother and daughter stared at each other as if communicating telepathically. We’ll never know if they actually heard each other’s thoughts, but after a few seconds Jane looked down in defeat and made for the door. The children cheered seeing their first hospital overnight adventure was about to commence. After kissing Mom Nan on the forehead and hugging his kids goodnight, William put on his overcoat and headed for the door. He stopped for a brief moment before leaving…maybe a sixth sense was telling him not to go. After a moment’s hesitation, he switched the lights off, leaving only the bed light on, and left.
“How about we have a nice cup of tea?” said Wendy as she picked up a make believe cup and began sipping. Johnny was about to laugh.
“You forgot the sugar, grandma”, said Margaret.
“I did, didn’t I?” Wendy and Margaret both chuckled.
“You are both cuckoo”, said Johnny bewildered by that strange game. Margaret elbowed him. She was much more mature than kids her age and sometimes even hushed her own mother with logic unlike that of a child. Oh, yes, just like her mother and grandmother before her, she had been to Neverland several times already and had lived many adventures with Peter, but grandma Wendy had made her vow never to talk about it, especially with her mother.
“There is no sugar, Margy! You haven’t even got a cup!”, said Johnny looking at their empty hands.
“Oh, you’re wrong. Look closely and you can see it!”, answered Margaret.
“But how rude of me not to offer you any!”, added Wendy holding out a make believe teapot to Johnny. “Hand me your cup.” The boy strained to see what she was seeing, but to no avail. Noticing his embarrassment, Wendy reassured him, “in order to see the cup you have to use your imagination”.
“But grandma”, replied Johnny, “I did use my imagination!”
“You did, did you? Then tell me what you smell now.” Johnny stopped and took a deep whiff.
“I smell a hospital!” and broke out laughing.
Margaret hushed him, “No Johnny! I smell tea! I really do! Can’t you smell it? It’s the same herbal tea mom uses…isn’t it, Mom Nan?” Johnny stared at Margaret, then at his grandmother, then at his sister again. Somehow, he also began smelling it.
“Hey, I think you’re right! It smells like the one mom makes for dad!”
“You see children? When you use your imagination, you can go anywhere you wish: to the park, to the mountains, to faraway lands. And if someone, one day, comes along and tells you it’s not possible, don’t believe him. You must always hang on to your imagination and to your memories.”
“Why, grandma?”, asked Johnny.
“To remember is to be responsible and to be responsible, means to grow up.”
“I don’t understand, Mom Nan.”
“There once was a boy who didn’t want to grow up. He’d forget things the minute they happened. This proved to be his major strength because he was never scared of repeating past mistakes, but also his major weakness because he never learned from them. That is why he lost all his friends and those who loved him.”
They all began sipping their imaginary tea, when in from the open window popped the head of a dark haired man with a long black moustache and long raven curls.
“My problem is I never forget!” The threesome jumped at the sight. Wendy immediately recognized the man from long ago.
The long haired gentleman entered and bowed at the threesome. “So you do recognize me! As bright as ever, my dear damsel.”
“You haven’t changed at all!”
“And you have gotten wiser, I’m sure.”
“It’s been over sixty years.”
“Sixty-two years, eight months, four days and twelve hours, but who's counting?”
Wendy couldn’t believe her eyes. “They almost had me convinced you were but a figment of my imagination.”
“I’m real alright. Captain Jas. Hook in the flesh…well, a bit flesh-less, but still in the flesh.” As he entered the room, Wendy noticed he had a wooden leg.
“…just when you thought that blasted crocodile had had the best of me, right? Well, he only got a small piece and a bad one at that! The rest of me, as you can see, is whole as ever!”
Hook interrupted her, “Please, don’t mention that name. He’s the cause of all this!” He pointed at his wooden stump. “And he’s the reason why my crew lost respect in me! Now they all call me Cap’n Stump! Can you imagine? Me, the greatest pirate who ever lived, the only man ever feared by the Sea-Cook, the only man who ever dared single-handedly challenge the Spanish Armada, called ‘Stumpy’ by his subordinates??? It’s the darnedest most embarrassing thing that could ever happen to me!!! But good ol’ James is willing to forgive and forget…did I say ‘forget’? No, I don’t think I did! And who said ‘forgive’?”, said Hook looking around. Lest we say good ol’ James is ‘willing’…willing to rip their lungs out!!! But everything in good time. I’ll replace them one by one with a new generation of buccaneers, ones that will be the spitting image of me: my offspring! Of course Miss Wendy, in order to have offspring, I first need a wife…”. The gallant captain offered his hand to the old lady.
“What better educator than she who ship shaped the Lost Boys?”
“Hook, you are out of your mind if you think I’m going to be your wife!”
Hook had predicted her refusal and had come prepared. He took a tiny snuff box out of his lapel, opened it and pinched out some powder, sprinkling it on top of the children. They magically began floating in the air, out of their grandmother’s reach. The kids screamed, scared out of their minds. “Maybe this will help you decide.”
“No, Hook! Leave them out of this!”