Day Four Hundred and Thirty-Seven
Tinkerbell still won’t speak to me.
She keeps insisting that I used her shampoo. I did no such thing. If I even attempted to pick up the bottle, I would crush it instantly. Her accusations used to be easy to brush off, but now they crawl up my skin like the forest bugs that swarm us every night after dinner. This place is meant to be some sort of Paradise, and yet, it has all the trappings of every other tropical island. Insects, humidity, birds that look like rodents and rodents that look like birds. Peter says he finds all of this charming, but that’s only because the vermin avoid him for some reason. The rest of us are not so lucky. Nibs got bit on both ears last week and he walked around looking like a flying elephant until I could gather some ointment from the tree sap near the lagoon. I would have sent John, but anytime he goes near that pit, the mermaids scream obscenities at him, and he runs home clutching his top hat and riddled with anxiety. I don’t know who taught those fish-women how to catcall, but they should be paddled for the filth that comes out of their mouths. Peter says they’re just teasing, but that’s him all the time--dismissive, carefree, and oblivious. All while the rest of us try to form a society in this Land of Immaturity.
Truthfully, I would kill for some shampoo, but I’ll let my hair fall out before I use any of that fairy concoction. I still have my pride.
Today we had seared potatoes with leeks.
It was passable.
Day Four Hundred and Seventy-Two
Tootles has wandered into the forest and nobody can find him.
Not that we’ve looked very hard.
We adore Tootles, all of us, but I can’t allow myself to be eaten by a strange Neverland creature all in the service of one boy’s safety. I’m the closest thing to a mother any of these children have, after all. I organized a search party and we made it several kilometers into the trees before I heard the unmistakable chanting of the indigenous tribe signalling that they had captured something--or someone. The boys heard it too, but I convinced them it was probably just a warthog ensnared by one of the clever traps their tiger princess invented, but in my mind, I had other notions. Inventing some excuse about needing to search other parts of the island that might prove more fruitful, I moved us away from the spot we were in, and back towards our hut. As we pushed through the spiked branches that populate the path leading to our residence, I said a silent prayer for Tootles.
The boys had already forgotten about the solemnity of the mission, and they were shouting some inane song about fighting crocodiles.
“A little less noise, please,” I shouted at them, noting who rolled their eyes at me in response. Those boys would be getting one less spoonful of porridge tonight, and if they gave me any words about it, I’d cancel storytime for all as a lesson to the lot of them.
My patience is wearing thin with this entire enterprise.
Today we had scallion bisque.
It was far too thin.
Day Five Hundred and Nine
There are days I miss London so much I climb to the top of the nearest cliff and shout the sound I remember Big Ben making to mark the hour.
A young woman screaming “Gong! Gong!” into the atmosphere would appear strange were anyone to see or hear it.
Of course, nobody wants to see or hear anything that might remind them of home anyway. At lunch, I brought up how I wish I could smell Mother’s perfume again, and Peter took me aside to chastise me for bringing Memory into the hut.
“The boys can’t handle it,” he said, as Tinkerbell buzzed behind him, gleeful at my being reprimanded, “They’ll all start diving into their nostalgia and we’ll have to listen to them cry themselves to sleep tonight.”
He wasn’t wrong.
Even mentioning back home can result in something of a breakdown in the group. My perfume comment seemed to have upset the twins, and they began to slap each other across the face over and over again, each slap becoming progressively harder, until Peter separated them and promised to take them to fight pirates in the morning.
He and I shared a look when the promise seemed to settle the twins. We both know his offer was bunk. The pirate ship departed the cove a month ago, and there was no reason to believe it would return. The crocodile population had exploded over the past year, and the Captain could no longer bear the overwhelming ticking that emanated from the water when the bask decided it was feeding time. Tinkerbell informed Peter that word amongst the fairies was that the Captain had gone mad and slaughtered most of his crew minus his right-hook man and that the two of them were now on a voyage to the Edge of Surreality.
What does it mean that I was envious of them?
That I also wished to be on a boat headed to the brink of chaos?
That given the choice to remain here and see these never-ending days pass by or fling myself into an abstract abyss, I would opt for the heart of darkness?
Oh, today we had onion stew.
It was under seasoned.
Day Five Hundred and Fifty-Three
In the night, I hear the boys calling for me.
Michael’s cries carry the most sting, because in his pitch, I hear my own mother. The way she’d call for me when I was outside playing with Nana. The firm but kind way she’d ask me to pick up my toys or look after my brothers.
What would she think of me now having left them behind?
Lily tells me that they will survive. That nobody dies on the island. They will remain young boys forever, and perhaps, several eons from now, we will meet again in the forest, although it is unlikely they will recognize me. Even without aging, there are ways to change one’s appearance here. I had no hope of such a mutation when I wandered away that night Peter struck me for trying to step on Tink.
She had flown right up to my ear and whispered a word I will not repeat, but it was the last straw. I would hear no more of her misdirected rage. I could not help it that she and Peter would never find themselves in the kind of love she desired. If it were up to me, I would let her have him. I’d let her have the whole damn cult of them.
Before I knew it, I had swatted her down to the ground. One of her wings was bent, and I found my foot hovering above her. The boys all caterwauled, but I heard none of it. I was a woman possessed. That was when I felt the heat on my cheek. No one had ever laid a hand on me. Not Father, certainly not Mother, not even the Governess we had before Nana who was no-nonsense and traveled everywhere by umbrella. I was stunned more than hurt. Peter seemed equally perplexed by his own actions. There was no violence such as this in Neverland. Yes, there had been kidnappings and sword fights and death by reptiles but nothing like this. Nothing so personal.
I said nothing.
Not a word.
I simply began to walk.
Nobody followed after me.
When I heard the sound of chanting, I moved into it instead of away from it as we had been instructed to do. I entered a clearing where the people we were taught to fear were sitting around a fire just like ours having what looked like a delicious meal.
I turned to see a familiar face.
He walked up to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said--
“What took you so long?”
They were eating fresh greens with a kind of vinaigrette.
It was divine.
Day Five Hundred and Sixty-Three
Today is the day.
Lily will escort me to the lagoon.
I will be dipped in the water and the mermaids will surround me.
The pain will be sharp at first, and then dull.
Then I will feel nothing.
That is what Lily tells me, and I believe her.
Tootles wished for the same course of action, but he is a man, and the mermaids will not allow him to change his form.
Still, he is satisfied as he is, provided he is never made to return to the hut or Peter.
As for me, I will never touch dry land again.
My hair will fall out and grow back a different color.
My skin will turn a slight blue.
My legs will shrivel up and turn to stone.
Then, from stone, they will soften, merge, and become something wonderful.
I will spend the rest of eternity in the lagoon with my new sisters.
Lily says she will miss me as we’ve grown very close in such a short amount of time. She promises to take care of Tootles and to smash Tink to bits if ever she gets the chance.
For my last meal as a standard woman, a feast is prepared.
I remember feeling lucky for the first time in so long.
The sort of luck I felt when I thought I would never have to grow up.
But you see, whether you grow or not, there is no preventing change.
Change happens regardless.
I slept under Lily’s blanket that night so that she could keep me warm. She was used to the frigid nights that came to the island every so often, but my skin was still quite thin. The anticipation of my upcoming evolution kept slumber at bay, but I tried my best to welcome it by counting the stars above me.
When I reached the second star to the right, I felt my eyes close.
And from there, it was straight on till morning.