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       Lost Boy, p.15

           Chanda Hahn
 
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  “I’m not alone, John. I have you. You will always be my brother.”

  His shoulders hitched forward, and he squeezed her hand. “I’m scared, Wendy.”

  “Me too, John, but we’ll get through this. Together.”

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  “Kicking things won’t solve anything,” Tink chastised Peter as he kicked the tire on the car in the hospital visitor lot, just outside her room.

  “No, but it makes me feel better.” He let out a frustrated breath and ran his hands through his hair. “I should have forced her to come back with me to Neverwood,” Peter said, looking up at the hospital window.

  As soon as he’d shaken the police in Wendy’s driveway, having slipped out of the car, he’d called Slightly. Apparently, they had found Dr. Mee. She wasn’t happy about hearing from him. She was one of the few that had been able to retain memories after escaping Neverland, but she had completely isolated herself from the boys and Barrie. She’d made Peter swear never to contact her again. He’d had no choice but to break that promise.

  The kiss they had shared in her living room was burned into his heart. He was happy again that they were growing closer—possibly, she was having feelings for him again. But then, everything fell apart in the space of a few hours.

  Thankfully, Curly had been able to persuade the police that Dr. Mee was a child advocate and she’d managed to inject Wendy with a mental stimulant at the police station, which should have meant that her memories would return, but it hadn’t worked. She needed a stronger dose. He was trying to get a recap from Dr. Mee when Wendy and her family left the station. He found them just as their car was careening over the edge. He would carry the weight of her parents’ death for a lifetime, and she would blame him for just as long. Even if she regained her memories, he didn’t think she would ever forgive him.

  “Yeah, you should have,” Tink admitted.

  “I know. I just feel so guilty.”

  “Peter, don’t. It’s not your fault. But I have to tell you . . . it’s time. Time to come back to us. You’ve done all you can for her. I’ve let you shirk your duties for weeks now. Slightly and I have been trying to pick up the slack, but you have a greater responsibility than her. You have Neverwood.”

  “I can’t abandon her again,” he fumed. “Not now. She’s an orphan.”

  “We all are, Peter,” Tink whispered. “You’ve done all you can. Let Dr. Mee help Wendy remember; it’s no longer upon your shoulders. If she wants to come back to us, she can, but until then, Peter, you can’t abandon us.” Tink was crying real tears.

  It shook him. Tink never cried and had hardly ever shown any emotion other than irritation or contempt. He almost didn’t think it was possible for his best friend to cry. No one at Neverwood cried. They had all endured too much to even remember how to. But seeing the sheen of tears glistening down her cheeks was like a slap in the face, a sudden awakening. Somewhere inside of her, perhaps inside of all of them, was a heart that could break.

  “You can’t abandon me. The boys need you. We need you. I need you,” she hiccupped and tried to wipe her nose on her sleeve, and his heart broke.

  “Come here.” Peter grabbed her jacket and pulled her into a hug. He’d been a horrible friend, taking advantage of her friendship and forgetting that she had lost just as much as he had, and even more, watching her father slip into dementia. She had thrown herself into helping with the running of Neverwood in his place, but it wasn’t healthy. She had lost her father, and in many ways, she was losing him.

  Tink was everything to him. When he’d lost Wendy, it was Tink who’d saved him, who’d helped him recover, been there by his side. “I won’t abandon you. I’ll come back to Neverwood. I’ll pick up the pieces again. I won’t fail this time. I promise.”

  Wendy must have dozed off because when she awoke, John was gone, though she wasn’t alone in the hospital room. The same woman from the police station was sitting in John’s chair.

  “I know you. You’re from the police station, right?” Wendy studied her face a little closer. The woman stood taller, less hunched. Gone was the blue jacket, and she looked more put-together.

  “Yes, I am.”

  “You’re here to take us to a home, aren’t you?”

  She shook her head, setting a purse on the bed next to Wendy’s leg. Then, she pulled out a syringe. “No, Wendy, I’m here to help you.”

  Wendy eyed the syringe warily. “Help me? How?”

  “By helping you remember. I panicked at the police station and tried to inject you there. But you need a higher dose than what I gave you. Just don’t speak of that place. When you remember, you’ll understand.”

  She didn’t reach for her arm but injected the syringe into the drip bag’s injector port by Wendy’s head. “There now . . . it will all come back. Just think happy thoughts, my child.”

  Dr. Mee slipped out the door as Wendy fell asleep.

  Fire.

  Screaming.

  Falling.

  Flying.

  Drowning.

  Dying.

  Wendy awoke with a gasp, clawing at the air in fright, before she was able to calm down enough to survey her room. A female nurse came in with a tray of food.

  “Where is she?”

  “Who?”

  “The woman. The child services rep. She was just here.”

  “No one has been in or out of this room in hours, other than your brother and me.”

  “Hours?”

  “Yeah, I came into the room, and you were thrashing about on the bed. I called the doctor, and you’ve been under heavy sedation. Try and eat. Your brother will be back in a few minutes.”

  Wendy scanned the room. Flowers and cards lined a shelf. Fewer than she’d expected. Pushing the button on the remote, she turned on every light in the room, leaving no room for shadows.

  Climbing out of bed, she crept to the hospital window and searched the darkness, looking to the sky for a glimpse of him.

  “I remember,” she whispered, trying to keep the tears in check, “everything.”

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Wendy sat in a chair facing the window as she sought to reabsorb all the feelings and memories that she had suddenly regained, not to mention all the questions that troubled her.

  Neverland.

  A thimble.

  Dr. Barrie.

  And Michael . . .

  With a pang, she remembered Michael.

  It was true. All of it. But what was she supposed to do now?

  A shadow appeared outside, and she turned her face away, not willing to make eye contact or let it know that she could see it. Out of sight, out of mind. Well, not really. The shadows were never out of her mind—not when they could continually give her glances into the future or the past.

  Her eyes went back to the window, and she searched the sky, the trees, and the shadows for a glimpse of Peter. Why did she continue to search for him when he was the last person she wanted to see?

  The shadow appeared again, this time in her hospital room. It floated over to her bed and seemed to enjoy jumping on it, then summersaulted over to the nightstand. A wry smile tugged at Wendy’s mouth.

  “Oh, you,” she laughed, as a second smaller shadow decided to join in the fun. The two shadows made a game of dancing and taunting each other. The two were having such a grand time playing hide-and-seek among the flowers and medical equipment that they didn’t notice a door open. Then, a male nurse wearing dark-framed glasses entered, and their panicked display somehow crossed over into our world, causing a vase of flowers to fall, breaking and spilling on the linoleum.

  “Interesting,” the nurse said, putting his clipboard down, and then proceeded to clean up the mess.

  “Sorry,” Wendy mumbled from her chair across the room.

  “Well, it’s not your fault now, is it?”

  A tingling fear ran up her spine, causing Wendy to suck in her breath.

  “Whose fault is it?” she whispered, sc
ared of the response.

  He tossed the glass shards into the wastebasket and placed the flowers in the sink. Grabbing a towel from the bathroom, he used it to clean up the water. “Well, isn’t it obvious?”

  She knew she must look white as a sheet. Could the nurse see her trembling from where he mopped up the floor? Probably.

  “It’s the ghosts.” He turned and gave her a mischievous smile. “Oh, some ghosts wander these halls at night. This hospital is the last resting place for many who have crossed over.”

  “I see,” she sighed. The shadows still wouldn’t come out of hiding, which was odd. The easier she accepted their existence, the easier it became to see them and the more at ease they felt around her. Like puppies excited to find a home finally.

  “Where’s my brother?” Wendy asked the nurse.

  “Oh, he’s in the next room talking with lawyers and the police. I think they’re trying not to overwhelm you.” When he finished mopping, he returned to the hall and pushed in a wheelchair. “Okay, miss, it’s time to take you down to the second floor for some blood work.”

  “I can walk.” Wendy stood, and he waved her away.

  “Oh no, hospital rules. I have to take you in the wheelchair.”

  It seemed such a nonissue that she moved over to the chair and sat. The nurse tucked a warm blanket around her legs so she’d stay comfortable during transit.

  “You ready?” he asked.

  “Yes.”

  He wheeled her out and down the hall toward the elevator, cheerily humming the Star Wars Imperial March. He even crescendoed dramatically as they entered and the elevator doors closed. Wendy couldn’t help but chuckle, but the laughter died in her throat when he hit the button for the garage level and not the second floor like he’d said.

  “You lied.” Wendy tried to stand in the chair, but his firm grip pushed her back into it, his fingers digging painfully into her shoulder.

  “No, we’re taking you for some blood tests, but not here.”

  The doors opened, and he wheeled her into the garage. Wendy tried to dig her heels into the pavement to slow their progress, as she struggled against the hand holding her. She cried out for help and was surprised to see no one was in the vicinity. A white van had pulled up, its side door already open. Two men in black uniforms stepped down and headed for them. Fear paralyzed her. The nurse was working with Neverland.

  “Say it,” the nurse demanded. “Where are we taking you?” He pulled out an injector gun and held it against her neck.

  “Neverland,” Wendy whispered, and then sprang into action.

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Wendy ripped the injector out the nurse’s hand forced it into his neck, pulling the trigger. He slumped to the ground within seconds. The Red Skull soldier lunged for her, grabbing the wheels to stop the chair from moving. She flung herself backward, tipping the chair over. Wendy used her feet and the momentum to carry him over her head into the still-open elevator. The Red Skull hit his head and lay sprawled and stunned on the floor. Wendy scrambled out of the wheelchair and slapped the top floor call button, trapping the Red Skull inside as he tried to regain his footing. The floor rose up, and she hardly had time to grin before strong hands wrapped around her upper body.

  She’d forgotten there were three of them. Wendy screamed and, lifting her legs, pushed off from the closed elevator door and sprang backward. Her head slammed into the Red Skull’s chin, and pain radiated from the impact. The Red Skull grunted and cursed.

  “Wendy, stop,” a familiar voice demanded.

  “Jax?” She immediately stopped struggling and turned to look over her shoulder at his handsome face.

  The Red Skull set her down, and her bare feet found purchase on the cold concrete floor. She shivered in her hospital gown, and Jax ran over to the wheelchair and nabbed the blanket that had fallen from her lap when it overturned, then wrapped it around her shoulders.

  “Are you okay?”

  “Yeah,” she sniffed. “But what are you doing here?” she asked warily, her mind putting together the memories and the last few encounters, which painted an ugly picture.

  He looked down at the ground. “I’ve come for you.”

  “You didn’t come because I was in trouble, did you?”

  His eyes filled with regret, and her stomach started to churn. “No. I came to bring you back.”

  “To Neverwood Academy, right?”

  He shook his head.

  “No!” Wendy flung the blanket off her shoulders and started running down the garage ramp, her bare feet slapping the cold cement.

  His longer legs would quickly overtake her, so she’d have to outmaneuver him. She ducked between two cars, slid between the cable rails, turning onto her stomach, and dropped to the floor below, landing on the hood of a pickup truck. Her landing was less than graceful as she rolled off onto the cement. Her knees were scraped and bleeding, but she wasn’t ready to give up.

  “Wendy!” Jax yelled, following close behind her. His boots left a larger dent on the same truck. “You don’t have to run. You’re going to end up getting hurt.”

  She didn’t waste her breath replying because answering would mean she wasn’t running. How come there weren’t any other people in the garage? Where was everyone? She made it to the street level and ran past an empty parking garage booth and out into the street in her torn hospital gown, knees bloodied.

  Her blonde hair flying, she ran as fast as she could, refusing to slow. She could hear Jax gaining on her and listened to the words flying out of his mouth. But she ignored him and veered a sharp right into a park. Then, he was there, pulling her back by the shoulder, causing her to lose her footing and fall face-first onto the grass. She screamed as he rolled her over.

  “Stop,” he commanded. She clawed at his face, and he gripped her wrists, pulling them above her head. He held his face close to hers, a face filled not with anger but with determination and regret. Her mind flashed back to that very situation at the gym at Neverwood, and Wendy’s knee flew up, making contact.

  Jax grimaced and started to lose his grip, but it wasn’t enough to get free.

  “Stop, Jax,” she whispered. “Don’t do this. Don’t take me there.”

  “I told you,” he gritted through the pain. “I warned you about them . . . about me.”

  She closed her eyes and felt tears well up in the corner. “Please, don’t make me hurt you.”

  “What?” He leaned back in surprise.

  Over his shoulder, a fright of shadows began to appear, and Wendy reached out to them for help. She called to them.

  Help me.

  They paused, floating about, unsure.

  Help me. Wendy tried again, commanding them this time.

  One of the shadows, a taller one, flung itself into Jax and then went through him, like they would do with Wendy. She knew from experience that it was jarring, and it seemed to have the same impact on Jax, as he stumbled and released her.

  “What was that?” Jax looked up in fear. He was surrounded by shadows, but since he wasn’t wearing any goggles, he couldn’t see them, though he knew they were there.

  “My friends.” Wendy smiled. “Now, get off me, or I’ll send more than one after you.”

  Jax licked his lips, his forehead creased in worry. “I can’t, Wendy. I can’t fail them. You have to come with me.”

  Wendy looked over her shoulder at the shadow that had passed through Jax and nodded. It took another running start and flew into him a second time, this time not passing through but hanging inside long enough that it was able to fling him off Wendy physically.

  She crawled to her scraped and bloody feet, her eyes blazing with anger. “How dare you attack me?”

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Jax was unprepared for the torturous cold that ran through his body, freezing his muscles and ripping them from his control. Against his will, he was flung away from Wendy and landed on the ground. His mouth opened and shut like a fish as he struggled to bre
athe and push the shadow out of him.

  A second later, the shadow left him, and he started to cough as air filled his lungs. Jax struggled to his knees, and then almost sank back to the ground at the sight that met him.

  Wendy, beaten and bloodied, stood before him, her hair billowing out around her shoulders as if controlled by an unseen force. Her eyes were dark as the night, but her skin glowed, and the shadows, which were generally invisible to the naked eye, were becoming brighter, stronger, more lucid the angrier she became. An army surrounded her, and he knew defeat.

  He had no desire to destroy her, and when he’d been given the command to bring her to Neverland, he’d almost revolted, but he had no choice. There was more at stake than any of them realized. More than Peter ever realized. He had to bring her back with him or else . . . At that moment, he hated himself for what he was about to do.

  He closed his eyes, focusing his anger on the injustice of his prison. Fire pooled around his left hand, burning off the glove that he wore. He let the power flow into his palm. Please, he begged, let me be able to control the rage, control it so that it won’t destroy her.

  “Jax,” Wendy called out, taking a step back in fear. “Don’t.”

  “Come with me, Wendy.”

  “Never,” she hissed.

  “Then, you leave me no choice. Hook said if you won’t come with me, then you’re to die here.” He lifted his hand and closed his eyes, refusing to look as he sent a fireball toward her. At the last second, he lamented as Wendy flung up her hands to protect herself and screamed.

  Some of the shadows threw themselves around Wendy, creating a shield of burning darkness. They didn’t say anything—they couldn’t—but she heard their souls cry out in pain as they shielded her, and burned up, dissolving into smoke and mist.

  “No!” Wendy cried as they sacrificed themselves to protect her.

  When it was over, she sat in a circle of charred grass. Tears fell freely down her cheeks. Inside, she could still feel their pain, their suffering, and their hope. The closest shadow lay on the ground, its body glowing from within, like an ember about to go out. It was the one that had attacked Jax for her.

 
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