Lost Girl, p.22Chanda Hahn
Her shoulders slumped as she realized how much she missed them. She tried to hide the catch in her voice, but Peter probably heard it. “And the cookies. Man, we’d make so many cookies, and my fingers would be dyed orange from the gel food coloring. It was my job to frost the hundreds of pumpkin-shaped cookies, and John…Oh, he’d help, but really he’d eat more cookies than he’d decorate, and we’d usually have to chase him out of the kitchen.” Wendy started to laugh but she couldn’t stop the tears that came with the laughter. “My brother is my best friend. For as long as I could remember, we’ve been partners in crime.”
“You miss them?” Peter, playing with her fingers, reached out to caress the back of her hand.
Wendy sniffed. “Desperately. What I wouldn’t give to be able to go home.”
“But they’re not your family, are they?” Peter asked.
“They are my family,” she argued.
He blushed. Swallowed. “No, I mean…you’re adopted, aren’t you?”
“How did you know?”
“If I had a guess, I’d say you’ve been with them for only about seven years, give or take a few depending on the foster system. And you don’t have many memories from before those years. I’d also guess, when your new memories started, that they had to do with water, or they took place near water.”
Wendy leaned back, jerking her hand from Peter’s grip. “What’s going on? Is this some kind of sick joke?” She felt like she was going to throw up. When Peter reached for her, she held up her hands and stood.
“Peter, you’re scaring me.”
“Here,” he held out something to her. She glanced down, picked up the small metal piece—a thimble. When she realized what it was, she dropped it and retreated. Why was she terrified of the Monopoly piece?
“You don’t remember, do you?”
She shook her head.
“Do you remember me telling you I knew one other person who could see shadows, but that she had died a long time ago when I was a kid?”
“I’m pretty sure that girl was you, Wendy.”
Her breath caught in her throat “No, I’m not her.”
“You also have a kiss.” He pointed to her neck. “Just like the girl.”
“It’s what we called them as kids. A small mark on your neck, just above your collar bone.”
Wendy’s hand flew to her neck, and she blushed as she felt the spot that always itched. It was a white scar. It didn’t mean he was right. He could have seen that anytime and just be making up the story.
“But it’s really a brand. So small and overlapped that it looks like a birthmark. It’s Neverland’s mark.” He stepped close to her again, reached for her fingers. “The Red Skull saw it and knew what it was. You’re subject number 1-04. I’m subject 1-00. I was the first.”
“How would you know my number? I’ve never been to Neverland.” She pushed away from him. “That can’t be. You’re lying.” It was hard to think with the pain building in her temples.
“It makes sense. Think about it. Why else would the shadows react to you, but not be desperate to take you there? It’s because you’ve already been kissed. You already belong. You’re one of us.”
“No, I’m not.” She shook her head. “I’m not one of them. Don’t you think I’d know? I’d remember.”
“Wendy, listen to me. It’s true. All of it.” Peter begged her, his voice pleading with her to understand. “When you were out cold, Tink took a blood sample and had it analyzed.
“What…how could you?” Seething, she turned, ready to storm out of the room.
“You have the PX-1 gene,” he said, stopping her in her tracks. “The gene that stemmed from the PX-1 treatments.”
“No, I don’t,” she denied. Shock had her reeling. This couldn’t be right.
He shook his head and sighed. “Yes…you do, and that proves you were on the island the same time I was. You’re a first generation lost girl.”
Wendy started pacing, but Peter caught up and grabbed her wrist.
“Then why don’t I remember?” Her head hurt terribly. “Why don’t I remember you?”
“It was years ago. We were on a boat escaping Neverland—under attack. You started to fall overboard, and I grabbed you, but I got shot.” He pulled his shirt down to reveal the scar on his chest, dangerously near his heart. “I couldn’t hold onto you.” His eyes turned glassy from unshed tears. “I tried. Oh, Wendy I tried to save you, but you slipped from my hands and fell into the ocean.”
His words burned into her soul, and she felt herself slowly slide to the floor as she tried to wrap her mind around what had happened. “I don’t believe you. I’d remember,” she whispered.
“No, you wouldn’t. In that way, you and I are a lot alike.” Peter kneeled next to her and brought his face close to hers. He whispered, “You were my best friend. I died the day I lost you, Wendy.”
She looked up at him with tears in her eyes, as his words forced disjointed and strange memories to come flooding back.
Everything she wanted to forget.
“No. Stop.” She covered her ears with her hands and started to rock back and forth.
He pushed on. “I died that night in Tink’s arms on the boat, but…a few hours later, I started breathing again, and I woke up with no memories. Tink calls it panning—for once a helpful side effect of Neverland’s experiments on me. None of the others have ever come back. It took weeks of therapy with Dr. Mee to help me remember anything.”
“Stop, Peter. Please. I don’t want to hear anymore.” Wendy sniffed, wiping her tears on the sleeve of her jacket. “I don’t remember because it didn’t happen.” But the barrage of memories at his words told her that wasn’t true. Lab coats, tubes and tables. Whirring air compressors. Injections. A rooftop. A fire. The forest. Water.
“The reason you don’t remember any of this, Wendy…the reason you don’t remember me or Neverland—it’s because you also died that night.”
The room started to close around Wendy, and things started to flicker in and out of focus. She was going to be sick.
Peter wrapped his arms around her. “Shh, it’s okay. I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, and I think that’s the reason you and I can see the shadows without the specs and no one else can. I think you died and came back to life early on during your first treatment at Neverland, but no one noticed. And you started to see the shadows. And then you drowned—or uh…panned. I didn’t start to see them until after I panned.”
“But you remember?”
“Well, like I said, I had lots of help from a counselor who’s no longer with us, Dr. Mee. You didn’t have anyone to help you like I did.”
“So does that mean I can’t die?”
“We’ll all die someday. Who knows? Maybe we have a certain number of lives, like a video game. One day we just won’t come back.” He shrugged and smiled sadly.
“I…I think I believe you, because I see some things. And it makes a weird sort of sense. But there are just so many questions. It’s a lot to take in, you know?”
“I get that. Hey, how about I take you to the beginning?” He raised his eyebrows. “Let you meet the man who created our haven.”
“I’m not sure.”
Peter smiled. “I think it will help you.” He grabbed his jacket from a coat hanger and beckoned for her to follow him.
Wendy started to follow but slowed. “I thought you didn’t know where he was. Which is why you’re running Neverwood.”
“I’ve always known where he was, Wendy,” Peter answered.
They took the bus, and Wendy was quiet the whole ride, watching Peter out of the corner of her eye. He was distracted, worried. And she could tell from the glances he kept shooting her way, she was the reason behind his confusion.
She was even more confused when they got off and walked to Bernard Books.
“Peter, why are we here?”
They heard mumbling and then a chair scraping across the wood floor. “Come in, come in. Nana, move, you lazy girl. I can’t get around you.”
Peter opened the door and walked into Mr. Bernard’s office. “Hello, Dr. Barrie,” he said softly.
The old bookstore owner patted his shirt pocket looking for his glasses. When he found them, he put them on and looked at the two of them standing in the doorway. “Barrie? Barrie, yes…yes…that’s right. I’m Barrie.” A bright smile lit up his face and he started to chuckle. “Oh, you must see, my boy, what I’m working on.” He gestured wildly for them to look at the mess of papers on his desk.
Wendy leaned over Peter and saw the sketches and pictures that he’d drawn on any available writing surface. Once again, she noticed a resemblance to Peter in many of the sketches. There was a sketch of a pirate ship with a red Jolly Roger, a crocodile, and an island.
“It will be the greatest story ever written! I’ll be famous. Children will be talking about this for ages,” Barrie crowed.
Wendy and Peter listened quietly as he spun a yarn about Neverland—a magical island where children went to avoid growing old, and how there was an evil Captain who was always trying to capture the children and a young boy who could fly. Not once did he mention Neverwood or the PX-1. She finally understood Peter’s problem. The one person who knew the most about Neverland now believed everything was simply a child’s tale.
Peter opened the door to Neverwood and let Wendy enter first. It was interesting how fast the place was finally starting to feel like a real home—when Wendy was there with him. They waved to Tootles and Fox who lounged in the main gathering room.
Teddy sat in a chair staring at them, his face unreadable, his eyes never leaving Wendy. How had no one else noticed that the boy couldn’t look away from her? Smitten probably.
Peter took Wendy’s hand and led her down a hallway to the stairwell. They climbed up to the roof. The sun had set, so it was chilly. Peter took off his jacket and put it around Wendy’s shoulders. They looked out across the water and they could see boats floating down the river. For once, Peter was happy. He felt like he had done something right in the world.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t know about Mr. Barrie,” Wendy spoke softly and nuzzled his jacket.
“Don’t be sorry. It’s what happened to all the adults when they left Neverland.” He looked across the water and wished he’d never set foot on that hateful island. He despised the Red Skulls and the corporation and all the ill they created. “It was…a safeguard, if you will. Every one of the adults who helped us escape have slowly slipped into an early form of dementia.”
“How is that possible?”
“They were given a different injection early on, at the beginning of the program. I think it was Neverland’s way of getting revenge on anyone who left the island for a long period of time without taking an antidote. If they left, their mind would revert to a child-like state, and they’d forget everything they had done. They had to protect those heavily guarded secrets at all costs.”
“Did he know, did they know what would happen to them if they left?” Wendy asked.
“Yeah, I think Dr. Barrie suspected as much, which is why he snuck his daughter Isabelle on his boat. You’ve met her too.”
“Wait. What? Tink is really Isabelle?”
Peter chuckled. “Don’t let her hear you call her that name. She despises any form of Isabelle—no Belle or Bella even. She was a genius like her father and loved to tinker around with computers—hence her nickname. Dr. Barrie taught her everything he knew about Neverland, and she’s read up on all of the files he was able to sneak off the island with him. She was never infected like the rest of the adults, since he hid her on the boat.
“That’s so sad.”
Peter grasped Wendy’s hand and gave it a great big squeeze. “Yes, it is, but we’ll win one day, Wendy. We’ll beat Captain Hook and his Red Skulls. And I think we’re getting closer to it too, thanks to you. I really believe that this stuff you brought us will help us beat the morphlings.”
“You really believe that?”
“I do. I really believe you hold a lot of the answers. Do you believe in me?”
“Of course,” she answered wholeheartedly. And she did now. She was determined to find answers—from others and within her own memories.
Peter moved away from her and stepped over to the edge of the roof. Her face paled at seeing him balancing on the edge.
She raised her hands. “Don’t, Peter. Stop.” Wendy breathed out in a panic
“I’ll be fine.” Peter smiled at her.
“N-no. No you won’t.” Wendy said. She gasped, eyes widening. “I remember. You…you fell?”
Peter stood on the edge of the roof and grinned, thrilled that she was starting to remember. “I didn’t fall, Wendy.”
“Yes, I saw you.” Her teeth were chattering as she tried to get her nerves under control.
“I stood on a roof like this once before, and I offered you my hand.” He held his hand out, palm up.
She stepped closer to him, her feet sliding along the roof top very slowly, as if she was scared any sudden movement would send her flying off. “I remember now. You offered to take me away, you promised to save me.”
“I’m here, Wendy, offering you the same chance. Take my hand.”
She looked up at Peter as her feet came to the edge. She glanced down at the ground, stories below, and let out a squeal of fear. Peter laughed. She held her hand in his and stood toe-to-toe with him.
“I’m scared.” She exhaled.
“Do you believe?”
He whispered, “I won’t let you fall.” Peter pulled her toward him possessively and leaned down.
Wendy rose up on tiptoes to meet him. Her lips tasted sweet and he could feel her fear recede. He lost himself to the kiss, never wanted it to end, never wanted to be without her again. Peter’s hands tightened around her waist, as he ascended into the night sky.
She pulled away from the kiss. Her cheeks flushed, her eyes sparkled until she looked down. There was a moment of fear, which escalated into happiness.
“We’re flying!” she laughed in excitement. “No, not we. You. You’re flying. You can fly.”
Peter’s head fell back and he chuckled. He wanted to share this moment with her forever.
A door slammed and someone came onto the roof. Peter groaned and he slowly brought them back down until their feet touched the roof. They turned to see Teddy standing there, out of breath, a look of utter brokenness written across his face.
“I hate you,” he bawled.
“Teddy, what’s going on?” Peter pulled away from Wendy, who looked adorably flustered. Her cheeks were red from their intense kiss.
“You left me, abandoned me.” His lips trembled and his hand reached into his coat pocket.
“What are you talking about?” Peter stepped away from the edge and moved toward the distraught boy. The boy seemed at the end of his rope, shaking now. Peter needed to act as a barrier between him and Wendy until he could diffuse the situation.
“Shortly after we arrived, you pretended you didn’t even know me. How could you? You were supposed to protect me, stand up for me.” He screamed in fury, his face turned red. “I carried your gift with me everywhere in the hopes that you’d acknowledge me…but you were too good for me. Showing off for your friends, ignoring me.”
“I’m sorry if I disappointed you, Teddy. I never meant to leave you behind. Neverland lied to everyone…even you. But we can help you, Teddy.” Peter took another step toward the boy.
More tears fell down Teddy’s cheeks “No, not you. I don’t know you. I just
Peter glanced at Wendy.
Her face was white with shock. He didn’t know she had a brother, and if she had panned her first few days at Neverland, like he suspected, then she wouldn’t have known she had one either. The boy should have said something to her, tried to help her remember.
“Teddy, I…” she looked like she was searching for an answer. Her mouth fell open.
“My name’s not Teddy,” he yelled angrily. “It’s M—”
“Michael,” Wendy interrupted him. “Yes, I remember now.” She started to step forward, but Peter grabbed her arm and held her back. The boy was unstable. And if he’d survived Neverland, where had he been all these years? What had Neverland done to him? Was he a plant? Was this a lie to put him in their midst?
“I didn’t know. I couldn’t remember you. I swear.” Wendy pleaded, but the boy just shook his head. “Michael, they did something to me.”
“Yeah, well they did things to me too. Only I didn’t escape it like you. Years I endured their torture. Years I waited for you to come back and rescue me. I told them you’d come back for us, but you never came.”
“Wait, are you saying that there are others?” Peter felt like a fist punched him in the chest. “Other kids still alive?” Dr. Barrie had sacrificed so much for them, and yet others still suffered?
Maybe Dr. Barrie didn’t know. Peter surely didn’t, but that didn’t make the guilt go away. He should’ve known somehow.
Michael ignored him. “I don’t know who or what I am anymore.” He gripped his head as if it was in pain. Tears flowed down his cheeks. “But you, Peter. You’re weak. You’re predictable. He said you’d take me to your base, if we made it look real enough. Granted, I wasn’t supposed to get hurt.”
Lost Girl by Chanda Hahn / Fantasy / Young Adult / Romance & Love have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes