США. Lost Girls

 

"It isn't fair!" Darla complained to her mom for the third time during 
their bedtime reading. She meant it wasn't fair that Wendy only did the 
housework in Neverland and that Peter Pan and the boys got to fight 
Captain Hook. 
 
"Well, I can't change it," Mom said in her even, lawyer voice. "That's 
just the way it is in the book. Your argument is with Mr. Barrie, the 
author, and he's long dead. Should I go on?" 
 
"Yes. No. I don't know," Darla said, coming down on both sides of the 
question, as she often did. 
 
Mom shrugged and closed the book, and that was the end of the night's 
reading. 
 
Darla watched impassively as her mom got up and left the room, 
snapping off the bedside lamp as she went. When she closed the door 
there was just a rim of light from the hall showing around three sides of 
the door, making it look like something out of a science fiction movie. 
Darla pulled the covers up over her nose. Her breath made the space feel 
like a little oven. 
 
"Not fair at all," Darla said to the dark, and she didn't just mean the 
book. She wasn't the least bit sleepy. 
 
But the house made its comfortable night-settling noises around her: 
the breathy whispers of the hot air through the vents, the ticking of the 
grandfather clock in the hall, the sound of the maple branch 
scritch-scratching against the clapboard siding. They were a familiar 
lullaby, comforting and soothing. Darla didn't mean to go to sleep, but she 
did. 
 
Either that or she stepped out of her bed and walked through the closed 
door into Neverland. 
 
Take your pick. 
 
It didn't feel at all like a dream to Darla. The details were too exact. And 
she could smell things. She'd never smelled anything in a dream before. So 
Darla had no reason to believe that what happened to her next was 
 
 
anything but real. 
 
anything but real. 
 
When she landed on the ground, she tripped over a large root and 
stubbed her toe. 
 
"Ow!" she said. 
 
"Shhh!" cautioned someone near her. 
 
She looked up and saw two boys in matching ragged cutoffs and 
T-shirts staring at her. "Shhh! yourselves," she said, wondering at the 
same time who they were. 
 
But it hadn't been those boys who spoke. A third boy, behind her, 
tapped her on the shoulder and whispered, "If you aren't quiet, He will 
find us." 
 
She turned, ready to ask who He was. But the boy, dressed in green 
tights and a green shirt and a rather silly green hat, and smelling like fresh 
lavender, held a finger up to his lips. They were perfect lips. Like a movie 
star's. Darla knew him at once. 
 
"Peter," she whispered. "Peter Pan." 
 
He swept the hat off and gave her a deep bow. "Wendy," he countered. 
 
"Well, Darla, actually," she said. 
 
"Wendy Darla," he said. "Give us a thimble." 
 
She and her mom had read that part in the book already, where Peter 
got kiss and thimble mixed up, and she guessed what it was he really 
meant, but she wasn't about to kiss him. She was much too young to be 
kissing boys. Especially boys she'd just met. And he had to be more a man 
than a boy, anyway, no matter how young he looked. The copy of Peter 
Pan she and her mother had been reading had belonged to her 
grandmother originally. Besides, Darla wasn't sure she liked Peter. Of 
course, she wasn't sure she didn't like him. It was a bit confusing. Darla 
hated things being confusing, like her parents' divorce and her dad's new 
young wife and their twins who were — and who weren't exactly—her 
brothers. 

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