" . . . and they all lived happily ever after," said Wendy, closing the book and laying it on the table beside her. As a big sister she enjoyed taking her mothers place at story time, having passed her seventeenth birthday she felt very much the grown-up, even though the sheltered life she lead at home, gave her little idea of what the outside world was really like.
"Another story please!" the boys clamored, but truth be told, Michael and John were having trouble keeping their eyes open. Wendy shook her head smiling at her young charges, but it was not only the warm evening air that came in through the opened window, there seemed to be another, though stifled, cry of protest.
Several times, in the past few weeks, she had gone to the window to see what was there, but had seen nothing but a possible shadow. She had only the feeling that something was near but out of sight, while her young brothers thought they had been visited by the Kensington Ghost, reports of which had been in the newspapers and on the wireless of late.
As on previous evenings Wendy closed the window and drew the curtains, but this time there was the clear shape of a figure outside. A shadow cast by the bright full moon on the draped material, covering the dormer. She flung them aside but was still unsure if she saw something fall in the darkness, out of sight.
There was no crash, no cry of pain, what could it be? And what was the strange will-o-the-wisp she had seen on other nights, and now seemed to be hiding by the garden door, or was it a reflection? Hastily she tucked the boys into bed and turned down the gas light, leaving just enough for her brothers to dream by.
Leaving their door ajar she traced her steps along the landing, turned towards the rear of the house, and sped down the back staircase to see if there was anything to be seen. Unlit, uncarpeted, and narrow, these stairs were formally for the use of servants, now long departed.
Wendy skipped down them as quickly and lightly as she could, but when she reached the garden door there was nothing unusual to be seen. Looking up she noticed that some stars were twinkling on and off, but the sky was clear and then, unbelievably, a human shape seemed to cross in front of The Moon!
Startled she rubbed her eyes and looked again, the sky was clear, nothing masked the night sky, and nothing seemed to be crossing the heavens. Had she imagined it, was it just a bird she asked herself? Turning to go back inside she tripped over a log that seemed to have made its own way to a spot right behind her.
A tiny voice seemed to chuckle as she picked herself up from the ground, but maybe it was the wind in the trees. Brushing wet grass and leaves from her hands and knees, Wendy looked round but saw nothing, and heard no more voices that evening. She walked thoughtfully back to the house, and gave the sky a last look as she locked the door.
As she ascended the stairs she could hear that the boys were out of bed, and calling to her. All thoughts of what could have just happened vanished, she ran back up to quell their excitement before their mother came to see what the fuss was about.
"We saw it, we saw it," they chorused. "The fairy was there, we saw it out of the window!"
"Now boys, get back into bed and settle down, there are no fairies, except in stories." Wendy used her most motherly tone, firm but soothing, and ushered them towards their beds.
"We did see a fairy Wendy," said Michael.
"It moved that wooden thing to trip you up," added John.
"We saw it all from the window," Michael indicated the curtain drawn back, and the sash fully raised.
"Maybe you did, and maybe you didn't," decided Wendy, in the best imitation of their mother she could manage. Closing the window and curtains again she added, "But whatever it was will have to wait until morning. Now into bed you two, before we all get into trouble."
Reluctantly the boys were hushed, and tucked back into their beds again. Michael could not resist repeating that they had really seen a fairy, but his big sister was insistent, and both boys were very tired.
"Tell me all about it in the morning," she coaxed, and kissed them goodnight for the last time. Walking quietly to her room, Wendy was deep in thought, she could not make up her mind whether she was excited or afraid, or even if she believed there was something out there.
Still preoccupied she washed, brushed her teeth, dressed herself in a nightgown, and climbed between the crisp linen sheets of her bed. Still thinking she drifted off to a fitful sleep.
It was not a sound that woke her an hour or two later, but a moon shadow that leapt in through the window. Behind it, cautiously peering in through the open window was a boy, only a little older than Michael. Wendy woke slowly and with half closed eyes, saw him, no more than twelve years old, against the moonlit sky.
"Come in," she coaxed. "What do you want, and what is your name?" She had hardly moved, hoping not to frighten the intruder away.
"Please, I wish you would tell more stories," his voice was almost a whisper, but he did not move from his perch outside the window except to peer round the curtain into the darkened room. Without a book to hand Wendy had to tell a story from memory, but that was not difficult as she had heard and read them all so many times.
She began to tell the story of Robinson Crusoe, and noticed that her young visitor edged forward until he was almost completely in the room. She realized that he must have been listening to her telling bedtime tales to her brothers as he was able to correct her occasional mistakes.
The story entertained, and excited him, this was obvious, even though he had heard it several times before. At the end he left without a word, flying straight off into the night sky. Wendy was not shocked by this, but was puzzled by her lack of surprise. She sat in her bed for a while wondering if she had dreamt it all before finally laying down and closing her eyes.
The next day Wendy was only half concentrating on her chores, she (and her mother) had to continuously remind her to keep her mind on what she was doing. It is not difficult to understand though, it is not often that a strange boy flies up to your bedroom window to listen to a bedtime story.
As her brothers' bed time approached she glanced at the window constantly, hoping to see something of her visitor from the previous night. Her mother decided that Wendy was ill in some way, perhaps a mild form of the vapors, and bathed the boys herself, then prepared to read the story too as she had not done for five or more years.
Wendy sat, somewhat distracted, by the window glad to have the opportunity to observe both the world within and also without. Her mother selected a book and began to read, to her sons at least, the story of Dick Wittington. After a few minutes Wendy became aware that there was a muttering sound coming from outside.
"Why is she reading again? I never liked her stories, no excitement, too babyish." The muttering continued in this vane for a few minutes and then stopped, there was silence. Wendy excused herself and went to her room and looked out of the window, but there was no-one there, and it stayed that way all that evening, and the next.
On the third night Wendy was back in charge of mothering her brothers, and she made sure she selected a story full of action and adventure, Jack The Giant-Killer! As she read the first few lines the sound almost like a quiet cheer came through the window on the evening breeze. Wendy smiled to herself and read a little louder so that all her audience could hear.
When she had finished, and turned down the light she went to her room where her guest was waiting, hovering just outside the window.
"Thank you, that was a fine tale." His words were confident and sincere. "You read much better than her! She reads stories for babies."
"How can you know that?" Wendy asked, "I doubt that you could have been much older than a baby yourself when she let me take over telling stories to my brothers."
"I have always been this big, Neverland is lots of fun, but we never have birthdays, sometimes when I see John and Michael opening presents I think I would like to do that too." His voice was a little wistful.
"Do you visit us every evening to listen to the stories?" Wendy made to get a little closer to the boy, adding, "My name is Wendy, what is yours?"
"No, only when I feel like it, everything I do is when I feel like it." He was quite positive on this point, and pausing, he said, "Its Peter." He paused as if in thought for a moment and was gone, skimming the rooftops and darting skillfully through the shadows until he was out of sight. Watching him displaying these skills, Wendy suspected that he was the rumored Kensington Ghost!
He did not return for several weeks but when he did Peter was full of his own stories of adventure. His latest encounter with Captain Hook, in which he bravely emerged victorious; and his clever discovery of buried treasure, now buried again in a new secret location!
Wendy listened as Peter boasted of his greatness, wondering what it would be like to fly, but not expecting to find out. He on the other hand leapt and tumbled as he got more and more animated in his story telling. In the end it was too late for Wendy to tell a story herself, she was falling asleep, so she asked her new friend to come back the next night.
"I will stay here until story time tomorrow, I have a hammock in the loft of a house at the end of the road." With that he was gone with only the slightest of good-byes. Wendy settled herself and drifted off to sleep dreaming of flying, lost boys, and buried treasure.
The following evening Peter returned to Wendy's room and this time he came right inside. Wendy sat on the edge of the bed while he stood between her and the window, listening to the adventures of Aladdin. As she finished Wendy stood, stepped towards him, bent down kissing his cheek, and said good-bye.
Peter put his hand to his face where her lips had been, looking shocked and flushed, then flew through to the night sky without a word. He rose straight up towards the stars without a word, watched by a concerned Wendy. She had kissed him as she had done her brothers many times, why had he reacted like that she wondered.
When Peter returned several days later he was not alone. Wendy saw him talking to what looked like a small, shining person. She guessed it to be the "fairy" seen by John and Michael. The conversation seemed to be animated and not at all companionable. When it was over the fairy vanished and Peter flew over to her at the window.
"Who were you talking to?" Wendy tried to be as casual as she could but in fact she was so curious she almost burst.
"That's my friend Tinkerbelle, she taught me to fly, and looks after me." Peter sounded matter of fact, as though everyone had such a playmate.
"Where did you meet?" here was a story that Wendy wanted to hear!
"I got lost," Peter replied. "It was at the Jubilee, years ago I think. With all the crowds and the noise I lost my nurse and never found her again. Tinkerbelle saw me, I wasn't crying, and said we could find her better if we flew, but we never did see her. All the golden banners and flags were still there in the fading light, but the people had gone."
"Golden banners?" Wendy looked puzzled for a while, then brightened. "You were at the Golden Jubilee! That's the year I was born, how is it possible? It is 1905 now, you must be twenty-two or more, why do you look the same age as Michael?"
"Its where I live, where everything is always play," he replied. Neverland is where you never grow up, ever."
"But you have grown some since I think, and you look bigger than you did the other night when you first came to my window." Wendy was in her stride, she had seen a fairy and a flying child, and was prepared to believe almost anything, but it still did not quite add up.
"I get older when I come over to hear a story, when I'm not in Neverland, Tinkerbelle has warned me, but I like to hear stories like Nurse used to tell me." His reply had a logical ring to it, she was satisfied.
"And your clothes?" She queried, "You must need clothes as the old ones wear out and you get bigger." She had correctly guessed the answer before he gave it.
"People leave them on ropes in their gardens, hanging. Sometimes they are wet, sometimes not, but they soon dry if I fly fast. I can fly faster than anything!" He was boasting of course, but Wendy had seen him fly as quick as any bird she had seen, or quicker.
"Tell me about Neverland." Wendy had her curiosity awakened and really needed to know everything.
"I would have taken you there, I wanted to, but Tinkerbelle said you are too old to fly, she wont let you go." He was thoughtful and a little frustrated but settled to the task of describing the place where life was always fun, it never seemed to rain, or even get cold. Where every day had adventure, danger, and victory!
They chatted on into the evening and when they both felt sleepy Peter went to his hammock in the nearby loft. He returned to Wendy's room to talk, the next evening, before flying home as the darkness settled and the stars came out to guide him.