06 – Stef in Kensington Gardens, Again

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‘I wish I hated you.’

Five words and she was crying.

They weren’t the first words she’d spoken to Peter since he’d abandoned her, but they were the truest. Other words had been…staring out of her room at school or at the estate, focussing in on a star, and wishing that he’d return, swing back around with a handful of pixie dust and take her away from the mundane and the humdrum.

Those words had been wishes into a black night, wishing for the feel of starlight on her skin, to feel the rush of magic that- Peter was real, and that was one of the few solid truths that she could hold in her heart.

Peter was real, but he was a bastard. He’d left her, pissed on back to Neverland, and forever left her without a way to escape her life.

She kept her hand on the wire of the earbuds, playacting the part of someone in the midst of a phone call, should anyone look in her direction. Today was about- Something. An ending that hadn’t been nice enough to present itself to her.

It was yet again one of those places that real life failed to be tidy. The last conversation she’d had with her mother had been about chocolate milkshakes; she’d never had a last conversation with James – he’d simply disappeared from her life.

Natural catharsis was rare, and it left the threads of your life hanging like old cobwebs.

Peter had been her roommate in the hospital, recovering from injuries that had kept him – mostly – from flying, though there had been moments where he could briefly leave the ground, or hang suspended over her bed to make faces at her.

Even for the eternally-young boy, it was hard to fly with stitches.

They’d been alone, the two of them against their horrible Nurse-Ratched-clone, a woman who had taken every opportunity to be cruel or to make remarks about their injuries and how it made them- Damaged.

To their nurse, she and Peter had been the “troublesome boys”, something that had hurt in the moment, and buried itself way down into her soul like a poison thorn. To the nurse, she had no longer fit the classification of “girl”; to the nurse: a girl had to be able to have children.

And without a way to continue to a matrilineal line, the nurse had seen no point in differentiating her two patients.

Peter, bless his heart, had immediately starting rebuking the logic, calling her the most wonderful girl in the world, and offering his lost boys as children in need of a mother. Always too many lost boys, never enough mothers.

‘I wish I hated you.’

Peter had been her best and only friend, her first kiss, and the saviour that had vanished without saving her. Her first love and her first disappointment. A story without an ending.

And now, her only recourse was to angrily whisper at the most famous statue that had been erected in his honour.

Sometimes, she wished that she had imagined him, that his presence and support in the hospital had been nothing but her insane brain trying to give her some hope and companionship. But the memories were too real, too vibrant, indelible marks on her mind.

It wasn’t like the memories of imaginary friends – friend – she knew that she’d had make-believe adventures with an aged Captain Hook – those had been whims and musings. Those memories were…impressions of memories, enough to know that she’d imagined grand adventures, but not enough to make her think that her Captain had been real.

And she knew Hook hadn’t been real – Peter couldn’t see him, even when the two had been standing across from each other.

She stared at the statue, at the parents and children taking photos, at the children mimicking his pose, and wished- Wished that she had a wish. Wished that life was fair. Wished she’d been quicker to take his hand.

As he’d recovered from his injuries – he healed much faster than she did, and hadn’t required any subsequent surgeries like she had – they’d begun to make plans to leave. They’d stared at stars, worked out a day, and pinkie swore that they’d escape.

And she’d been a step too slow, and he’d flown without her.

He’d rose into the sky, the smile of an imp on his face, and disappeared to Neverland.

Some stupid people said it was better to have loved and lost, but those people were ignorant dumbasses. Living without the knowledge of love was one tragedy, feeling the loss every time you stargazed and saw two stars twinkling was another.

Knowing that you’d had your one perfect moment, and you’d never get it back was worse than never knowing perfection.

And she wished she hated him.

At the end of the day, at the end of the story, it had been his story, not hers, and she couldn’t blame him for escaping. The hospital had been worse for him than it had been for her – she’d never known what it had been like to fly, whereas he’d been lying for weeks with his wings clipped.

He had to go so he could stay young, she had to grow up…even if she wasn’t doing a very good job of it.

There was really no point in growing up when you didn’t have a future.

Life was one moment after another, pure survival because she was too afraid of the other option. There was nothing to do except take the next breath, have the next breath, try and not sleep during the next class, and pretend like she had hopes bigger than wanting to see the next superhero movie.

She couldn’t have children. She had no skills for a career. She had no family that loved her.

She was drunk and crying at a statue who represented the most meaningful relationship in her entire life.

‘It’s not fair.’

She hung her head and ground the heels of her hands into her eyes.

‘I know- I know you can cruel and callous and- But-’

A sob locked in her chest like a physical blow.

‘Why doesn’t anyone ever want me?’

Her body turned into a panicked heartbeat as she heard the words. Every inch of her pulsed, panic and anxiety vibrating her from the human world.

Too real. The question was too real. It wasn’t the kind of thing she was supposed to ask. Wasn’t the kind of thing she was supposed to think. If she thought it, she’d be vulnerable. She’d be-

She couldn’t be sorry for herself. Couldn’t-

Tears slid down her cheeks, and she put her phone away, giving up on the pretence of the fake phone call.

No one wanted her, and that was the plain reality of the world. There were far worse predicaments to be in, than to be unloved and unwanted.

The tear fell freely, and she wished she cared.

Around her, the happy families continued a background of happiness she’d never have.

She looked up at the statue and wiped her eyes. ‘I still love you.’

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See you next time, Recruit.

05 - What Never Came Next

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