Categories > Books > Peter Pan > Star Mile
"Wendy, it is marvelous to have you home!" George Darling gently placed his hands on his daughter's face to cup her cheeks. Wendy saw his eyes twinkling when he bent to kiss her forehead. He always looked at her like that since the night she returned from Neverland. He was still a proper gentleman, but he would never again be too proper to show affection to his children. "How proud we are of you."
"Father," she giggled, "it's only finishing school."
"Only school? Is that what my daughter said?" Wendy's father adopted his friendly commander face and stuck his index finger out, proudly pointing toward the ceiling of the drawing room. "You and I both know that schooling is of the most fundamental-"
"Yes, of course, Father. And I am /finished/. Thank you for being proud of me." Wendy silenced her father with a hug that also served to hide the annoyed look on her face when she thought about some of what passed for education in a finishing school. They taught her enough academia to make her interesting, but a lot of what she knew was self taught. The school was more interested in making sure she knew how to properly arrange flowers in a vase or how to set a table. "Are the boys home, yet?"
"Their term lasts another week," George smiled at his daughter and placed one hand on her back to lead her into a sitting room as he continued, "but there are two other very special people awaiting you as we speak. Let us not keep them longer."
Wendy and her father walked into the sitting room where her mother, Mary, and her Aunt Millicent were sitting on a pale yellow sofa, and she thought she'd never seen the latter look more pleased. Her mother's lips rose gracefully into a smile just as her body rose gracefully to greet her daughter. Wendy would always admire her mother more than any person in the world, but not because she was beautiful. She was also gracious and charming, and she was singularly gifted at being a mother. Wendy knew that she could have brought one hundred Lost Boys home with them and it wouldn't have been too many; there would always be more than enough love for everyone from Mary Darling.
Aunt Millicent had different qualities. She loved the children as much (and almost certainly more) than the grandest society party, and that was saying something; the only part of her aunt that unsettled Wendy was the hungry look in the older lady's eyes when she talked about her niece's future. Wendy suspected it had less to do with her own happiness and more to do with rules and propriety. Finishing school taught her that, even if Aunt Millicent hadn't been there to do it.
"Ooooh! Our little bird is back!" Wendy gasped as two long, silk-wrapped arms enveloped her and she thought it funny to be called a bird for the second time in her life. When she was finally released, she was made to sit on the sofa between her mother and her aunt. George sat in a plush chair across from them and called for tea, but Wendy knew it wasn't going to be a pleasant afternoon sipping tea with her family. Wendy knew she had been snared in a trap, and she already felt suffocated by the three sets of gleaming eyes all looking at her with different manners but the same intent: now that she was a young lady, it was time to find her a young man. If she really was a bird, she would have flown away before the first drop of tea made it out of the pot.
Hours passed like centuries as each of Wendy's elders relayed the different reasons to start accepting offers of courtship. She did her best to politely nod when appropriate and smile here or there, but the idea of having such a huge change as courtship and marriage forced upon her before she'd been home ten minutes was overwhelming. She allowed her right pinky to trace the delicate pattern on the yellow sofa while idly listening to her family talk about her in a way that made her wish she wasn't there to hear it.
"If we wait too long, then there won't be as many offers to choose from."
"You want to jump on it right out of finishing school so her training is still fresh."
"Of course, our Wendy wouldn't slack in her duties ever, but you're right, Millicent, best to work on it now, while she's still young."
"It was luck, really, that brought George to me. We can't hope for the same again in our lifetime, so we must have as much time to find someone perfect as possible. It would be positively horrid if our angel had to settle."
After dinner, Wendy sat alone in the nursery, still reeling from the afternoon's conversations. Still/ young.// Still /fresh. She felt like a piece of meat just carved from the carcass of a dead animal. If she wasn't sold and cooked soon, then she'd spoil, and no one would want her. Was that really true? Was her mother's beauty preserved only because of marriage? Wendy was smart enough to know better than that, but her current mood let her think a lot of silly things.
The worst part was hearing people who loved her talking like they did and knowing it was because they loved her. Her mother and father didn't make the rules, but they certainly played by them. Aunt Millicent was definitely more motivated to play society's games, but Wendy didn't believe for a second that her aunt would sell her to the highest bidder just to win standing. Indeed, the worst part about all of it was that its origin was in love. All three adults in her family life wanted her to be happy, and the only thing they thought could do it was finding her a gentleman. Of course she would love to be loved in that special way, and to find someone with whom she could share every secret and open up the drawer where she kept her dreams, but it didn't seem like the kind of thing one should have to actively look for. Shouldn't it happen like magic; isn't that what Wendy's mother meant when she said it was luck that brought George to her? For Wendy, the worst part of growing up was forgetting magic.
Crossing the nursery, Wendy opened the large window that started all of her adventures and kneeled there, wishing she really was a bird so she could fly away to a place where it was still okay to believe in magic, even if she was almost grown up.
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