The wicked little boy from her childhood: she remembered him. If he had changed at all, all things magical that exist only in childhood would have weeped his loss. But as luck would have it, the sprites and fairies she used to believe in had no reason to weep. Luck, she thought, had nothing to do this: the boy who refused to grow up, nor did luck have anything to with their reunion. His impish smile told her so.
Carol faced the one she called 'Peter Pan' and smiled. He was not Peter Pan, but his name was Peter. [And she had fallen in love with him once, and if she could've helped it, she wouldn't have done so again. But nostalgia, carelessness, freedom are all too irresistible.]
"You haven't changed a bit," she said warmly. "I've at least grown a foot and a half," His hooded eyes glittered with the joke, "Little change, though, I agree." He wore his hair up now. He liked it down in his eyes before with all the curls over his forehead. She liked the way it gave him a wind blown look as if he'd just touched down.
Carol nodded, "The last time I saw you, it was just before you moved. You came to say goodbye from the tree outside my bedroom."
"I had to live up to my nickname," Peter smiled back.
The night Peter Pan returned to Neverland and all things magical with him was that very one. Only a bandit paints a black band over his eyes and escapes in the night as Peter did. His mother finally took him away from the house down the street while the moon was high. His mother told him that she'd wait for him fifteen minutes outside by the car, but nothing more and she meant it. By the time little Peter rounded the side of the house, she had out her cigarette, lit, and prayed that little Carolina would still be awake. They couldn't leave without saying goodbye to Carol; Peter insisted it. His mother smiled thinking of the two of them and how they would think of her cigarette ashes as pixie dust. Or even picture her as some Indian Chieftess smoking a peace pipe. "Oh please let her be awake," Peter's mother breathed to the stars.
Around back, Peter climbed up the tree just outside to knock on the window that glowed with a soft pink light. Carol's brown eyes peeked around the white curtains seeing the painted bandit perched in the boughs of her tree. She smiled. Of course it could only be her Peter. Quickly, she opened the window and beckoned him in.
"No, I can't. My mom told me we have to leave soon," he whispered.
"But where are you going?"
"On an adventure," Peter's eyes glittered like a panther's hiding in the trees. Carol's eyes widened. She didn't like that look of Peter's for it meant trouble.
"Will you come back?"
"Not for all my life. At least that's what my mom says. But I'll come find you again and tell you all about it."
Carol didn't know if he meant in real life or in make believe, but she'd read Peter Pan-- the two of them had--and she knew they were the same thing. She could make believe a great adventure for him while he was away, but then if it came true, he would have nothing to tell her that she didn't already know. But Peter was so good at telling stories and her mother often told her that women know lots of things before a man even tells her, so Carol decided to keep her plan a secret to surprise him.
"And are you a thief in this adventure?" Carol asked leaning further out her window and climbing onto the bough to be alongside him. Peter nodded, "I'm stealing away the night." The two of them looked up into the sky with the moon shining down on them. The white light and the breeze touched Peter's hair just so.
"I will miss the moon," Carol whispered snuggling closer to Peter who perched so well in trees. It only bounced a little as she moved to place her cheek on Peter's shoulder. "You won't, you see, because you'll get to play all day and never have to sleep," He whispered back, gently.
"But won't I get tired? Do bandits get tired?"
Peter shook his head, "Never." Carol looked down at the grass, "Not for all their lives?" If Peter knew the answer to her question, he didn't say it, so she assumed that bandits never tired for all their lives. But Carol was not a bandit. What would she do without the moon and the stars and the breeze blowing through the trees? Would all the fireflies go away?
"And is it very dangerous being a bandit?" Carol asked.
"Oh yes, it is the most dangerous thing in the world."
"And are you afraid?" Carol barely heard her own voice and wondered if Peter did.
"Bandits are never afraid." He said puffing his chest again, but his voice sounded small. When Carol looked at him, she saw tears in his eyes. Peter was not a bandit either. But Carol didn't care, she hugged him tightly, making the branch sway slightly beneath them. Peter hugged her even more tightly and the tears fell into her hair. If she held tight enough, Peter couldn't move and couldn't go down the tree to have adventures without her, but already he was slipping out of her grasp. He pulled away from her to look back at the moon, "Maybe I'll leave the moon because you'll miss him. But only until I come back and then we can play all day without ever needing to sleep." Carolina nodded, brushing her own tears from her eyes.
Peter took his arm from around her, but he hesitated a moment on the branch not ready to leave quite yet. Carolina watched him swing his legs back and forth. His bare feet, like the rest of his skin, shone white under the moon's gaze. From the side of his face, the shape of the crescent moon would fit into the curve of his eyes and cheeks and his forehead if she could see it under his dark hair. And she thought, if he jumped right now, he would join the moon in its place in the sky. But maybe then was not a time for flying because his eyes still had tears in them and he couldn't think very happy thoughts.
Carefully, Carol took Peter's hand in hers. Flying and having adventures were his favorite things to do. The two of them would join hands and run down the street, feeling the wind through their hair and the faster they went, the happier they felt. Peter was always faster than her, but he'd never let go of her hand.
"Maybe I could come too!" Carolina whispered in his ear, gleefully holding his hand between hers. Peter shook his head sadly, "No, only master thieves like me and mom can go."
"I could be a master thief too and I could come!"
"You aren't a master thief."
"I could make believe I am," Carolina pressed eagerly.
Peter's mother poked her head into the open gate, "Peter, I told you fifteen minutes! Now let's go!" Her voiced hissed anxiously across the lawn. The wind picked up her voice and carried it through the trees which made the branch beneath them sway. They clung to its bark as it shook, although they knew they would not fall. Peter's cloaked eyes, full of fear, met Carolina's glassy ones. She'd never let go of his hand.
© Lauren Davidson, 2019. All rights reserved.