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Island of the Lost

Prologue

 

I left this world brokenhearted.

With wounds held together by bandages and duct tape.

I was dying inside, trying to put the pieces of my life back together. Unsure of up from down. Dreading spending each night alone because the memories of my sister and my ex-boyfriend’s betrayal would haunt me. 

It’s funny how the cuts on my heart that I thought would never heal are barely scars. 

How time, as unreliable as it may be, can mend all wounds.

Well, most.

The pain I feel now runs deeper than anything I’ve ever felt. I live another life every time I close my eyes. I feel Wendy’s love for both Peter and James as if it were my own, and it blurs the lines of everything I know. But walking in her footsteps each night is better than existing in this purgatory because there I get to see Peter. 

I get to touch him in their stolen moments. 

I get to hear his voice whispering to me in the dark.

And I get to feel her guilt for loving one brother more than the other.

Chapter 1

It’s been days.

Days of waiting and hoping Pan would come back to me.

Days of ordering in because I didn’t want to miss the moment he returned.

Days that dragged on, minutes feeling like hours, and he still hasn’t come back.

I look at yesterday’s pizza box, still sitting on the table with a half-eaten slice inside. I wage a war with myself, fighting both sides of the battle. On one hand, I skipped breakfast. What little I had of the plain cheese slice that I tried to eat last night is all I've had in the last twelve hours. On the other hand, my nerves are so shot, I’ve barely been able to keep anything down.

Is it worth it to eat if I know I’m just going to throw it up later?

I roll onto my side and hold Pan’s pillow to my chest, wishing it was him. Wendy Darling’s emotions have twisted with mine, pushing away the anger and fear I clung to while in Neverland.

I shouldn’t let her feelings consume me. I would be better off hating both Peter and Pan for turning my life upside down by dragging me into their world. I should be thanking them for bringing me back to the life I begged and plotted to return to.

Instead, I’m drowning in depression, missing a man I never wanted to love, desperate to return to a world no one believes exists.

I hold the pillow tighter, fully understanding why Wendy Darling donned a pen name and twisted her stories into the beloved fairy tale. She would have been put in an insane asylum had she told her truths any other way.

I’ve wondered more than once if talking to someone about what I went through might help ease the pain of missing the other half of my soul. At the very least, it would help me sort through how I feel and what I want. I might even figure out how to separate all things Wendy from my everyday existence and only draw on her experiences when I’m ready.

But the only person who knows I'm not dead is my sister, Tyle, and she is the last person I want to see.

Her life is perfect.

I huff out a laugh of disbelief that is swallowed by a sob. Of course, it is. Tyle got everything I wanted in life, right down to our childhood home, while I’m stuck pining over an impossibility.

I bury my face in what’s left of Pan’s scent. The cotton smells more like stale pizza thanks to my breath, but it still has a hint of earth and magic. Soon even that will be gone. 

And then I’ll have nothing.

A new wave of sadness has me crying again. I’ve given up trying to control my tears, let alone stop them. Centuries of longing flow through me and every time I close my eyes I let in a little more pain.

Watching Wendy live her life and feeling it as if I’m experiencing it all myself is torture. Yet, I willingly put myself through that pain because living in her reality while I dream is better than existing on my own.

A rap, rap, raping on the door has my heart skipping a beat. No one should be knocking. I have the do not disturb sign on the door specifically to avoid human contact, and there isn’t a soul alive who knows where I am.

Except for my Peter Pan.

Oh my gosh!

I wipe my eyes, excited and hopeful that Pan has returned. Or maybe Peter. I don’t know who I want to see more. They’re the same man, yet different all at once. Pan will likely barge into the room and take me in a hungry kiss. Peter will probably tuck his hands into his pockets and give me that lazy grin of his. Both men will have me on my back within minutes of returning, and while I’d rather see them at the same time having either one would send me over the moon. I love them both separately and equally and would be happy to see either.

But if I had to choose…

Hell, I’m not sure I could.

I run my fingers through my hair and try to make myself look somewhat decent. I should have taken that shower, and I’m kicking myself for not thinking to be ready for when the other half of my soul returned, but there’s no time now.

I hurry to the sink to put some deodorant on, then brush my teeth for all of thirty seconds. My mouth feels cleaner and minty, and while I’m too gross for sex (I need to shave pretty much every inch of my body) I don’t feel like a cavewoman anymore.

He knocks again.

“I’m coming!” I yell. My heart races with each step and my stomach lurches. I’m so excited I could puke, but try to hold it back. That would ruin our reunion. Although, I’m sure if I did, we’d laugh about it later.

A small arrow of fear strikes my bubble of excitement. Three days is just a few hours in Neverland. I doubt Peter has found Cass yet, but if he’s here that means one of two things. Either something terrible has happened, or it’s safe enough for me to come back.

I’m praying it's the latter because being in this world again is torture. Time moves too slow, forcing me to feel more than I ever thought possible.

I reach for the chain on the door. My fingers fumble, the connection between them and my brain broken, like a song on a fuzzy radio station. Bits of what I want them to do eventually break through the static and I finally slide the chain, then twist the latch on the door, and tug it open.

My heart falls to the floor so hard I have to bite my tongue until it bleeds to keep my tears at bay.

It’s not him.

Of course, it’s not.

“Thank God. You’re actually here!” Tyle throws her arms around me, pulling me into a hug. She’s got on a baggy shirt with some yoga pants, and her hair is in a messy bun. Dark circles hang under her eyes like she hasn’t slept in days. She pulls back and cradles my cheeks in her hands, looking at me like she’s scared I’ll disappear the moment she closes her eyes.

“How did you find me?” I ask.

Tyle drops her hands and we awkwardly stand in the hallway until it hits me that she’s waiting to be invited in. I step to the side and open the door wider. Her nose wrinkles once she’s inside. I sniff the air. It has a mild sour smell to it so I don’t judge her for the face she makes, even though I know she’s judging every little detail of my room.

“Someone left a note a few days ago stating you were here, in this room, and to come get you.” She lifts the pizza lid. A fly scurries out, and I’m glad I decided to skip lunch. “I thought it was a joke. Kenny had told Kierra that you’d come back the other day. She went to a dark place after you died, and I thought the note might have been her way of coping with an old wound. But it was eating at me. So, I came.” She pokes her head into the bathroom and relaxes when she realizes it’s empty. “Where is Peter?”

“You remembered his name?” I ask, surprised. Tyle used to go through boys so quickly that she’d name them all handsome so she wouldn’t call her new toy by the old toy’s name. The fact that Peter’s name stuck after knowing him for less than ten minutes is shy of a miracle.

“How could I forget? Peter has haunted me ever since I met him. It took me a minute to match his face when I saw him again at the house, but once I did there was no mistaking who he was.” She lets the part about him being the man who took me hang in the air. I don’t finish the statement for her and desperately hope she doesn’t ask.

“He left,” I say as impassively as possible. She won’t understand that every minute he’s gone I die a little inside. Hell, I don’t even fully understand. All I know is that I feel like a ghost in this world without my Peter Pan.

Tyle takes a hard look at me and frowns. “You’re sad about that?”

I shrug, not having a good explanation. "It’s complicated; you wouldn’t understand.”

“I understand perfectly, Wednesday. It’s called Stockholm syndrome. You were held captive by him for years and you fell in love with him. It’s perfectly normal, but that doesn’t make it okay.” She reaches out and touches my arm. “I can help you through this.”

I jerk free of her touch, horrified. She doesn’t know anything. Peter didn’t hold me prisoner. He was my friend. He saved me more times than any man should need to. She’s wrong! “I don’t need help, Tyle. I’m fine.”

I turn my back to her, walk back to the bed, fall into the heap of blankets, and grab Pan's pillow again. I close my eyes and wish for sleep to come, desperate to see Peter’s face again.

It doesn’t.

The door closes and clicks when the auto-lock latches. I hear the shuffle of things as Tyle pokes around the room.

“This place is a dump, Wens.” Tyle tries to shift the conversation and that tone, the one laced with judgment and disappointment comes out of hiding.

I doubt she’s ever been in a room that costs less than five hundred dollars a night. My motel might not be fancy, or aesthetically pleasing, but it has hot water and a bed and doesn’t require me to spend more than seventy-five of Peter’s dollars each night.

“Why are you here, Tyle?” I don’t look at her. I don’t want to see her glowing with love as she grows her baby. Yes, I’m still bitter. Just because I don’t love my ex, or want him anymore, doesn’t mean I can’t still be angry.

Family is supposed to be forever.

They are supposed to be the people you can always count on.

My family isn’t in this room. They’re back in Neverland because those people are more loyal to me than my own blood.

“I was worried about you.” The bed dips. Tyle sits beside me and pushes the blankets back until I have no choice but to look at her. Dark bags peek through her concealer. She looks tired, and years older as her makeup folds into the fine lines of her face. “When that man took you again…” She bites her lip and shakes her head. “I thought I'd lost you."

“Stop.” I push up onto one arm and glare at my sister. “Stop pretending that you care about me. You don’t. You haven’t since the seventh grade when you woke up and decided that we weren’t going to be twins anymore.”

“Wednesday.” Tyle swallows hard and closes her eyes. I give her a minute, although I’m not sure why, and wait for her to compose herself again. “I’m sorry,” she whispers.

“Sorry can’t change the past.” I get up and start cleaning my mess because I don’t know what else to do. I can’t just sit here and pretend that singular word erases years of trauma, because it doesn’t.

“I know.” She sighs, taking the empty bag of chips from my hand and carelessly dropping it to the floor. “But damn it, Wednesday, you're all I have. We have to stick together.”

“What about Kenny?” I raise my eyebrows, curious about her response.

“Things with Kenny are complicated. We got married because of Wanda, but we don’t love each other. He’s been cheating on me since before the wedding.” Tyle drops into the chair, unconcerned about crushing the only clothes I have.

“Sucks, doesn’t it?” I cross my arms, wanting to hold on to my anger, but as I watch my sister wither from the strong woman who didn’t give a damn about anyone but herself to a broken shell of that person, I can’t stay mad.

“You know what they say.” She forces a smile and tries to sound playful, but I can hear the tears on the brink of breaking free. “What goes around comes around.” She sniffles and then stretches her smile wider. “Enough about me. What are you doing, Wednesday? Why are you in this hell hole? This place reeks and, no offense, but you look like shit.”

The look Tyle gives me warms my heart because if Mom could see her, she’d be proud. Tyle has mastered the I’m disappointed but still love you face.

I’m not sure what to say. Outside of what I did a few minutes ago, I haven’t made any effort to brush my hair, put on makeup, or even find matching clothes since Pan left. All I’ve done is sit here and cry.

And wait and cry.

And eat and cry.

And then throw up because I’m so upset and anxious and ready for him to come back, I can’t keep anything down.

But if Tyle is here because Pan sent her, I can’t help but fear he knew he’d be gone more than a few days. The color drains from my face when it hits me that he may never come back. Pan planned for my sister to find me because he knew I wouldn’t leave this room. Ten lifetimes of money sits in his account, and I would have spent half of it wasting the years away.

Just. Waiting.

The shred of hope I have that he’ll return shatters. I bury my face in his pillow, overwhelmed with a new round of tears. Tyle moves to sit beside me and holds me in her arms. She can’t begin to understand my pain, and still, she keeps me in her embrace trying to ease the ache.

“Wednesday,” my sister says. Her voice cracks as she fights her own wave of emotion. “Come home.”

“I don’t have a home,” I say into her shoulder.

“Yes, you do. Your home is with me and with Kenny and Wanda. We’ve missed you.” She pulls back and looks me in the eyes. “We love you.”

I lean against the side of the bed and curl my knees into my chest, wrapping my arms around them. I don’t know if I can be in that house without Mom. It hurts too much.

Tyle sits beside me and touches my back. "It doesn’t have to be forever,” she adds, reading my mind. “Just until we get you settled, sort out the whole death certificate thing, and get you a job. You’re welcome to stay as long as you want, but I know you won’t.”

I laugh humorously at the thought of living with my sister and her husband. The three of us under the same roof, playing house, sounds like a nightmare.

“How have you been paying for this?” Tyle asks, looking around the room again.

“Peter left me some money." I pause, tempted to keep everything Peter and Pan related to myself, but I need help moving and probably selling it. So, I add, "And a car.”

“He gave you a car?" she asks, eyebrows arched.

I nod and laugh when I say, “I don’t know how to drive it. It’s a stick.”

“Oh honey, once you learn how to work a stick, it comes naturally,” my sister says with too much enthusiasm, trying to cheer me up. She wiggles her eyebrows and I can’t help but laugh with her. It feels so good not to be in constant competition with each other.

Neverland years aside, I can’t remember the last time we sat together and got along without pretending.

“Please, Wednesday, even if it’s just for a few days, you need to get out of this place. It smells like puke in here.” She wrinkles her nose again.

That’s because I can’t keep anything down.

I let my head fall back against the mattress and stare at the popcorn ceiling. As much as I don’t want to be around Kenny or in that house, I don’t want to be alone either. Heartbreak is harder when you’re by yourself, and I don’t want to be alone anymore. “I don’t know.”

“Okay. No pressure, we can talk about where you’re going to live later.” She holds up her hands, in mock surrender. “What about lunch then?”

“Huh?”

“Lunch. Let me take you to the mall. We’ll go shopping and get something to eat. My treat.”

I’m about to tell her no when my stomach cramps. I touch my belly, feeling its angry rumbles. I’m still not used to all the additives this world puts into its food. I throw up half of what I eat, which is why I’ve mostly had chips the last two days. Something about the grease and the salt mixes with me. It’s the only thing I can keep down. But I probably should put something besides crap in me. And I really do need some more clothes.

“Fine,” I concede. “Let me take a shower and get ready.”

“Oh, thank God.”

“What?”

“I didn’t want to say anything, but you smell terrible.” She grins, teasing and telling the truth all at once.

I grab a pillow, the one that isn’t Pan’s, and chuck it at Tyle as I pass the bed. I don’t forget the years of bullshit she’s put me through, or how I still kind of hate her, but a small part of me is glad Tyle showed up.

With her here, I’m not alone.

 

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