Magic can do a lot―give you flight, show you mermaids, help you taste the stars, and… solve the budget crisis? That's what the grown-ups will do with it if they ever make it to Neverland to steal its magic and bring their children home.
However, Gwen doesn't know this. She's just a sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a powerful crush on Jay, the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn't know her little sister could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that she might have to chase after her to bring her home safe. Gwen will find out though―and when she does, she'll discover she's in the middle of a looming war between Neverland and reality.
She'll be out of place as a teenager in Neverland, but she won't be the only one. Peter Pan's constant treks back to the mainland have slowly aged him into adolescence as well. Soon, Gwen will have to decide whether she's going to join impish, playful Peter in his fight for eternal youth… or if she's going to scramble back to reality in time for the homecoming dance.
Peter was still in the air, playing up his arrival with dramatic flourish and narcissistic pleasure. As he dove down, soaring within an arm’s reach of the ground, zesty red poppies sprang up, trailing after him. He landed at last, laughing. As he struck a victorious pose, he was swarmed by the giggling children. Gwen watched in awe, but her little sister wandered to her side.
“How long has he been gone?” Gwen asked. From the looks of it, the children had not seen him in weeks.
“Just since yesterday,” Rosemary said. “We only left to get you.”
Two shirtless boys danced around him, making as much of a ruckus as they could. Two girls tugged on his arms, and a third nestled herself at his feet, wrapping herself around one of his legs. Hollyhock hovered, never straying far from Peter, but bouncing off each child’s head.
“I have returned!” he triumphantly announced. “And I have brought Rosemary’s storyteller!”
When he looked to Gwen, all wide eyes fell on her. The excitable faces of the children glowed with new enthusiasm as they surveyed her. In a second’s time, they had all run to her. Deserting Peter, they approached her with a slightly more skeptical delight.
“It doesn’t look much like a storyteller,” the taller of the boys announced. Several of the children pointed and laughed at Gwen.
“How would you know what a storyteller looks like?” a boy with buck teeth asked him.
“What kind of stories does it tell, Sal?” a startlingly blond boy asked, leaning in much too close in order to stare at Gwen, unblinkingly, in the eye.
“Why don’t you ask it, Newt?” Sal replied.
Gwen looked at the short, blond boy and tried not to be intimidated by the sheer intensity of his vivid blue eyes. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Newt, and this is Sal.”
“Newt’s not a name for a boy,” Gwen replied.
“It’s short for Newton.”
“And mine’s short for Salamander.”
Taking Sal’s advice, the eldest of the girls, a pudgy-faced child, no older than twelve, asked, “Excuse me, but what kind of stories do you tell?”
Rosemary piped up, eager to endorse her older sister. “The best stories, Bard! She tells fantastic stories about princesses and stars and race car drivers.”
Sal and Newt exchanged glances before bursting into laughter. There was nothing inherently funny about this, but Gwen was fast learning that laughter was an adequate response to anything in Neverland.
“Then that settles it,” Peter proclaimed. “She shall tell us a story tonight—the best and most fantastic story.”
Gwen felt she was being unfairly put on the spot. “I don’t know that—”
The children cheered, but a pigtailed girl asked, “And if she doesn’t?”
“If she doesn’t?” Peter echoed, as if it were a wholly irrational thought. “If she doesn’t tell the most fantastic story we’ve ever heard, we’ll tie her to a stake in the jungle and leave her!”
“Or walk her off the cliffs!”
“Or feed her to the lions!”
“Or dump her in the lagoon!”
The children were as happy to dream up punishments for Gwen as they were to meet her, and Gwen could not say she liked the way things were going. She shot Rosemary a mean glance, but her little sister did not seem to realize what she had committed her older sister to.
A third, dark girl had been far from quiet, but had not yet spoken. She had a drum at her side, secured by a strap around her shoulder. She began beating on it, chanting in a gibberish that her comrades were happy to join in on. Clapping, stomping, and dancing, they formed an untouching conga line around Gwen. Utterly out of her element, Gwen looked to Peter, but all he said was, “A story, Gwen-Dollie, or it’s off the cliffs and into the cove!”
As Peter pulled out a homemade flute and began playing a whimsical tune for the Lost Brigade to march to, Gwen leaned over and whispered to Rosemary. “They won’t really throw me off a cliff, will they?”
Rosemary, stoically looking at her sister, informed Gwen, “You’d better just tell them a good story.”
Audrey Greathouse is a lost child in a perpetual and footloose quest for her own post-adolescent Neverland. Originally from Seattle, she earned her English B.A. from Southern New Hampshire University's online program while backpacking around the west coast and pretending to be a student at Stanford. A pianist, circus artist, fire-eater, street mime, swing dancer, and novelist, Audrey wears many hats wherever she is. She has grand hopes for the future which include publishing more books and owning a crockpot.