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The Never King: Chapter 32

WINNIE

There’s something about Mom now that feels settled. Like if she were a top, all of the spin has gone out of her and she’s finally sitting still.

The moonlight shines on the macabre scene in our backyard. There is a giant hole in the center where bodies are starting to pile up.

“Isn’t this risky?” I ask. And also…I can’t believe I’m in my backyard with two fae princes, a myth, and a shadow of death burying bodies six feet in the ground.

I don’t know how or when I became a person that took this all in with no issue.

“Don’t worry, Darling,” Kas says. “Brownies turn to dust within a week.”

As the boys finish up the dirty work, I turn to Mom. “I need to tell you something.”

“What is it, baby?” She is paler than when I left her, but her face is clean, as is her hair, so clearly she’s been taking care of herself without me to look after her.

“I’m going back,” I tell her. “To Neverland.”

Her eyes are on me but I’m never entirely sure if she’s seeing me.

“Do you want to come with me?”

I didn’t run this past Pan, but I don’t care. The house has many spare rooms. There’s plenty of room for her.

“Come to Neverland?” she asks and looks back at the boys. Bash is shirtless and is shoveling dirt in, all of the corded muscle in his back working overtime.

God, he is a sight. A fae prince who I think might be mine. I can’t be sure yet. I don’t know what the rules are about all that, but there’s plenty of time to figure it out.

One thing I am absolutely sure of is that I will fight anyone who thinks they can take him from me.

I might have only scratched the surface of who Peter Pan and the Lost Boys are, but instinct never lies and they feel like mine.

They are mine.

“I don’t think I want to,” Mom says.

“Really?”

“I…here…listen—”

“I’m listening, Mom.”

“I like it here.” She glances up at the house painted in broad strokes of moonlight. “I feel better.”

“But…you’ll be all alone.”

“I’ll be okay.”

I was an adult before I ever had a chance to be a child. And I always looked after my mom. I never wanted to. Her endless episodes, the instability, I hated every part of it.

And while I wanted to escape it, now that I’m faced with the possibility, I’m terrified of doing it.

“Mom—”

“Go.” She squeezes my hand. “Go to Neverland. The mermaids will be happy you’ve returned.”

The mermaids? Right, the spirits in the lagoon.

“If you’re sure…”

“Yes.”

I slide my arm around her shoulders and pull her into me. “I’ll come back to check on you as much as I can.” As soon as I get over the heart-pounding fear of jumping off a cliff.

She smiles to herself. “I would like that, baby.”


When the hole is full and all of the Brownie blood is cleaned from the floor, the boys stand outside looking like visions of war covered in blood and dirt, smoke from several lit cigarettes curling in the moonlight.

“If you need me,” I start to say to Mom and then realize there’s no way for her to reach me. There are no cell phones on Neverland. No form of communication.

“I’ll be okay, Winnie.” She hugs me and when she pulls back, she says, “Do you want to know a secret?”

“Yes.”

“I wanted to stay too, before they broke my head.”

“Really?”

“I miss the magic.” She closes her eyes, sinks into the memories. “And the—”

“Cloudberries,” I guess.

“Yes.”

“I’ll bring you some next time.”

“And then I’ll make pies and cakes and we’ll have a party.”

“If you’d like.”

Her eyes glaze over again.

“Why don’t you go make yourself some tea and rest?”

“Okay, baby.”

“I love you, Mom.”

“I love you too.” She slips away from me and shuts the door and I stay there on the front porch for a long time trying to decide if I’m making the right decision.

Will she be okay without me?

She loved me fiercely, but her love always hurt.

I don’t know how it feels to be loved the right way or to choose to feel the hurt instead of being forced into it.

Maybe that’s what love really is, at the heart of it—choosing the pain with the pleasure.

I return to the boys. I can tell by their energy that they’re growing inpatient, but they weren’t prepared to rush me.

“I’m ready,” I say.

Peter Pan takes my hand and leads me off into the night, the little box containing his shadow tucked beneath his arm.

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