Peter Pan & Anahita - a Story for Children and Those Who Don't Want to Grow Up
Chapter 1 - Peter Pan
There are those of us who never really grow up. To our charmed eyes, every sunset is the very first we set eyes upon. It is time for you, Dear Reader, to recall the magic of your childhood. For, despite what a child suffers, and often because of it, there is magic.
The dream, Sister Henrietta recalled, had come to her almost every night when she was a child. A mermaid with a star on her brow, combing her long gold flowing hair with a pink coral comb. But then her friend s had laughed at her and called it just a dream.
And so, when little Anahita searched for fairies beneath the leaves and refused to read the ‘grown up’ books her parents set her, Sister Henrietta was moved to say: It’s time you grew up.”
“Why must I grow up,” asked the child as they sat one evening in the gardens of the boarding school. “Why should I wear gown I shall surely trip over? Why should I stop climbing trees?”
Sister Henrietta smothered a smile. “But my pet, it’s every girl’s destiny to grow up. You can’t stop it.”
“Well, I just won’t grow up any more,” Anahita said with a toss of her chestnut brown curls. “You’ll see. I am ten and I’ll stay ten! Besides. . . besides, I know someone who’ll help.”
Sister Henrietta smiled wryly. “And who may that be?”
“Peter Pan, of course.”
“But pet, he’s just a story!”
“That’s what you grown ups think.” Anahita turned her perky nose up and folded her arms in defiance. “Peter is a real boy. He lives in Neverland where dreams come true, and if you go there, you never grow up.”
“I’m afraid, I haven’t read the book.”
“Never read Peter Pan and Wendy?” Anahita paused to uncross her arms and her eyes sparkled as she said, “I have an idea. Why don’t you become a little girl again?”
The nun laughed and playfully chucked her under the chin. “Why, that’s impossible. And why should I?”
“Little girls have lots of fun. They laugh all the time and someone always takes care of them. Grown ups have to take care of everything. They’re always worrying about something.”
It’s impossible, my precious pet, even if I’d like to be a little girl again.”
It’s not impossible. You’ll see,” cried Anahita and ran across to the blackberry bushes.
Sister Henrietta thought very hard. Was it true that growing up meant losing your innocence and spontaneity? She knew she had lost hers. She found herself doubting people’s motives. She was shrewd. She did not really care for sunsets. They all seemed the same. Most importantly, she no longer dreamed of the mermaid with the star on her brow.
~ ~ ~~ ~ ~
In her pretty room with the pale pink flowery walls and pink shelves laden with the happy books she loved, Anahita flipped for the umpteenth time through the pages of her favourite book. Then she sighed, rose from the bed and went to the window through which the moonlight streamed. She would gaze at the moon and the skies so full of stars and wonder about the unimaginably vast distances between them, the glittering, coiling galaxies that must hold other planets like Earth, perhaps even a planet of fairy folk.
Anahita wanted to be Wendy. Wendy used to be Pter’s favourite person and had flown with him to Neverland along with her two brothers. But Wendy, of course, was no more and Anahita knew that Peter would be looking out for a new mother. Perhaps he would choose her.
You see, Peter was very bitter about mothers. He could not recall his + own mother’s face. When he had flown back home from his adventures long, long ago, he had found the window barred and another little boy asleep in his bed. But bitter as he was, he needed a mother. He had gone back for Wendy years after she had returned home and found her all grown up with children of her own. Wendy had forgotten how to fly and Anahita did not ever want to forget.
The cool breeze ruffled her long white nightgown and cooled her lovely face flushed with her musings. She always left the window open for Peter in case he happened to pass by.
“Oh Peter Pan,” she whispered, “I know you’re out there somewhere, talking to the stars. Help me, I don’t want to grow up.” And then, settling down on the window seat, she began to read aloud.
A bright star with a tail shot across the indigo sky. As it drew near, you could see it was a little boy dressed in a tunic made of green leaves, a red pointed cap with a feather and green pointed shoes with wilting toes. It was Peter Pan who liked to hover about nursery windows to listen to the stories mothers told their children at bedtime. His favourite story, of course, was his own. He took his Pan pipes from his belt and began to play a sweet haunting melody – a fairy tune he had picked up at the court of the Fairy queen.
“Oh!” exclaimed Anahita, jumping up and dropping the book. “It’s you, Peter! I knew you’d come one day! Come in, oh do come in!”
Peter thought her smile was like Wendy’s. She gave him her hand like a lady and he took it. He had learned his manners too at the court of the Fairy Queen. He was, indeed, quite a gallant boy. All the questions Anahita had dreamed of asking him poured out in a single breath: had Peter found a new mother? Had he found any more Lost Boys? Did the crocodile that ate Captain Hook still tick? Was Smee still a pirate? Did Tinker Bell still call him a silly ass?
“I always thought girls talk too much,” said Peter, but sitting astride the chair, he took a deep breath and began to answer. “I’m still looking for a mother. The clock and the crocodile are working fine. Smee is no longer a pirate. He wanders the world making his living telling people stories about how he was the only man Captain Hook feared. Poor Smee. He’s really a gentle old fool who played at pirates. I’ve found two Lost Boys – Alpha and Beta. I hope they don’t decide to grow up like the rest did.”
TheLost Boys, if you remember, Dear Reader, were babes who fell out of their prams and if they weren’t reclaimed within seven days, were spirited away to Neverland by the fairies. Peter paused to sigh. “Tink is long dead, but now we have Wisp. She’s exploring somewhere right now. She calls me a hillybilly.”
Anahita rose from the windowseat, hand on heart. “What happened to Tink?
“She flew into a thorn. I called out to the children of the world. I asked them if they believed in fairies, but none answered. I couldn’t save Tink.”
“Oh Peter!” said Anahita with tears in her eyes. “I know a fairy drops dead every time a child says he doesn’t believe, but I say I believe in fairies almost every day. Oh, if only I had known! If only I hadn’t missed any days!”
“I know,” said Peter gently. “A star told me. You’ve saved the lives of countless fairies, dear Anahita. If it weren’t for children like you, there wouldn’t be any.” Then joyfully he said, “I say, why don’t you come with me to Neverland and be our mother? I promised the Lost Boys I’d bring them one.”
Anahita raised her hands to her excited little face. “Oh Peter! I was hoping you’d ask me, but I can’t stitch and cook and all that.”
“You can be our little girl mother then,” said peter with his baby gurgle, which like his milk teeth, he still had.
“Wait a minute,” said Anahita, “Sister Henrietta can cook and sew for us and she really needs to become a little girl again.”
“Who’s Sister Henrietta? A silly growed up?”
“She’s not that bad, Peter. She loves me. Please! Let’s take her along. She was like us once. She’s just forgotten it, that’s all. . . only she doesn’t believe in you or in fairies.”
“A growed up become like us?” He gnashed his lovely pearls, “But a cooking, stitching growed up will be nice to have around.”
“You’ll see, she’s not all that bad,” said Anahita. She wanted to give peter a kiss but she remembered that he didn’t know what a kiss was. He thought it was an acorn.
There was a jingle of bells. Wisp, listening from a drawer full of Anahita’s ribbons and collection of tiny glass animals, was jealous. Fairies are pretty much the same – vain and jealous, but they can also be charming. They’re always one or the other extreme. Wisp was calling Peter a hillybilly.
“Come out Wisp and meet our pretty new mother,” said peter with some authority. There was a louder jingle.
“I’m prettier than her!”
“That’s enough you vain imp,” said Peter sternly in his captain’s voice.
The Lost Boys called him “captain” and almost always obeyed him. Wisp emerged from the drawer. No bigger than your fist, she flitted about the room, leaving behind a trail of tiny sparkling stars (fairies radiate light except when asleep). She landed on Anahita’s shoulder. She wore an elegant gown fashioned from peach blossom. She was delicately lovely with gauzy rainbow coloured wings and long golden hair that formed a halo about her head. She smelled like a flower.
Anahita stared at the fairy in open admiration. “No one can be as pretty as you.”
Wisp shook her golden curls and taking a lovely little Mother-of-Pearl mirror form the folds of her gown, gazed at herself with delight.
And then Sister Henrietta burst into the room with a glass of milk for Anahita which she dropped on the furry pink rug in surprise. “Who is that?” she cried, her big husky voice shrill, “and what’s that?” She pointed at Wisp.
“A fairy. Her name is Wisp,” said Anahita, wiping a splash of milk from her arm.
“She looks like a giant penguin,” Peter gurgled To Wisp who jingled in assent.
“I must be dreaming!” said Sister Henrietta, eyes wide.
“Come with us to Neverland,” said Anahita. “I want so much to go, but I won’t go without you. If you refuse, Peter and the Lost Boys won’t have a mother.”
Peter was making rude faces behind the nun’s back. Anahita scowled at him.
“Me, a mother?” said Sister Henrietta, aghast.
“I’ll be the mother,” said Anahita.
The nun laughed. “Surely they all have mothers, pet! How can you, a child yourself, mother them?
Peter and Wisp were saddened by her words. Fairies don’t have mothers. They’re born when a baby’s laugh breaks into a thousand pieces. All the same, they do enjoy being mothered. Sister Henrietta noticed their sadness and her kind soul went out to them.
“I think all mothers should be like children,” said Anahita. “Then they’ll understand their children better. Oh, do come along, Sister! We’ll fly all the way. We’ll have so much fun.”
“You should read Peter Pan and Wendy,” said Anahita and handed her the book. “You can fly you know, you just have to change the way you think.”
More laughter from the nun. Peter folded his arms crossly and Wisp jingled again.
“I’m serious,” said Anahita tugging at Sister Henrietta’s sleeve.
“But I can’t come like this and I must pack some things and ask Mother Superior’s permission.”
“You get everything in Neverland, don’t you Peter?” said Anahita hastily. She knew how grown-ups are about packing.
In answer, Peter winked at Wisp who, wrinkling up her cute little nose at the strange smell of incense and candles wafting from the nun, sprinkled her with fairy dust from her rainbow wings. The nun gasped as she found herself becoming as light as a feather.
Slowly she rose to the ceiling, her arms and legs flapping. She was very nervous. Each time she began to enjoy the feeling, anxiety took over.
“Let me down and I’ll come with you!” she cried and began to pray in a low murmur.
“Don’t be afraid,” said Anahita. “Trust me. You’re not going to fall. Just point your nose at the window and we’re off.”
Peter was getting tired of the fuss Sister Henrietta was making. “You don’t have much of a choice,” he told her in his captain’s voice. “Come with us or you’ll never be able to get down.”
The nun’s eyes grew round with panic. She tried to point her nose at Peter who was a rude boy and needed a spanking, but she only bumped into the cupboard. She looked very helpless indeed, flapping all over the place in her white robes and veil.
All of them laughed except Sister Henrietta.
Anahita looked up at the stars, her face radiant. “Hang on, I’m coming!”
Wisp showered her with the glittering fairy dust and up Anahita floated, squealing, legs scissoring in the air. “I’m going to fly to Neverland! Peter, how do you put it? Second from the left and straight on till morning!”
Leading the nun by her wide, flapping sleeves, Anahita floated out into the moonlight with Peter behind her and Wisp nestled in his cap.
In a matter of minutes, Anahita had learned the knack of riding on the back of the wind as Peter called it, without turning somersaults. Sister Henrietta was taking her time to learn though, tumbling in the air and sometimes even flying upside down. Peter busied himself with chasing an owl to snatch a tidbit from it.
“Too whit, too hoo!”he called to the surprised bird.
The owl opened its beak to answer and out dropped a grasshopper.
“Hmmmmpph!” said Peter.
Anahita remembered she owed him a kiss and spying a gnarled oak in the bright moonlight, she swooped down for an acorn and offered it to him with the words: “This is for letting Sister come with us.”
Peter turned pink with pleasure.
~ ~ ~ ~
“God have mercy!” said Sister Henrietta as they sped over the sea. She did not want to fall into it and get her only clothes wet.
“Who’s God?” asked Peter Pan.
“You poor child, don’t you know about God?”
“No, I don’t. Just like you didn’t know about me.”
“Ah, poor soul, don’t you know that God made you?” Her eyes grew wet with tears of pity. Here was a soul to be saved from damnation. Suddenly, this journey became a mission for her. No longer was she afraid of falling.
“My mother and father made me,” said Peter indignantly.
Sister Henrietta raised her eyebrows. “But child, who made them?”
“Their mother and father, of course.”
“Well then, God made the first mother and father.”
“Then who made God?” asked Peter, very curious by now.
Sister Henrietta found herself quite speechless for a moment. Then she said, “Dear child, God was always there.”
“Do you mean like the trees that come from seeds that are simply there and no one has to make them?”
“Seeds are made by plants and plants too are made by God.”
Peter looked extremely puzzled.
“I’ll tell you what I read, Peter,” said Anahita. “In the beginning there was nothing. Just a big mix up of gases. Then little things began to form in the seas and they became bigger and better till they became us. Some say we came from the monkeys.” She giggled.
“Monkeys?” said Peter scornfully. “There are some swinging around in our trees, but none of them show signs of turning into people.”
“Tut, tut,” said Sister Henrietta, shaking her head. They had a lot to learn. “It’s God who made them all, even the big mix up.”
“Why should God mix things up?”
By this time, it was the nun who was feeling very mixed up. Hoping to end this uncomfortable subject, she said, “Ask Him yourself.”
“Where is he?”
“He’s in heaven and He’s everywhere, child. He’s in everything.”
“In me too? And in flowers, in fishes, in the crocodile that ate Captain Hook and in the houses and the chairs and in pirates?”
“Oh yes. You just have to be able to see Him.”
“But if he is so good, why is he in bad people like pirates? “
“Pirates are born good, you know. They turn bad only when they grow up.” An eagle glided past Sister Henrietta’s ear and she almost did a somersault. “Lord have mercy!”
“I’m going to find him one day,” said Peter. “Maybe he’ll have mercy on me and we’ll always have a mother.” And off he flew to play with the clouds
Anahita heard him but she wasn’t thinking so far into the future, so she didn’t say anything.
And while Peter played all night, Sister Henrietta and Anahita floated on their backs to get some sleep under Wisp’s watchful eye.
Chapter 2 - Neverland
“Look, it’s Neverland!’ cried Peter at last as the sun climbed majestically over the misty pink horizon and pointed a million gold arrows at the island below them.
It was the most beautiful sight Anahita and the nun had ever seen. Actually, it was the island that was looking for them, otherwise they would have never found it. The Mermaid Lagoon was a brilliant blue. The mermaid in their coral homes beneath the gentle waves were getting ready for the evening ball, adorning themselves with necklaces of pearls and pink and yellow coral.
The smoke from the camps of the Redskins rose through the treetops. Magnificent flamingos stretched their great rosy wings on the reef.
“Look!” cried Anahita, “There’s the silly little seal from my dreams, juggling fish!”
“I daren’t believe my eyes,” said Sister Henrietta, “there’s the Mermaid with the Star on her Brow. I used to dream of her as a child! I can’t believe it. I must be dreaming.” She landed with a thump that hurt on a bed of white Baby’s Breath, tinged rose in the dawn.
Peter gurgled. “Does that feel like a dream?”
The nun gave him a stern look and allowed Anahita to help her up.
“The fairy dust must have worn off,” she said, dusting her habit.
“It knows when to wear off,” said Peter, a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
“Oh, Peter, we’re in Neverland at last!” said Anahita, clasping her hands.
“Wait till you see my underground hideout.”
“I’m going to be buried alive,” wailed the nun.
“It’s a wonderful little house,” said Anahita quickly. “You’ll like it.”
Sister Henrietta groaned and rolled her eyes. “God knows what waits for us down there.”
“You’ll soon find out,” said peter and led the way to a clump of hollow tree stumps. He began to whittle away at one of the stumps with the knife he always kept at his belt. He was trying to carve out a larger hollow for the nun’s bulk. When she wasn’t looking, he gnashed his pearls at her and Wisp jingled and jangled.
“A tree door! What fun!” cried Anahita.
“Whoever heard of a tree door?” said Sister Henrietta. “Am I expected to jump down it? My back will not stand it. I’m not a little girl, you know.”
“It’s the only way,” said Anahita. “And there’s a ladder inside, so you can go down it.”
“What in God’s name must I do next?” Then with a resigned look on her face, the nun turned her attention to the calm, azure lagoon and the Mermaid with the Star on her Brow who still sat on Marooner’s Rock – which reminded one of a human skull – combing her long gold tresses. She was a lovely slender creature with pale gleaming skin. The fish scales on her belly and tail glinted purple and green in the light of the rising sun. The star shone brightly upon her forehead. A sense of wonder and hope overwhelmed Sister Henrietta. She thought, “I should like to find out whether she’s real.”
Chapter 3 - Smee, the Ex-Pirate
After a whole lot of huffing and puffing from Sister Henrietta, they entered Peter’s underground hideout. And guess who was inside? The pathetic Smee, Captain Hook’s old bo’sun, meaning ‘right hand man,’ had found his way in through the tree stump. Slightly, a Lost Boy who had returned to the world of grown ups, had secretly enlarged the entrance to fit his widening girth.
All Lost Boys had to be on a diet so they wouldn’t get stuck in the stumps, but Slightly had been the greedy one.
Here in Peter’s secret hideout, Smee slept soundly after his worldly wanderings – that is, whenever Peter and the Lost Boys were out on their adventures. It was safe here where the crocodile couldn’t sniff him out. The crocodile, you see, had acquired a taste for pirates ever since he’d eaten Captain Hook’s right hand (and so the hook) and later, the rest of him too.
Smee was snoring when they found him. Peter made Sister Henrietta and Anahita hide under the great bed which could be propped up against one of the stone walls to make more room when needed. Then he filled a basin with water and threw it into Smee’s face.
Peter never took advantage of his enemies and at time she suffered for it. Like when he had offered his hand to help Hook up Marooner’s Rock in a fair fight and Hook had bitten it. Although Smee still carried his terrible weapon, Johnny Corkscrew that he used to poke into wounds, he was now more a sad clown than a pirate. He spluttered awake and turned as green as his breeches.
“Who’s that?” he asked, blowing bubbles.
“Hah, you lubber, so you can’t see me, after all!” said Peter in Hook’s voice which he was very good at mimicking.
Smee looked around wildly but Peter was hiding too. Peter burst into song:
“Avast belay, y oho, heave ho!
A pirating we go!”
Smee joined in here for it was the pirate song and hook had always insisted that everyone sang it:
“And if we’re parted by a shot
We’re sure to meet below!”
“Ay, ay Captain and so we meet again,” added Smee, fearful and confused.
“I gave you my word we would,” said Peter still in Hook’s voice.
“Ay Captain, you’ve always kept your word of honour. ‘Tis ripping to hear your voice.”
“I hear you’ve been making a living off me.”
“Uh? But you’re dead now!” said Smee, trembling.
“Odds, bobs, hammer and tongs! I’ll sink my hook into you! So, you tell them I am scared of you, eh?”
Smee dove beneath the bedclothes. His voice came out muffled and shaky. “Upon my life, you were never scared of anything, Captain.”
“Brimstone and gall! Isn’t it what you tell people to make money off me? I shall cast anchor in you!”
Smee shook like a little white mountain beneath the sheets.
Peter was enjoying himself. It was then that he decided to show himself, for Anahita was nudging him. She knew that Smee was the only pirate Wendy’s heart had gone out to. You see, Smee didn’t know what a mother is. He looked so pathetic that he had even made the tough Hook weep.
Peter crowed, which only he could do.
“It’s Pan!” Smeee yelled jumping out of bed.
“How right you are! You could never forget my famous crow, could you?” said Peter proudly, coming out from behind the mahogany cupboard.
“Brimstone and gall! I thought you were Hook’s ghost,” said Smee with relief, wiping his spectacles. Once upon a time, Smee used to wipe his spectacles every time he killed someone, but now it was only when he managed to escape tricky situations.
He almost dropped them when Sister Henrietta and Anahita, covered in dust and cobwebs, crawled out from under the bed.
“This lady is our new mother,” said Peter, putting his arm around Anahita. “And this . . . this is Sister Henrietta.”
“A. . . a new m. . .mother? What’s a mother?” asked Smee.
“A mother is someone who cares for children and for her growed up children too,” said Anahita, wiping the cobwebs from her nose.
Smee grew suddenly wistful. He placed his fancy plumed green hat upon his silver curls. “I should be gone,” he said. Then he crumpled upon the bed and hunched over, face hidden upon his knees, burst into tears.
Peter, who was heartless as sometimes children can be, said, “I think so too. Sister Henrietta is very scared of pirates.”
Sister Henrietta was so horrified, she’d forgotten to dust herself off and was sitting transfixed on a fat, worn out armchair upholstered in fading flowered chintz – Wendy’s feminine touch, no doubt.
“Oh but do let Smee stay, Peter,” said Anahita, saddened by Smee’s tears. “He’s harmless. He’s no pirate. He needs a mother too.”
“Thank you, kind lady,” said Smee and blew his big red nose in a large green handkerchief.
“Yes, do let the man stay,” said Sister Henrietta. He cries, most unlike a pirate.”
“Hmmmmmph!” Peter folded his arms across his chest.
“Lord, this place does need cleaning,” said the nun and set to shaking out the colourful patchwork quilt and fluffing up the pillows, dusting and wiping and swiping at cobwebs in the corners. Her face beamed with delight at the red polka dotted giant toadstools growing from the mossy floor. There was one big enough for her to sit on.
The Never Tree which they used to saw down to turn into a tea table had grown right through the roof which was criss-crossed with great twisted roots.
“This is indeed a delightful room” she said, perching gingerly on the toadstool.
“You can fish here too,” said Anahita, cheeks rosy with excitement. “All you have to do is dig into the floor.”
“How very quaint. But do you think the crocodile might show up if we dig?”
Smee was snoring gain, or he would have definitely responded to the query.
“Don’t worry,” said Peter. “The crocodile only likes to eat pirates.”
“Pirates!” cried Sister Henrietta. Then, in a hushed tone, she said, “That Smee must have tricks up his sleeve. Once a pirate, always a pirate. Or perhaps you’re just making up stories to frighten me. Smee looks like someone dressed for a fancy dress ball.”
“What’s that? A ball all dressed up?” asked Peter.
When they had finished laughing, Sister Henrietta said to Peter, “Everyone needs a good mother. People wouldn’t turn into pirates if they had good mothers.”
Peter chose not to comment, Instead he crowed loudly. It was his signal to the Lost Boys. There was a rustling of leaves, a creaking of wood and two little boys dressed in bearskins fell to the floor.
The bearskins must have softened their fall because all they said was”OOO. . .”
The first was Alpha, followed by his twin, Beta. He was called Beta because he was always a few words after Alpha and completed his sentences for him. Each had carrot red curls, green eyes and a freckled face.
“I’ve brought you a mother,” said Peter with a flourish indicating Anahita.
“We have waited for you,” said Alpha,
“For a long time,” said Beta.
“And I too have waited a long time,” said Anahita. “Oh, I’m so glad to be here!”
And even the house was so glad that smoke rose from its chimney made from the top hat that had belonged to Wendy’s little brother.
Peter did a strange thing then. He began searching under the table and chairs, the bed, even in the empty hearth and all the while he muttered, “I’ve got to find this god person.”
“You’ll find Him where you least expect Him,” said Sister Henrietta and turning to Anahita she said,” Let’s go look for my mermaid.”
“Let’s,” said Anahita, hoping that Sister would believe and get some of her childhood back.
Chapter 4 - The Mermaid with the Star on her Brow
It had just stopped raining and a rainbow arched across the Mermaid’s Lagoon.
“Be careful. Sister Henrietta,” said Anahita, as they sat on the rocky shore, “The mermaids were never friendly with Wendy. They were jealous of her. They can be . . . what’s that word? Treach. . .”
“Treacherous,” said Sister Henrietta. “But why should they be jealous of me? I’m no one to Peter.”
“That’s not true. You shouldn’t mind Peter. He’s a strange boy and he doesn’t mean to be rude.” Noticing Sister Henrietta’s creased brow, she decided to change the subject. “See that rainbow? Soon the mermaids will come out to play. They will try to keep the bubbles within the rainbow, using only their tails and heads till the bubbles burst. It’s a wonderful game to watch. Goals are made at each end of the rainbow. Why don’t you join them?”
“I couldn’t, pet. It sounds too complicated and I’m too old for games.”
“You’re never too old for anything. Why do you growed ups forget how you loved ice cream and blowing bubbles and climbing trees and dancing in the rain? Didn’t you tell us in class that only those who are like children get into heaven?”
This had a profound effect on Sister Henrietta who said after a long pause: “I know pet, I know, but can you think of any grown ups who are ready for heaven?”
“There must be some somewhere. You could be the right kind of growed up.”
“I’ll try. Oh what’s the matter with me? I know I’m not dreaming, yet. . .” She shook her head and gazed wistfully at the lagoon. “I’ll be all right, pet. You go back inside and give the stew a stir.”
“Are you sure?”
Sister Henrietta bent down to hug Anahita. “Of course, my precious.”
She was about to sit down on a rock to wait when there was the sound of much splashing. Mermaids broke through the water in a storm of spray, laughing and puling at each other, whipping up a tumult of bubbles which they began to toss at each other with their flashing tails. Their sweet voices bewitched the nun, who began to walk towards the water as though in a trance.
On Marooner’s Rock, where the wicked Captain Hook had left his victims to drown with the rising tide, seagulls shrieked and fought over a glittering treasure chest overflowing with rubies, emeralds as big as coconuts, sea-hued sapphires and necklaces of gold coins that some pirate had long forgotten.
And then she saw the Mermaid with the Star on Her Brow. She was sitting on the rock, playing with Anahita’s seal.
The other mermaids saw Sister Henrietta and disappeared with an iridescent flash of their tails, but the Mermaid with the Star on Her Brow remained.
Sister Henrietta crept closer, drenching the hem of her habit. Her heart was beating very fast, her cheeks were red from the unfamiliar exercise.
“I know you,” said the mermaid in a lilting voice.
“I knew you in my dreams,” said Sister Henrietta. “May I touch you? I just want to make sure you’re real.”
“Here, take my hand and climb up,” said the Mermaid with the Star on her Brow, reaching out to her.
What do you think happened next?
Sister Henrietta had just about touched the mermaid’s fingers when she slipped on the mossy rock and fell into the lagoon with a great splash that sprayed water all over the laughing mermaid. Ugly thoughts swirled inside Sister Henrietta’s head: the mermaid was indeed treacherous. It was silly of her to have trusted her so completely. Her clothes, heavy with the water began to drag her down. She cried for help.
The mermaid gave a shrill whistle. In a moment, the lagoon was swarming with mermaids. The nun felt slippery arms carrying her to the shore, but the laughter did not cease.
“I suppose everything is a little strange in Neverland,” she thought. “And I found out that my mermaid is real after all.”
“Shall we play bubbles?” asked the Mermaid with the Star on her Brow. And Sister Henrietta complied, hitching up her habit and falling a few more times in the shallows, with the mermaid’s helping hand near her all the time. Anahita’s seal joined in and won every round, grinning at her disarmingly and tossing the bubbles with his nose.
When she climbed out of the water at last, the seal followed her, grunting and flapping about clumsily on the pebbly shore where Anahita stood watching them with joy.
“See, I told you you’ll have fun in Neverland!” she said to the nun and knelt to hug the seal.
“I guess my mermaid was glad to see me because I dreamed her up,” said Sister Henrietta. “But what do I do about my clothes?”
“Dream up some,” said Anahita with a giggle.
Chapter 5 - Peter Pan Meets God
Peter searched everywhere for God, even diving into the Mermaid’s Lagoon, where the mermaids laughed at him and tried to pull off his shoes by their wilted toes. There remained just one more place to search – a great gnarled elm tree of which Peter was very fond.
The woods were beautiful that morning. Bluebells carpeted the leaf-strewn earth, primroses clustered in shady corners and purple pansies bloomed in the undergrowth. Chattering chipmunks leapt from branch to branch, tails erect; glowing fairies hunted for raspberries.
You see, everything blooms all at once in Neverland where there are no seasons. Just like in dreams. Of course, Peter could have easily flown up to the topmost branch of the elm, but he thought climbing more fun. It was an adventure because it was harder to do. He hauled himself up the trunk, swinging from the branches like a monkey without a tail. Merry robins and red-crested woodpeckers urged him on.
At last, he reached the top of the great elm. A sea of green canopies surrounded him.
“Are you there, god?” he called loudly.
“Yes,” said a deep gentle voice with a laugh in it.
“Wh-aat?” said Peter, his eyes popping, looking about him anxiously. But all he could see were the flowers, the trees with their nests and the lovely blue sky ablaze with light. Yet there seemed to be a light inside his head and he found that very peculiar.
“Where are you? I can’t see you at all,” he said.
“I’m right here as always. You just haven’t noticed before.”
“Why can’t anyone see you?”
“Look within, child. You’ll see me.”
“Within what? You speak in riddles.”
“Within your head, Peter Pan. I don’t have a body.”
“Then, you must be a ghost.”
“No, I’m not. If I were so easy to spot, it’d be no fun. It is every living thing’s challenge to seek me out.”
“I didn’t know the inside of my head has eyes, but I do see a light in there,” said Peter wonderingly.
“Haven’t you ever imagined a scene inside your head? It can be very clear if you concentrate.”
Peter shut his eyes. “I’m trying.”
“You can be like me. You can be me, Peter.”
“You mean, have no body? That won’t be nice,” gurgled Peter.
“I mean that you can be perfect if you love everyone like you love yourself.”
“You mean, love Sister Henrietta too.”
“She means well.”
“She’s a silly growed up, that’s all.”
“A lot of grown ups are silly, but this one is learning fast.”
“Now I know I can talk to you without seeing you.”
“Peter Pan, when you love the trees, the animals and people, even Sister Henrietta, you are speaking to me.”
And so, Peter, clear of doubt and happy in his heart, climbed down. He ran all the way back home, eager to tell Anahita about his great discovery.
Chapter 6 - Heaven at Last
While Peter was out looking for God, there was chaos in his home beneath the ground. Alpha and Beta were playing catch-me-if-you-can and falling over each other, tripping on their own feet and upsetting pots and pans.
“Spank them, Anahita, or they’ll never learn to behave,” said Sister Henrietta, trying to get out of their way.
But Anahita was busy watching Wisp dance in front of her exquisite antique mirror with gilded cupids on the corners. The fairy’s tiny boudoir carved into the stone wall was a charming sight with its luxurious bed covered with a red rose petal sheet.
Smee was sitting in front of the fire, polishing Johny Corkscrew. The twins, tired at last, threw themselves upon the bed.
“What makes a flower”
“Blue?” they asked Sister Henrietta.
“A blue flower absorbs all other colours of the spectrum except blue,” replied the nun who was mending an old pair of green tights for Peter.
“Isn’t it strange that a flower doesn’t like blue”
“Yet is blue?” finished Beta.
“It’s like someone who believes in God, but refuses to admit it,” said Sister Henrietta. She realised in a flash that she was speaking about herself. She had always known that the Mermaid with the Star on her Brow was real, but had refused to think about it when she grew up.
“We wonder if Peter,” said Alpha,
“Has found god,” said Beta.
“That reminds me, pet, we must be getting back. The holidays are over.”
“Will you come,”
“Back to us, little mother?” asked the twins.
“Of course I will,” answered Anahita. “Neverland is a second home to me now. I’ll come here for my holidays and I’m never going to grow up.”
Peter ran in, breathless. “I found God!”
“Where?” Sister Henrietta beamed at him.
“He’s everywhere like you said. He’s a light inside my head.”
Anahita hugged him. She could not resist giving him a kiss even though he thought kisses were acorns. To her delight, he kissed her back.
“Do you think,”
We’ll go to heaven?”
“Heaven, my dears is right where you are. If you want.”
“Huh?” said the twins.
“Are you saying there is no hell?” asked Smee in a small voice, sitting on the edge of the armchair. This to him was a question of life and death.
“If you’re thinking o the hell with fire and brimstone and red devils with tails poking at wicked humans, it doesn’t exist,” said Sister Henrietta. “You create your own hell.”
“I’ve been in hell for many years!” wailed Smee.
“God will forgive you Smee,” said Peter.
“From the day you stopped being a pirate, you left hell behind,” said Sister Henrietta gently.
Smee sighed with relief and wiped his spectacles. He’d been so sure that he was heading for the devil’s pitchfork.
It is a happy scene indeed with which we end our story. Anahita and Sister Henrietta flew back to the boarding school after a few days. The Mermaid with the Star on her Brow followed them quite a long way as they flew over the sea. Sister Henrietta regained her simple childhood ways. She stopped trying to climb trees after she fell out of one, but she loved reading fairy tales to her students and would often join Anahita on her fairy hunts.
Anahita grew up at last, as all of us must do one day, but she was a child at heart as long as she lived and her children were just like her.
If you’d only believe, Peter Pan is waiting for you out there, somewhere among the stars. All you have to do is let him in.
NOTE: This story first appeared in my book 'Dolphin Girl and Other Stories' published by Har Anand in New Delhi.