The steps creaked as I tiptoed in loafers upstairs to our bedroom. Wendy lay sleeping—a bare arm cradled her head—dreaming deep, beautiful dreams. There was a glass of warm bourbon on the nightstand. Traces of lipstick impressed the glass and I lifted it to my lips and tasted her.
I could always tell when she dreamt. It was her face. Her face was calm; a slight smile curled her lips, and her breath slowed to the rhythm of currents in the seas of a land that never was. This face I loved. Not the one that squinted and puckered, frowned upon me when I came home late from work, never called, forgot to tell her that I still loved her.
“Peter.” She was always maternal. “You’ll never grow up.” She would gently shake her head. My stomach sunk and I swallowed: Why should I? I walked the plank; she stood at its end. Looking at her eyes redden and glaze with a wet film, I longed, so sorry, to tell her: I know, I know.
I taught you to fly, Wendy. Fly from me.
She left the dormer window wide open to the chilled London night air. She never got cold—a woman who never got cold. Never was afraid—not afraid of the night, or the large, empty Victorian, or the night prowlers with hooked hands and drunken bellies roaming the streets. Never afraid.
“Tell me a story, Wendy,” I whispered. “You’re so good at that.”
She must know—must know my story. Must know I love her. Must know where I had been. Where I was when I wasn’t home being her husband. I was with her, then. The ballerina we met at the gala months ago that skipped in a green gown around the ballroom: light-footed, glowing smile, golden curls pouring down her back. Wendy watched her. Everyone watched her. Now I watched her as many nights as I could escape and fly to her bed. I wanted to capture her, hold her and cherish her in a jar; watch her glow and dance on the mantle piece, release her for my pleasure.
Oh, Wendy. You can escape, still. Escape to Never Land; escape from it. Wander from this sinking ship, from this shadowy cave, from these high-ground ruins.
I sat beside her in bed, watched her wandering mind undulate and fly away away away. I removed a vial of gold flakes from my pocket. I had begun buying the flakes, soft and pliant between my fingers, after a colleague at the firm swore they were like magic. Gold would keep a man’s body young, his mind trenchant. I admired the glittered flecks in the palm of my hand, shimmering mermaid scales bathing in a moonlit lagoon. I sprinkled the handful across Wendy’s angelic face. Her skin sparkled under the stream of moonlight flooding through the window. I walked over to shut out the night—the cold, the prowlers. I watched her sleep, mottled in gold dust, levitating away from me, away to the Never Lands of her dreams where I wished she could escape to and live forever.
Originally published in Used Gravitrons, Spring 2014.