neverland

We lounge around the living room on the hand-me-down white leather couches, the five of us in various states of vegetation and the newest PS2 game blaring on the TV. The lights are off. My back is to the arched entrance of the front hall where I sit cross-legged in the center of the long sofa watching Billy kill gang members.

“Use the firebombs,” Jonathan tells him. “They’re better in a crowd.”

The doorbell rings and index fingers fly to noses. Cece’s fingers are busy moving through a copy of Maxim, and for the second time tonight, she’s lost a game of One-Two-Three Not It. Annoyed, she flips us off, takes the pile of bills from the coffee table and comes back a minute or two later with our food.

“I hope I tipped him.” Cece is a little stoned.

“Thanks, Cheech.” Bryan tugs playfully at one of his girlfriend’s long blond curls, and swats her on the butt as she bends over the coffee table for her calzone. She’s wearing a thin white tank top and I can see every bone in her back. She’s too thin.

“Bry! Stop!” She says something about her fat ass and we all get quiet. Jonathan rolls his eyes and whispers something about hoping that calzone tastes as good coming up as it does going down. Billy doesn’t even look away from the 52-inch screen.

Bryan simply belches in response.

“Lacked bass,” I say. “I give it a six.”

***

“Tell us a story, Wendy Lady,” Bryan says.

It’s late now, and we’ve gone back into the ‘chill out room’ to lounge some more and get high in the blue glow of the saltwater tank. The pipe is passed my way and I wave it off. I’ve lost interest in pot. I’m the youngest one in the house; everyone else will be turning thirty within the year. But being the sober one makes me something of a mother hen. Or to Bryan, a Wendy for these lost boys.

I tell them about almost being arrested in Spain. No one believes I’ve ever done anything remotely subversive and they’re intrigued. When I get to the part about the public nudity, Jonathan announces that he is going to bed. He gets to the door and looks my way.

“You coming?”

I nod, and climb out of my warm spot on the sofa, but Billy protests. The story has just gotten good! Jonathan has now become The Big Ruiner. The nickname will stick.

***

“Which season?” Jonathan asks, sliding a wife beater over his head as he shuffles through CDs. He can’t fall asleep if it’s too quiet, a habit I’ll be left with for some time after we stop seeing each other.

“Fall.”

I step over piles of laundry and crawl into his bed. As I pull my long dark hair into a ponytail, I notice several blonde strands on the navy pillowcase. I say nothing. The most very lost of the Lost Boys. Not classy enough to be Peter Pan, though. The others feel sorry for me, I know, and wonder why I put up with it. But it’s like Bryan said, I’ll leave when I’ve had enough. Even Wendy finally abandoned Neverland when she got tired of the games.

Vivaldi fills the corners of the dark bedroom. Jonathan slips his hand around my stomach and crooks his leg over my hip. He breathes into my hair.

It’s January. I’ll be gone by mid-February.

He’ll force my hand with the strawberry blonde we meet in New Hampshire on Valentine’s Day, never bothering to lie about it. Then I’ll leave, resenting growing up less, because Neverland is a place that requires a certain amount of naivete to sustain its charm.

And it will be a very long time before I’m able to play make-believe again.

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