By Mitch Mosier
I think Ms. Talbot is mad at me. She said she wasn’t, but it’s like when you’re a kid and you break an antique plate playing war with Nerf guns. You feel so bad that your mom says it’s all right, though you know by her face that it isn’t. You’ve hurt her.
A hypothetical situation, of course.
It started because I took a walk. I always walked in the woods behind our house at home. There are some small groves near the mansion. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to explore them. It gave me something to do. I spent yesterday in my room, mostly, reading and playing some video games. I brought my Super Nintendo. Everyone else has new-fangled systems. I never bought them. I don’t play that much and I like the games I have. But even Yoshi’s Island gets old when you play it by yourself all afternoon. In the evening, at least, I was invited to the library to a King’s Court tournament. I’d never heard of the game, but it’s like checkers, only much cooler. I felt so nervous playing, since I didn’t know how, but Bob didn’t either and we had fun talking about how badly we lost. Dr. Xayyachack won the tournament, but it was his game, after all.
But back to why Ms. Talbot is angry with me. I walked through the grove – it looked like it had been tended once, and I followed the shadows of old paths – then along the ocean for a time. The wind is still cold off the water, but I like to walk in the cold. It is a pleasant feeling, the bite of wind, balanced by the pleasure of warming yourself inside later on. A good distance from the mansion, I passed a man sitting on a rock near the breaking waves. I ignored him. I’ve found people will ignore each other if given the opportunity.But the man looked at me and stood. My stomach tightened. He was an intimidating figure, cloaked in his long coat, disguised by beard and dark glasses. “Sir,” he called to me. “Young sir, don’t be afraid. I have a question for you.”
I waved at him and tried to smile.
“Young squire,” he said. I heard gentle laughter in his tone. It wasn’t a joke on me, I think, but an eccentric flair. “Could you give this letter to Ms. Talbot?”
I took the letter. A name had been written on the front of the envelope, then scratched out. “Yeah … sure.” What else do you say to a man who hands you a letter. “Is she expecting it?”
The man shook his head. “I can hope, can’t I?”
And what do you say to that? I turned to leave without even a goodbye. I had gotten a ways when I thought of something I should ask. “What’s your name? In case she asks.”
“You can call me James Barrie.”
But when I delivered the letter to Ms. Talbot and I told her the name, she looked at me strangely. “The man who wrote Peter Pan?”
“He said James Barrie. That’s what he told me.”
She opened the letter, but her face grew dark as she read it. “Who gave you this? What did he look like?”
I described him the best I could, stumbling over my words, worrying that I had done something horribly wrong.
“Mitch,” Ms. Talbot said. Her voice was hard and even. “If you see this man again, do not speak to him. Stay away from him. He has been harassing the members of this project. Keep away from him.”
I apologized and left as soon as possible after that. I hadn’t known who he was. He seemed nice. He seemed like he knew Ms. Talbot. I know I’m naive; I don’t ever want to know how naive I am. But I trusted him.
And strangest yet, I glimpsed a line of the letter. I want to say by accident, but my curiosity was longing for a glimpse. It said, “Don’t grow up, Wendy.”
And what do you say to that?