Authors: Brianna Shrum
Tags: #General Fiction
Â Â Â Â Â NEVER
Copyright Â© 2015 by Brianna Shrum
Sale of the paperback edition of this book
without its cover is unauthorized.
Spencer Hill Press
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this
book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
Contact: Spencer Hill Press, 27 West 20th
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First Edition: September 2015
Never Never / by Brianna Shrum â 1st ed.
Summary: A re-telling that starts when James Hook, the
boy who only wanted to grow up, meets Peter Pan, the only
boy who didn't, and follows their journey from innocent
friends to the fiercest rivals in all of Neverland.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and
incidents are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance
to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments,
events, or locales is purely coincidental. Use of any
copyrighted, trademarked, or brand names in this work of
fiction does not imply endorsement of that brand.
Cover Design: Hafsah Faizal
Interior layout by Jenny Perinovic
Author photo by Taylor Whitrock
ISBN 978-1-63392-039-2 (paperback)
ISBN 978-1-63392-040-8 (ebook)
Printed in the United States of America
OPE YOUR BIG ADVENTURE IS EVERYTHING
WE DREAMED IT WOULD BE
LL CHILDREN, EXCEPT ONE, WISH TO STAY YOUNG
. James Hook, however, wanted to grow up. At twelve years old, James was mostly happy with the state of things, in the way that most twelve year olds areâhe had parents who loved him very much, a dog that loved him even more, and a pantry that never emptied of sweet things for him to eat. But there was an older-than-he-really-was part of him that had always recognized this happiness as fleeting, and it was because of this that the boy James could not wait to become a man. As the summer drew to a close and his first year at Eton School loomed in the not-so-distant future, he found himself very much looking forward to the next chapter in his life.
As he packed his things neatly into his suitcases two weeks early (always early), he had a sort of wistful look on his face. The kind of look that was generally reserved for men on their wedding days or women when they first beheld the tiny faces of their newborns. James was beholding a future untainted by foolish youth and sillinessâa future filled with the hopes and dreams that only a man could ever begin to accomplish.
This sentiment, however, did not stop him from grabbing stray hangers here and there and swishing them through the air, stabbing at bodiless articles of clothing with the flat end, slicing at them with a makeshift hook
between his fingers. Even while he was packing for adulthood, a piece of him clung to the dreams he'd had every night this week, and several nights per week before that. Dreams in which he was a pirate captain, vicious ruler of a wicked, gleaming ship and a dark and horrid band of pirates. The
, his sleeping self had christened the ship. Between the folding of his shirts and the mating of his socks, he pretended his little bed was his ship and his bags were driftwood on the ocean until he could almost smell the water and feel the damp chill of the sea on his skin. It was only at this early hour of the morning that he could recall those stolen fragments of his dreams, so he thought it was probably all right to waste a bit of time until they inevitably disappeared again.
He wagered that even adults dreamed sometimes. He grinned, wondering if his father ever dreamt himself to be a pirate at night, bigger even than the sailor that he was. Perhaps he did. Really, what was so childish about playing at piracy every now and then?
But he could only justify so much of this to his mature half, so he allowed himself mere seconds of play from hour to hour.
Mostly, he stood stick-straight, kept his hyperactivity to a minimum, and held his mouth in a solemn line as he packed.
James's mother was downstairs, rustling around in the kitchen, banging pots and pans together with such vigor it must have been on purpose. James grinned. She had always been a particularly good mother, but in this one skill, she was woefully deficient. He frowned then, wondering why she would possibly trouble herself with cooking, unless she had forgotten about the plans he had made to go to Kensington Park today. He left his suitcase open on his bed and bounded down the stairs, taking them two at a time.
“Mother,” he called, sniffing at the smoke in the air, “are you cooking for me?”
She waddled out of the kitchen, massive pregnant belly coated with flour along with the rest of her.
“Yes, James. Why are you carrying on?”
“Well, it's just, Father and I were going to lunch in Kensington Gardens this afternoon.”
Her face fell as James's father walked into the room, hoisting a bag over his shoulder and looking every bit a sailorâneat, light-colored pants that would come back from the other side of the world all dark and frayed, layers of blues and browns over his shoulders, hazel eyes shimmering with the call of the sea.
James furrowed his brow, and his fingers jumped to the back of his neck and fiddled with the ends of his hair. “Father?”
The sailor smiled and rumpled James's hair. James frowned, looking him slowly up and down, and shrank back from his hand.
“What's the bag for?” he asked, more than suspicious, but forcing himself to deny what he knew was coming.
His father raised a dark eyebrow. “I'm heading out on the Thames today. You knew that, didn't you?”
He opened his mouth, intending to say something entirely different, but shrunk at the question instead. “Nothing.”
James's father eyed him hard, sharp jaw set. “Don't lie to me.” James mouthed the next line along with him: “Good things don't happen to boys who lie.”
James felt his mother's long fingers brush the back of his neck, and he swallowed hard, past the knot in his throat. “I thoughtâ¦”
“Out with it, boy,” his father boomed.
“You said we would go to Kensington Gardens today,” said James, focused on a burled spot in the floorboards.
“I said no such thing.”
“Father, that's a lie!” He was unable to contain the outburst; his emotions were threatening to explode from every bit of his skin.
His father furrowed his brow deeply, bringing a blush to James's cheeks. “Bad form, James. Bad form.” His ridged nose twitched, the way it did sometimes when he was frustrated.
“Edward,” his mother said in her gentle voice, reaching toward her husband, but he simply ignored her, hard gaze trained on James.
The boy struggled to compose himself, humiliated when small tears crept their way out of his eyes and slid down his face. He rolled his gaze up to meet his father's. “I leave for boarding school in two weeks. And my birthday's in half that time!”
“Come now, James. I've been 'round for most of your birthdays, and I'll be 'round for fifty more.”
Smoke began to drift in from the kitchen, and James's eyes stung more than they already did, so he blinked hard, wishing desperately for the tears to go away. His mother wrinkled her nose and wiped at her reddening eyes, then left them alone, dashing off toward the kitchen. Presumably to stop the house from burning down.
“What about Kensington Gardens?”
The other man softened then and pulled the boy into a hard embrace. And James breathed in the smell of salt and earth, memorizing the feel of his father's smooth, hard face against his cheek. “Come now, boy. It's not as though you'll be gone forever. It's only a few months at a time.”
James refused to pull away even when his father did, afraid that if he did, his father would disappear from his
sight. Finally, though, the larger man won and the hug was broken. He knelt and wiped a calloused thumb across the tear on James's downcast face.
“I promise, when you return on holiday and when I come to shore again, we'll lunch in Kensington Gardens.”
James sniffed and slowly looked up into his father's face. It was kind and smiling and a bit sad. There were little wrinkles there, lines from smiling that James rarely had the opportunity to notice. He looked away again, trying once more to stop the rogue tears from coming.
At that moment, James was sad that he wouldn't be able to see his father when he first came ashore. He liked him best then, cropped hair grown long and wavy, face full of trim stubble, smelling like the sea.
His father grabbed James's chin, harder, probably, than he intended, and turned it toward himself. James screwed his mouth into a firm line, resisting the urge to shift away from the man's bruising affection.
“I'm proud of you, boy,” he whispered. “Off to Eton, off to become a man. What a brilliant one you'll make. One a hundred times better than your father, better than a poor, dirty sailor. You're exceptional, Jamesâremember that.”
The boy threw his arms around his father and hugged him as tightly as he could. The battle against the tears was altogether lost, and they dampened his father's jacket. But James didn't have enough room in his heart to feel ashamed.
His father kissed his head, and said in a low voice, “It's not forever, son.”
Then, he stood and strode over to the entry to the kitchen, staring at James's mother, whose cheeks were bright and round, grey eyes shining. He rubbed a smidge of flour off her face and kissed her cheek, and James turned away when he kissed her mouth, fearing that he
was invading a moment that should've been private. His father whispered something to her, and he knelt and kissed her stomach. Then he shot James a parting smile, and breezed out the door. His mother sighed, looking tired, and headed back to assault some more kitchenware.
James's lunch was dull and tasteless and he ate it solemnly, just picking at it here and there. His mother screwed her lips and eyebrows up, and reached for his hand, which made him feel slightly better.
“Come now, James. He'll be back not long from now.”
He sighed. “He won't come see me for my birthdayâ he can't even send a card. Or take me off to boarding school and say goodbye before I'm gone forever.”
“It's not forevâ”
“It may as well be,” said James, aware he was acting like a spoiled child. He hardly cared. He stole a glance at her belly and shook his head quickly. “He won't even be around when the baby is born, will he?”
His mother's lips parted, and she started fidgeting. “Well, of course he'll be back in time for that.”
James flinched. “What do you mean,
“Just that the birth of a child is a very important thing, and of course your father will be here for it.”
Hurt flashed across his face; he felt as though he'd just been punched in the gut. He pursed his lips and pushed himself back from the table. “I'm not hungry anymore. If you need me, I'll be up in my room,” he choked.
His mother reached out to caress his shoulder. “Oh James, that's not what Iâ”
That was all he heard, for he'd jerked away, slammed his door, and thrown himself on his bed before she could finish.
IS MOTHER NEVER DID COME UP, AND HE WAS GLAD
. Probably the effort of propelling her body up the stairs was just too much without the promise of reward. He sat on his bed, stroking Meggie's smooth golden fur, wishing that the next two weeks would be through by tomorrow, and wanting more than ever to be gone from this place. Wishing that the bits and pieces he could recall from his dream were true and that he was a pirate captain of a dreadful ship, theâwhatever it was called. He couldn't quite remember. It had been quite a while since this morning, after all.
If only he was a sailor, a pirate, he could follow his father out to sea if he wanted, and he'd only come back to London if he pleased. Meggie laid her large head on his lap and he knew she could feel his problems.
“You'll be there when I leave, won't you, Meggie?” he cooed, scratching her head. “You'll help me blow out the candles on my birthday cake.”
She just lay there and groaned. He took it as a “yes.”
“But you can't take me to Kensington Gardens, can you? And I can't very well go alone, especially not at this hour.”
The sky was dark, apart from the moon and a couple of twinkling stars. There, looking out his window, his mind on the blurry edge of sleep, James got a wicked idea. One his father would almost certainly regard as “bad form.” He grinned and hopped off his bed, startling Meggie, who rolled onto the floor with a resounding
. Then, he pulled a decidedly too-large, faded red jacket he'd stolen from his father out of his half-packed suitcase and slid it over his shoulders. He fit the matching cap, which he'd also nicked, onto his head as well and tiptoed out of his room into the hallway.
Usually, the floor creaked beneath the weight of footsteps, but tonight, it screamed. Somehow though, his
mother didn't wake up. Small victories. The front door loomed above him like an omen, daring him to open it. He shut his eyes tight, waiting for the squeal he knew would come from its hinges. But it opened for him silently, and he let out a giant puff of breath as he made his way into the foggy streets of London.
They were empty, save for a few errant wanderers and stray animals, and that gave the night a sort of eerie quality. Fog pooled around his ankles, sinking into the little cracks between the cobblestones and snaking its way up his calves. It smelled like nighttime out here: like earth and damp and dark. He curled his fingers into tiny fists in his pockets and kept his head down, trying his hardest to ignore the mist and the steady
of a horse and lonely carriage rolling down the middle of the road. It didn't contain anyone of any malevolent kind of importance, he was sure. Certainly no mates of Jack the Ripper's or psychopaths or anyone interested in kidnapping him. That was ridiculous. He barked out a laugh, breath clouding in the humid air, then shrank back against a brick storefront, lest he'd inadvertently drawn the Not-Kidnapper's attention.