He was too dark to be her Peter Pan and she was too shrewd to be his Wendy Darling, but somehow they found their way to Neverland together.
When you were taught to read, you started out with the alphabet and worked your way up to words and sentences, and soon enough, actual books. Then, reading became writing. You were always taught that anyone could be a writer, but that alone is not true. Writers must excel in reading, but even so, we were never taught to read in between the lines. Ai was taught to read between every white space in and out of the letters, words and the endless dichotomy in literature. She never read the words; her blank face reflected the blank spaces.
In a hospital, there isn’t much to do other than read, and rather than reading gossip magazines and the typical Seventeen magazines, Ai read literature. She preferred non-illustrated novels because in actuality, she didn’t want to read the contents of the book, and visuals will just give away the story. She read the books as a distraction, occasionally slipping from her blank mantra and reading “the”, “of” and “a”; the more common words in English that thankfully didn’t reveal too much of the novel. She stopped “reading” the book after her most recent surgery because even she knew she was dying soon.
It wasn’t until he began appearing in her life. His strange teal colored eyes were what caught her attention the most; it was what initiated the eye contact between the two from down the hall. Never had Ai seen pools of seafoam than his. They were what she liked the most about him, but that quickly changed to becoming one of the only things she liked as soon as he opened his mouth.
“Why are you bald?”
He couldn’t help but let his curious mind speak for itself. The question wasn’t out of spite or ridicule, but rather more of curiosity than anything. Subconsciously, he had allowed himself to walk into her open hospital room.
“Why are you nosy?” Ai grumbled, already in a bad mood that the nurses had to shave her hair off again from the surgery prior when it had just grown past her chin. Eye contract broke and she turned her smooth head away from him, feeling the cool air whip over her bare scalp.
The hospital bed squeaked and shifted slightly, shocking Ai to twist her head back around in shock to see the stranger sitting on the edge of her bed, the thin white sheets wrinkling around where he sat. “I’m Gabriel, and your name is Ai,” Gabriel continued staring in her dull gray irises.
Ai scoffed, folding her arms and scooted further away from Gabriel. He caught a glance at the clipboard that was always attached her to hospital bed that held her name, birth date and vitals. Sighing, she began sinking down further into the stiff mattress, pulling the thin sheets over her head, “Well aren’t you smart?” Silence, “Look, just go away. I’m tired.”
“You know, I’ve learned that the phrase, ‘I’m tired,’ is said by a lot of people,” Gabriel continued much to Ai’s displeasure, “Forty percent who say that is actually physically tired, while the remaining sixty percent are liars. I think it’s a safe bet to say that you’re the sixty percent.” She could almost picture him smirk.
Again, silence. She hoped that he would go away after the long period of silence, or at least be stupid enough to believe she actually fell asleep, or maybe died.
“‘Chapter one: Peter Breaks Through’,” she heard shuffling of pages and the bed shift slightly; the rustling of paper caused her dull eyes to snap open. “‘All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this… Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, ‘Oh, why can't you remain like this forever!’…” Why couldn’t Wendy remain like that? Why couldn’t she remain so still, so motionless and relaxed—so dead.
Gabriel continued reading until he saw her tense shoulders from underneath the white sheets slowly fell and relaxed, calm regulated breaths following with every rise and fall of her chest. Lightly, he set the book down on her night stand, getting up from the soft mattress so as not to disturb Ai from her slumber. As he tip-toed towards the door, he couldn’t help but take a quick glance back, only to be caught staring at her peaceful figure. She looked much different with her face not scrunched up in a scowl or glare from earlier before.