Chapter 1: James Hook and the Lost Boys
James’ stomach clenched and his heart ached as he glanced back at the six boys marching with determined, but haphazard abandon away from their Home Under the Ground and into the dense woods. After having fought in a handful of wars in the name of God and Country, this was not his idea of a suitable venture for the lads under his keep. Yet, given the circumstances, he was sure they would follow him anyways. At least, by taking them along, he could keep an eye on them.
His mind settled on the mission at hand, and once more his stomach clenched in fear and anger. How dare that insolent child tear my love from me!
The group filed along through the undergrowth, over logs and around boulders—the boys splashing into puddles. The mournful call of the neverbird in the distance only served to further James’ anxiety. After spending years sure that real love did not exist for him, he’d been fortunate to not only find true love, but marry the woman who loved him just as much. Now, she’d been kidnapped and his heart had been ripped from him.
What would my father think of me now? The random thought appeared, as it did every now and then. He’d probably think me as silly as a codfish. Marrying a most unconventional woman because we loved each other. Now, on my way to steal her back from her kidnapper, with my only reinforcements being boys not even old enough to enlist in Her Majesty’s army.
His father set him up for success, providing tutors and ultimately an appointment to Oxford. James wondered what use all that education was now that he was transplanted here. At least I’ve been able to put my fencing lessons to use, he mused, having won several duels against Neverland’s pirates.
Now, headed to war for the woman he loved, James recalled his father shipping him off to battle as an officer in England’s army soon after university to learn about duty and loyalty to his birthright. Beyond the night terrors that plagued his sleep ever since, his unwilling education in warfare provided him an upper hand now.
Looking back to be sure the small twins were still behind the pack, James sighed. How he tried to be the father he wished he’d had. Stern and firm when necessary, but caring as well, guiding them to find their strengths and overcome fears—everything unlike his own father. Yet, now he was leading them into battle. If something tragic happened to them, he wasn’t sure what he would do.
I doubt they even know what fear is, he thought with a slight bit of pride in the fellows who had called themselves Lost Boys for longer than anyone knew. All but two were here when he arrived, and had been nearly feral until he took them in and instilled some discipline and order. His heart swelled with pride as he also recalled how they taught him how to let his inhibitions go, garnering his first real taste of what childhood should have been like—carefree, fun, and a tad on the wild side.
James pulled his pocket watch from his trousers, checking the hour. Winding the timepiece, he stared at the face momentarily before shutting it again.
“You are fond of your watch?” Tootles, the eldest, asked as walked in step with James.
“I suppose so.”
“Do you remember where it came from?” Slightly chimed in.
“Haven’t I told you boys this story before?” James threw a cockeyed smile behind him, knowing what was to come next.
“But we like your stories,” Curly and Nibs echoed, while the rest chattered in agreement.
James knew they were safe here, and perhaps he did need to get his mind elsewhere to still his worry. Relenting, he began, “When I was eight, my parents sent me to boarding school so that-”
“What’s boardin’ school, Papa?” Twin Number One interrupted.
“Remember, that’s where adults send their children to learn about- stuff,” Slightly explained with feigned assurity.
“Yes, I was sent away to learn all about ‘stuff.’ But as I boarded the enormous steam engine train, my father-”
“What’s a ‘train?’” Twin Two halted the story this time.
“Shhhh!” his five brothers shushed him before Tootles spoke up, “Let Father tell his story.”
James cleared his throat, “Anyways, I was getting ready to board this frightfully enormous train. My father shook my hand, then gave me a box.” James turned, walking backwards and pretended to look very serious with his index fingers touching under his nose like a mustache. “And he said,“—in a much lowered voice—“‘James, make your family proud and get good grades. Your mother and I don’t want to hear that you’ve misbehaved.’ Then the train began to move down the tracks and I had to jump aboard before it left. When I got to my seat, I unwrapped the box, and inside was the most magnificent object I’d ever laid eyes on. The note inside read, ‘Dear James, A little something to ensure you’re never late for your appointments. Always, Your Father and Mother.’”
“Wow,” the twins’ cooed, seeming to have forgotten that they’d heard this story at least a dozen-hundred times.
Not wanting to reflect on his father anymore, nor be reminded of the anxiety he felt whenever he might be late, James changed the subject to the more pertinent situation at hand. “So, when we arrive at Cannibal Cove, we need to be very quiet. Captain Pan might have a landing party ashore. We’ll find a nice spot to watch from and go from there.”
The six children sobered quickly, remembering that this wasn’t one of their pretend adventures. Each walked a little taller and swallowed whatever fear they might have had. James had to admit, if there ever were a group of fine young men to whom he could trust in an attempt to rescue his beloved wife, it was this bunch of orphaned younglings. She apparently meant as much to them as she did to him. And she had long ago garnered his complete loyalty—and love.
WORD COUNT: 1021