An Afternoon in Kensington
They walked home arm in arm, the street turning into a parade in front of them. Cars and carriages bobbed on the cobblestone streets dug by years of rainfall and wooden tires.
"How wonderful of you to come over to Kensington with me, Victoria! It's awfully lonely at the Cantrell home sometimes, being the only girl and all."
"What about your mother?"
She gripped Victoria's arm tighter.
"She's not a girl, silly."
"And your brothers?"
"They can be a handful, sure, but George is too young to have any opinions and Arthur is apprenticing at the bank, so he's too tired to listen."
"What do opinions have to do with anything?"
"Well, what do you talk about, if not opinions? We have practically nothing in common. I can't argue over what dress to wear for the next party, or what shoes are best to keep or throw away. It's dreadful!"
"And with Mother not being a girl-"
"Exactly! I'm oh so alone without friends. Thankfully, we get to have all of the time in the world to talk and-OOH, I almost forgot! The most wonderful of places to visit before Mother has supper prepared."
She tried rushing Elizabeth, but the confusion slowed the both of them down to a slight stroll.
"The Gardens at Kensington Park. Oh, it's so wonderful! The trees, the flowers, the river! They say the Serpentine is magical and that any leaves and flowers sent down become frigates on the waters of another world! It's quite simply a wonderland-"
Victoria stopped, eyes wide. The story was coming together...
"Victoria? Are you distracted again?"
"Not 'Wonderland'. Neverland!"
"Neverland. The place that Peter boy was talking about!"
"What Peter boy?"
"The one we've both seen on different occasions! That might be where he lives!"
"You want to find out where another boy lives? First marriage plans, now we're looking for boys?"
Victoria glared at Mary. Her friend's smirk, showing her own growing kiss, held back giggles.
"My goodness, Victoria. What will we talk about next? Matchmakers?"
"I'm serious, Mary. This boy has been in my house. I fixed his shadow, and then he FLEW! I've never seen so many impossibilities happen in one night."
Victoria felt compelled to get to the bottom of all of this. She had to find Peter. The questions flew through her mind like little canaries. Mary, however, was enjoying running at such high speeds.
"Come on! Let's see the Garden before the sun sets!"
"But it...doesn't...close...for hours..."
The two girls, energized from their freedom, raced down the streets, past the stores they'd normally stop to stare through windows. Quickly they slipped past bakeries, restaurants, boutiques their parents visited, tailors, orphanages, hospitals, churches their families visited on occasion, theatres their parents frequented. The wind from their sprint blew across the Kensington welcome sign.
Sweat dribbled down their faces as they stopped by the gates of the garden.
"Mary... how did we...run so fast?"
The two of them rested on their knees as Mary dabbed her forehead with a napkin.
"I have no idea. Must be our ability to run in flats."
Mary inspected her shoes as Victoria looked up at the polished iron fence. Black bars reached to the sky, protecting something precious from the world. Secrets lie in wait for them, and not a moment to waste.
"Quickly, let's get inside!"
It must have been hilarious for a girl to think she was sneaking into a public garden during open hours, yet as she snuck in with Mary she felt like there was a mystery to be solved. A mystery about fairies in London, about a boy who flew and fought with a sword. About a boy named Ichabod, and where Neverland was.
She kept seeing twinkles in the corner of her vision, bells in the corner of her ears. Mary followed her dearest friend around the Serpentine. After all, there is magic in the river...
"Cmon, Victoria. It's getting late. We should go."
She thought she heard a stronger bell come from the bushes nearby as Mary brought her guest home for dinner.