Lost Girls

Peter had told Wendy that girls didn’t get to Neverland nearly as often, they simply didn’t get lost like boys did. And he was right. And he was wrong. Baby girls don’t get lost. It’s the older ones who sometimes find themselves straying. It starts when they put their hair up and let their skirts down. Some of those young women find themselves walking down the roads they were forbidden to tread, dreaming the dreams they were told to never have. Sometimes, these young women puzzle out which is the second star to the right and sometimes they go back to help the lost girls left behind.

Meredith wouldn’t say she was lost, though her parents certainly would have if anyone had asked them. She hadn’t felt lost since the day years ago when she had first climbed aboard the ship that had appeared at her window and the Captain had promised her she was safe. Now, she fished in the pocket of her trousers and pulled out a silver compass. With luck, tonight the lady moon would guide them to another lost girl so they could bring her home. The needle spun for a moment as she laid it level in her palm and then pointed steadfastly. With a smile, Meredith nodded and shouted back.
“Captain! She shows due west.”
The Captain was a tall woman with wild curls, bold manners, and a fierce protective streak when it came to her crew. She smiled now at Meredith and turned to the woman who stood at the helm.
“We chase the setting sun, then. Merry, keep us on course.”

Susan had done everything right. She had put up her hair and let down her skirts. She had discovered makeup and boys and followed all the rules. The problem was simple. She wasn’t happy. She was cold and confused and distant. Sitting up at night in her room, Susan read by the light of a single candle. Or at least she had been until she heard the knock on her window. She held her candle with care as she opened the window onto the strange scene that met her. A ship hung in the air by her window and a person leaned over the rail to smile at her. The impossible ship was one thing, but the person was entirely another. They had short hair, cut nearly like Susan’s elder brother had just gotten his for military service, and wore a white shirt and trousers. Despite all that, Susan was utterly certain that this stranger was a woman.
“So, you’re the new lost girl.”
The woman reached out a hand to Susan with a wry smile on her face.
“Blow out your candle, but you can bring the book.”
For a moment, Susan hesitated. None of this was possible. Something, though, in that woman’s eyes drew her. Then the words truly sunk in.
“I’m not lost. I suspect you may be since your boat is in the air and not the sea.”
The woman laughed and leaped over the rail to climb in Susan’s window.
“The whole crew’s lost. And we’re not. And the lady moon sent us here to find you.” The woman showed Susan a silver compass which pointed inexorably at her no matter how she moved. “Which means you’re one of us. I’m Meredith, by the way. First mate.”
“I’m Susan. And I’m afraid I still don’t understand what you’re going on about. I’m not lost, regardless of what the moon may or may not have told you.”
Meredith tucked the compass back in her pocket and sat perched on the windowsill.
“Have you ever felt like you don’t fit in the life they have lined up for you? Like maybe you want to be someone other than a daughter and then a wife and then a mother? Like maybe you don’t want to be kissing boys?”
Susan’s head snapped up and her voice was shaky when she spoke again.
“How can you know that?”
“Because I was like you when the Captain came for me.” Meredith ducked back out the window, holding her hand out. “Come on, Susan. Come be a lost girl and find yourself.”
Susan only spared a brief glance backward before blowing out her candle and reaching for Meredith’s hand.
“I don’t have to wear trousers, do I?”
“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.”
Meredith helped her over the rail and they stood together on the deck as the ship turned towards the second star to the right. Susan watched as the lights of her childhood home vanished behind them, turning away when she could only see darkness below her. Then she reached for Meredith’s hand.
“Will you help me? Until I know the ship and the crew and how things are?”
She added the second part in a rush, a blush coloring her cheeks. Meredith smiled and kissed Susan lightly on the cheek.
“Gladly.”
The moon gilded the ship and the women who crewed her silver as they journeyed through the night, and she smiled. Another of her daughters had made her way home.

Anonymous Gifts

I was knelt down by the filing cabinet, looking for the records related to a case I was reading through for my boss when the door opened behind me. Turning, I was surprised to find a tall man standing there. He looked a bit like a surfer; blond, tan, and buff, with an easy grin. His blue eyes seemed endless in the halogen light.
“Can I help you?”
When he spoke, I would have sworn he was a singer. That was how musical his voice was.
“Is your boss in? I just need her for a minute.”
I adjusted my skirt.
“I’ll go see if she’s free. Would you like a drink or anything?”
“No thanks.”
He waved me off and settled into one of the comfortable chairs, tapping out a beat as though he was listening to music I couldn’t hear. I shrugged a little and stepped into the doorway of her office.
“Excuse me, Ma’am? There’s a man here to see you.”
She stood, gray eyes measuring me for a moment. Then she glanced at the calendar.
“Of course. Every month like clockwork.” She smiled, standing. “Go pull papers for an anonymous donation, if you would. Make it out for my sister’s archery camp.”
I raised an eyebrow at that but went to do as I was told. All the while, I could hear them talking in the background.
“I still don’t understand why you won’t just tell her. She’s your twin. It’s not like she can get mad at you.”
He just shrugged, an affable smile on his face.
“We both know she likes it this way, thinking there’s some kind stranger out there who cares as much about the kids as she does.”

A New Case

I was filing papers in the back when I heard the chime of the bell opening.
“I’ll be right there!”
Clambering down the ladder, I smoothed down the front of my skirt and stepped out into the waiting room. A woman stood standing in the door, an imperious expression on her face, framed by wisps of chestnut hair that had escaped her ponytail. She was wearing jeans and a camp t-shirt, with a strip of leather strapped to the inside of her right arm. An archery guard, I realized. Her eyes met mine and for a moment, my world felt like it had dropped out from under me. Then I noticed the young girl standing beside her, one arm in a sling. She was small and thin, eyes downcast.
“So,” the woman said, a bit of a smile on her face. “You’re the intern I’ve been talking to on the phone?”
“I…Yes? I mean… I’m sorry, how can I help you?”
That got a bit of a laugh and she knelt for a moment, telling the small girl she could go read a book in the corner.
“I need to talk to my sister, it’s about a case I need her to open.”
I took a breath and nodded, somehow knowing exactly what she was talking about.
“She’s in her office. Let me just tell her that you’re here. Would you like something to drink?”
She shook her head and then paused.
“Have you got juice?”
She glanced over at the girl and I nodded.
“I’ll get her a juice box.”
First, I went to my boss’s office. Knocking on the doorframe, I leaned in.
“Your sister is here about something. She says it’s a case.”
I thought I had seen my boss turn into an avenging angel before. I had thought wrong. When she stood, I could have sworn that for just a moment she was wearing armor.
“Send her to the deposition room. I need you to watch the little girl. There are cookies in the pantry, get her one.”
I headed off to do as I was told before I’d even processed that I hadn’t told her about the girl.

Girls’ Night

The third Wednesday of every month, at least during the summer, was girls night. That’s what my boss said when she left the shop in my care. So, I was expecting to be alone in the old barn surrounded by odds and ends until closing time. I wasn’t expecting a teenage girl in a Day-Glo blue archery camp t-shirt and a woman a few years older than me in a neat blouse and flowered skirt to come walking in through the door within short order of each other. The younger girl spoke first.
“The Huntress says you know.”
The other woman relaxed visibly.
“Oh thank the gods, I was starting to think I’d taken a wrong turn. When my boss said to come to the home of the forgotten things, I never pictured a junk shop. Even if she did give me an address.”
I looked between the two of them, relaxing the grip on the chunk of stygian iron in my pocket.
“Well then… I wish my Lady had told me I’d have company tonight.”
Unceremoniously, I shifted a box of records to the floor and sat at the now-cleared off patio table. With an airy gesture, I motioned for the other two to sit. Names weren’t exchanged, but that was to be expected. The lawyer took a seat but the young archer didn’t, she paced. After a long silence, the lawyer spoke. I was starting to suspect she didn’t like silence.
“Do either of you know why we’re supposed to meet?”
I stayed silent. The archer didn’t. She was dynamic and mobile in a way that the overcrowded barn did not tolerate and it was starting to get on my nerves.
“I would guess,” she started, “that they don’t want us to be alone. We know who they are and that sets us apart. But that makes us kind of like a little group.”
I expected the lawyer to object, even sparing a moment for a mental laugh at the image the thought conjured. But she nodded.
“That makes sense. We’ve seen things that are…hard to explain. Or impossible.”
The archer stopped dead in her tracks, her expressive face closing.
“She…she turned a man into a stag. We ate him. I killed him. I…I didn’t mind. The gun was aimed at my face! And I like venison a lot. He was going to hurt the kids, I think…and…”
She was shaking and I stood, grabbing her by the shoulders.
“Tell it from the beginning.”
My voice sounded like hers for a moment, like my Lady’s. That clear and calm tone that radiated confidence. The girl’s shoulders slumped and she nodded. Slowly, the story came out of her and I nodded.
“He’s been judged and found Punishment. You did the right thing.”
The easy smiles were back on her face now.
“I know, she told me. But I needed to…to talk to someone else, I think. You know?”
The lawyer spoke softly then.
“How did you do that?”
It took me a second to realize she meant me. I knew I was just staring at her like an idiot.
“You pulled the ghost of the memory out of her.”
“I did what?”
Then I looked at my hands and saw the shadows there. With a quiet curse, I pulled it together into a ball and cast it down into the Underworld.
“I…have no idea. But it’s good to know I can.”
I looked back and forth between them for a moment and then sighed.
“I’ll go grab some sodas and a deck of cards. We can all talk and sort this out, alright?”

Archery Camp

I spent a lot of time in the coffee shop on the corner during the end of that school year. I wish I could say it was because of the free wifi or the good coffee. Mostly, it was because I had nowhere better to be and the barista was hot. So, I did my homework there and tried to get her number. Unsuccessfully. But with the end of the school year approaching, I was paying more attention to the tack board by the door where people posted job listings. That day was mostly like all the others, at least until the man I’d never seen before walked in. He didn’t say a word to anyone, just strode over to the board in his heavy black boots. When he raised his arms to attach a small posting to the board, I noticed the arrow tattooed on one arm and the antlers on the other. He had jet black hair tied back in a ponytail and a black leather jacket over a t-shirt that seemed entirely at odds with the rest of him. It was a jarring almost dayglow blue with a bow-and-arrow camp logo. As he walked out, he turned to glance at me for just a moment and he seemed to grin.

So of course, I got up and checked out the posting, my interest piqued. It was for an archery camp looking for counselors, no experience necessary, just a desire to help kids. I could certainly do that. I jotted down the number and packed my things to head home and apply.

The head instructor was unfairly attractive. The kind of woman who could make a room full of nuns swoon just by smiling. Her hair was a chestnut brown that she kept in a messy ponytail, though wisps of it escaped to frame her eyes. I’d thought at first that they might be silver, but that was mad. They were just a very pure gray. She really cared about those kids. Each and every one of them. When one of the littlest boys was afraid of the big dog that followed her everywhere, she took time out of her day to help him work through his fears. I can’t blame the kid, though, I’d thought that was a wolf the first time I saw him.

I’d hoped her co-instructor was her brother or something. No such luck. I’ve met her brother. He’s a piece of work. Blond surfer type who comes on the weekends to help out at the lake with swimming. Not that he’s ever gotten in the water. I think he just likes laying in the sun all day. He’s alright, though. Nice guy and great with a guitar. I think he might have a crush on her co-instructor, which is too bad really because they’re definitely dating.

We were out at the archery range one day, each of the kids lined up with their arrow to the string and their eyes on the target. That was the day we got the word that someone had snuck onto the grounds of the camp who very much should not have been there. She took one look at me and told me to take up my bow, I would hunt with her. The children would be safe in their cabins. I followed her, because what else could I do? We were miles out into the woodland of the camp before I heard a mix of howling and baying…and…laughter? There were other people now, all women like us…but green? They were carrying bows and running with the dogs that were ahead of us.
“He’s nearby. Keep your eyes out.”
That’s when I heard the twig snap and I whirled. There was a man there, a frantic look on his face and a gun in his hand. I had my bow up but panic was quickly setting in. He had a gun. I had a bow. This was not a fair fight. He raised the gun, aiming it right at my face. Just when he would have pulled the trigger, there was a pop like the world shifting and a stag stood in front of me, wheeling in panic.
“Take aim, little one.”
She was standing right behind me and I did as I was told now. My arrow loosed and found its mark quickly. She was laughing as she strode up to where the animal lay, bleeding.
“Never threaten one in my care.” Her voice was cold and harsh for an instant before she lifted the stag onto her shoulder. “Come along. I can leave this with the kitchens and we can have venison for dinner. You hunt well, but we need to work on your form a bit.”
“Of course.”

New kids come to the camp every year and it’s the safest place they could ever be, no matter what else happens in the rest of the world. And I would never leave here. Even if she’s in love with Orion. Even if her brother is too. It’s alright, this is home.

Søren and Solveig

Solveig loved her brother. She loved him as the sun loves the moon, as the sea loves the shore, as the night loves the day. Even as she and Søren grew older, she loved him. Søren was tall and bold, easy with a laugh or a smile. Women chased him for his beauty as much as his skill on the sea. But Søren son of Valter loved no woman so much as he loved the sea, except perhaps Solveig.

He spent his days alone on the water, with a wool cap pull down over his ears and the open sky above him, until the day the small faering arrived bearing only a young woman and her hound. She was Torill, daughter of Amend who held land to the south, and she was as cunning as she was beautiful, as brave as she was strong, and she knew the sea and stars as old friends. It was there on the shore that Søren met Torill. No more was the sea’s own son distant, for he had found a companion of his soul in this daughter of Amend.

Together they took to the seas, adventures sought and new lands seen. And all the while, Solveig waited and wept. Her brother would take Torill to wed, of that she was sure. So Solveig made a plan.

When the sailors two returned from their voyages, Solveig waited on the shore. Jealous Søren’s sister held a basket and offered them a feast. Drawing them both, brother and foe, to her home, she gave them drink fit to slake the thirst of the greatest of mead halls. Only then did she act. While Søren slept the sleep of drink, fair Solveig told Torill that her hound bayed in the night. Bright Amend’s daughter went out, stumbling with the drink, a knife in her hand to face any who would dare venture near her ship in the dark.

Then did Solveig rouse her brother. She wove him words with her silver tongue, laced with feigned fear, of how she had seen the shadow of a man near to his ship and was sure it would be gone by dawning. Søren took up his bow and went into the night.

Torill alone was on the shore, but Søren did not see her bright gold hair or playful eyes. He did not hear her song-filled voice. He only saw a shadow bent over a ship on the shore. The arrow was loosed and it flew straight and true, finding its home buried in Torill’s breast.

Only when the sea’s lost son heard the cry did he know what Solveig’s games had wrought.