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What To Expect When Your Daughter Returns from Neverland

Luke Sekiguchi (he/him, mostly) is a queer, autistic, Jewish, mixed-race writer and psychologist. He has previously been published in Daily Science Fiction (as Lucas Sekiguchi), and written for Spruke’s experimental music albums and . He lives in the Seattle area with his cat and an eclectic rotation of housemates.

1. You will need to lie to the police. "She was camping with relatives," you'll mumble. "They thought she had permission. I'm so sorry for wasting your time." They'll never know how she's changed, how the sun has browned her and the baby fat has melted away. They won't need to know how your heart plummeted when you saw the scar streaking from her eyebrow to her lip. "That's been there a while," you'll quaver. "Skiing accident."
2. She won't need you to cut off her bread crusts anymore. She'll snatch the sandwich from beneath your knife, packing her mouth with both hands as she darts out to play. You'll find snacks in her pockets that you've never seen before. The wrappers will teem with foreign phrases, or even foreign alphabets. How do you even know what's in them? you will worry. This can't be safe.
3. As you gaze at the scar that desecrates her sleeping face, you will wonder, Why didn't you take me with you? Don't you know you need me?
4. You will fight every night about closing her window. "It's too hot," she'll complain no matter how you shiver. When you nail the window shut, she won't even wait for you to leave--she'll pry it right open before your eyes. The only thing you'll find to say is, "Since when do you own a pocketknife?"
5. "Look out!" you will cry. Your daughter will spring into the air and alight for a moment as the car whizzes harmlessly beneath her. You'll slump against the porch railing as your knees surrender. Your daughter will roll her eyes as she settles back to earth.
6. You will never feel safe again. You'll fantasize about writing to your homeowner's association, asking them to build the gate taller, taller, until it splits the stars. But you'll know it can never reach high enough to keep her in.
7. Your daughter will never return to Neverland. Peter forgot her by the time the sun rose. But your daughter will never forget. She will flee towards any promise that magic still exists. Hollywood. New York. Las Vegas. She will take the hand of any boy who offers to make her soar.
8. There is only one way to prevent this.
9. Show her your scar. The one you said was a dog bite. She has only seen it once, by accident. You keep it covered. You change in the dark. If you glimpse its wicked seams in the moonlight, your ears fill with ticking.
You were a very different child from your daughter. You have always been afraid of heights. Upon your return, you locked your window and never looked out of it again.
10. Someday your daughter will reach out to you one last time. If you take her hand only to pull it, she will break free of your grasp, and you will watch her silhouette dwindle against the twilight until you are uncertain whether she was ever there at all. Alone with the stars and biting wind, shivering in her pajamas, she will wonder, Don't you know I need you? Why didn't you come with me?
The End
This story was first published on Monday, February 7th, 2022
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