All stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Or so they say. The truth is that endings are rare. We may think that the last words, the last act, the final wave is the end but it almost never is.
Consider Wendy. Yes, that Wendy. The very first Wendy. The one who fell in love with Peter Pan and followed him to Neverland without so much as a thought for her parents whose three children all disappeared in the space of a single night.
Do you think that Wendy’s story ended when she finally decided to be a good daughter and return to her home and her heart-broken parents?
If that is what you think, then you are mistaken. You see, Wendy was in love, and love will keep a story growing and glowing, winding and weaving, twisting and turning in vines of gold and leaves of silver.
It doesn’t matter how many times you try to close the door on a love story, if you open it even just the tiniest crack, the story will find its way out and, before you know it, a new garden will have sprung up once again.
Whether or not you venture inside is entirely up to you. You decide whether you want to climb up to the tree house hidden in the very top branches of the old oak, or go sit by the willow and dangle your feet in the star-glittered stream, or run through the fields of flowers that sway in the sunshine and breeze, or lie on your back and watch dragon clouds race each other in the deep blue sky.
You alone decide if you want to go further, to that dark corner, overgrown by a tangle of vines where a strange, creaking sound can be heard.
But remember, dear reader, before you pull the leaves aside, that stories will take us places—places we might never have heard of, places we may never return from. So set off on this journey if you wish, but do so with your eyes wide open.
Wendy and Peter
Wendy and her brothers flew in through the open window of the upstairs nursery and landed on the floor with three light bounces.
Mrs. Darling rubbed her eyes. In the time that her children had gone missing she would often doze off in the rocking chair where she had read them so many stories in happier days gone by and dream that they had returned to her. Then she would wake up to see their still empty beds and the too clean nursery floor and be reminded of her empty, aching, trembling heart.
So let us forgive her for not scooping Michael up in her arms when he ran to her crying, “Mama!”
Thinking he was merely a fragment left over from her dream, she got up, walked right past little Michael to the open window and pulled it down. She stood there then, leaning with her forehead against the cool, dark glass not seeing her own reflection or the reflection of her three children behind her or even the boy, Peter, who was at that very moment standing outside on the window ledge, a mere hand’s breadth away from her.
Never, she whispered to herself, Never, never, never should I have let them out of my sight.
“Mama?” Michael, John, and Wendy asked, not understanding why she did not turn around and open her arms to them the way she always did. How could they know that grief had contorted her mind and had made her blind to all that was good and all that was beautiful. It had washed away all the colors in her world so that now she could not even see the joy that was right in front of her.
Peter had come with to see Wendy and her brothers home. Wendy had pleaded with him to come and live with her, but he had chosen Neverland, so this was indeed a bittersweet moment for all. Peter got ready to turn and fly off, but he felt a curious, stabbing ache in his heart.
He tilted his head and watched Mrs. Darling’s face so close to his own on the other side of the window. He remembered again what Wendy had said about mothers. How nice they were, what good stories they told, how they made you sandwiches with berry jam. He thought then that perhaps if Wendy’s mother were to see him, she would pull him inside the room and perhaps he might be convinced that he wanted to stay there for a while.
Peter took one sideways step into the square of light pouring out from the brightly lit room onto the window ledge. But Mrs. Darling was so blinded that she did not see him standing there holding his breath, waiting for her to notice him.
If she had seen him, she certainly would not have turned her back on him—that was not the kind of mother she was. But Peter did not know this, and when she did turn away from him, his shoulders slumped and a bitter thought crossed his mind: I was right about mothers after all, and Wendy was wrong.
He retreated into the shadows ready now to throw himself into the empty sky and chart a course back to Neverland, and he had nearly done so when a sudden wish to see Wendy just one last time came over him.
Beyond him, against the deepening blue of the evening sky, a scattering of stars started to twinkle, and a faint breeze ruffled Peter’s hair. Tinkerbell fluttered about him pulling on his ears, but he paid her no attention. He was staring intently at Wendy and her family, trying to decipher what was so special that it made Wendy give up Neverland for them.
Inside the room, Mrs. Darling had turned back and now seeing her children standing there she blinked and shook her head. Then Michael ran to her and this is when Mrs. Darling’s new chapter started. Her children had returned. She fell to her knees, sobbing and kissing them and hugging them close, touching their faces as if she couldn’t believe that they were really there. She called for Mr. Darling who came rushing into the room. Upon seeing them he had to sit down on the bed from the shock of it.
Peter saw all this. He saw the Darling parents cry with joy, but did not care about their happiness. Wendy left me to go back to them, he thought, I won’t be happy for them. I just won’t.
Wendy’s brothers, John and Michael, pulled loose from their mother’s embrace and leaped onto the bed where Mr. Darling was sitting. They started to jump up and down on it. Mr. Darling’s head wobbled, but this time he did not tell them to stop. Nana, the dog, ran to and fro, wagging her tail and giving little yips of excitement as she licked each member of the family in turn.
Wendy was radiant in the glow of her mother’s love. Peter saw her waving her arms, explaining something as she looked back and forth from one parent to the other. Peter was mesmerized, but when Wendy’s face became serious, he held his breath.
Maybe, he thought, maybe Wendy is telling her parents that she wants to fly back to Neverland. Maybe she doesn’t want to be with them … Maybe she wants to be with me after all.
At this thought, happiness made Peter rise a few feet into the air, but he did not want to miss what was going on inside and willed himself to come down.
What Wendy had actually said to her parents was this: “Mother, Father—” Looking from one to the other she had taken a deep breath before continuing, “I have someone I want you to meet. He is a boy, and he is all alone in the world. He has no mother or father.”
She had paused. “He is quite dirty right now, but—” gathering her courage, she said, “He is my friend. His name is Peter. He is the boy who showed us the way to Neverland, and he showed us the way back.”
The heartache of the past months came rushing back at Mr. Darling, and a surge of anger shot through him. He wanted to strike this boy who had taken his children away and had caused him so much pain. He bared his teeth and uttered a growl.
The children were taken aback by their father growling like a dog, but Mrs. Darling put a gentle hand on Mr. Darling’s arm. “Hush, George,” she said, and then she gave Wendy a look that said, “Go on, and tell us about this boy.”
Wendy said, “The thing is, Mother, although he would never admit it, Peter is scared … and quite lost …”
It was fortunate that Peter could not hear Wendy’s words. Peter thought of himself as many things, but scared and lost were not among those.
Wendy continued, “… and although he says he doesn’t want a mother or a father, I know that if only he had real parents he would see how wonderful it is to have a family. So, if I showed him to you …” She clasped her hands together and her tone became pleading. “Would you please, please, please let him stay?” She looked from one parent to the other. “Please?” she said again, and this time John and Michael joined in, timing their jumping on the bed to the tune of “Please, Mother! Please, Father!”
The Darling parents were mute with astonishment. Was Wendy really asking them to welcome the very child who had stolen her and her brothers away from them for so long?
Mr. Darling cleared his throat. “So, where is this Peter fellow?” he asked.
“The other boys are downstairs in the drawing room,” Wendy said quickly, “But Peter is right outside the window.”
Mrs. Darling looked puzzled. “Other boys …?”
Wendy interrupted, “I’ll tell you about them later. First I must show you Peter!” She skipped to the window and flung it upwards in one swift, graceful movement.
Peter had such a fright that he shot straight up into the sky. But it was too late.
When the window opened his shadow fell into the room. Wendy planted her foot firmly on it.
“Let go!” Peter hissed from above, but Wendy bent down and peeled the shadow back from the floor. She gave it a yank, and Peter tumbled into the room. He pulled away from her as hard as he could, but Wendy held on so tightly that all his struggling was quite useless.
Mr. and Mrs. Darling were in shock; not only at the sight of the dirty boy in the nursery but also at the sight of Tinkerbell. She was circling Peter in dizzying zigzags, little bits of her fairy dust leaving sparkly trails all around. The parents rubbed their eyes thinking that perhaps they were dreaming. John and Michael yelled, “Peter! Peter! You decided to come after all!”
“Peter!” Wendy whispered, “Do be still for a minute! I have to talk to you.” She pulled him closer, holding onto the struggling shadow with all her might. Her voice dropped. “Peter,” she threatened, “I won’t let go unless you keep still and listen to me.”
Peter flashed Wendy a look of pure hatred.
Why, you may wonder, did Peter not manage to pull away from Wendy? Was he not, after all, a strong and nimble boy, quick on his feet with magical powers to use whenever he needed them?
You may not know this, but when someone takes hold of your shadow and chooses to hang onto it, it’s impossible to get away. You’re as good as bound and nothing you can do—nothing—can change that.
Before Peter had a chance to think of something that could distract Wendy, Nana, the dog, discovered Tinkerbell. At first, Nana gave only a few sharp barks, but then Tinkerbell, who loved mischief, started teasing Nana, hovering above her nose, just out of reach. That is how the chase started.
Around and around the room they went: first the fairy who darted away, her laugh tinkling like bells every time Nana’s teeth snapped at her, then Nana with her big paws and swishy tail, knocking over lamps and knick-knacks, followed closely by Mr. Darling, who had jumped up and was leaping over the beds with his long legs trying to grab ahold of Nana’s collar. John and Michael were still jumping on the bed, giddy at the hilarity of it all.
Nana, who had never seen a fairy before, was determined to do her job and capture the strange, sparkly bird. She showed no signs of slowing down. John was cheering for Nana while Michael was cheering for his father. Mrs. Darling was wringing her hands, unsure of what to do.
Wendy lowered her voice as she spoke to Peter. She knew that if she continued to hold onto his shadow, he would turn against her, so she let go a little and leaned towards him.
“Peter,” she said, “Just hear me out! When I saw Mother and Father tonight, a brilliant plan came to me! I knew you’d want to hear it too. I had to pull you into the room before you flew away … before you lost your chance to play the game. I’m sorry I had to do it like this, but it was the only way.”
Peter narrowed his eyes.
“Here’s the idea, Peter: why don’t you pretend that these two grownups are your parents, and then, when they believe that they are—when they feel they love you so much that they can’t live without you—then, Peter then we’ll fly away, you and I together, and we’ll break their grown-up hearts?”
Wendy leaned away from him and arched one eyebrow. She knew Peter well. He detested grownups and it would be a temptation for him to break their hearts. She leaned towards him again and whispered, “Imagine what fun that would be!” Then she looked past him with a faint smile on her lips and a faraway look in her eyes, pretending to wistfully think of all the fun they would have if only he would choose to stay.
Peter cocked his head and considered Wendy’s words. Breaking a grown-up's heart would be fun, yes, but being around them … not so much.
“Peter, just think of all the rules we could break!” Wendy whispered. “Think of all the adventures we could have! The best adventures are the breaking-the-rules adventures! In Neverland there are no rules, so you could never have the best kind of adventures there. It will be so exciting, Peter. We’ll pretend to grow up and pretend to go to school and pretend to be good, but all the time we will be wicked, rule-breaking children.”
Wendy grabbed Nana by the collar as she passed her by, and then she looked away. “Are you in or are you out?” she asked in a flat tone, tossing her hair, as though she didn’t care at all what he decided.
Tinkerbell, who had landed on Peter’s shoulder, was screaming in his ear not to do it, but Peter swatted her away.
Though fairies are tiny and have only small hearts, a hurt is a hurt no matter how big or little your heart, and when Peter swatted at her, Tinkerbell felt a sharp pinch in her chest. She flew off into a corner and hovered there by herself, waiting for the pinch to pass.
Then Peter, a glint slowly entering his eyes, said: “I believe I’ll stay!” He turned to Mrs. Darling and looked boldly at her. “What’s for dinner, mother?” he asked with a curled lip. At his words, a ripple ran through Mrs. Darling as if a stone had been tossed into a still pond.
Wendy relaxed her grip on Peter’s shadow, and she looked closely at her mother who, in turn, was looking over at her husband, silently pleading with him to step in and say something. But Mr. Darling was leaning with his hands on his knees, panting for breath after the chase. By the time he had straightened up and opened his mouth Peter had started to lose his resolve and was turning back towards the window. Seeing the look on Wendy’s face, Mrs. Darling quickly called, “Of course you can stay, dear boy!” and she rushed at him with wide open arms.
Peter sidestepped her embrace. “Excellent,” he said with authority. “So. Where is the food then? You may lead us there, mother! Go on then! We don’t have all day! The men are downstairs and they haven’t had a good meal in almost two hours.”
Hearing this cockiness, Mr. Darling’s mouth opened and closed several times. Then he said, “Now, see here. Just wait a minute!” Alarm bells were going off in his head. He felt that this brazen boy spelled trouble. He also noticed that Wendy had let go of Peter’s shadow… and was now holding his hand!
“Now, son, tell me where your parents are and I shall telephone for them at once,” Mr. Darling said.
“Father, did you not hear me? Peter doesn’t have any parents!” Wendy cried out.
“I’m sure there has to be someone. Maybe an uncle or an aunt?”
Wendy looked from her father to Peter. She saw the hesitation grow in Peter’s eyes. The conversation was turning grown-up and serious. Wendy knew that if it carried on like this for even just another minute, Peter would turn around and fly off, and she would never see him again. Never. The thought of this strained her heart. She simply couldn’t allow it.
“Father! For the last time! Peter doesn’t have anyone …”
Tinkerbell made an indignant sound from the corner of the room.
“I mean, he hasn’t any real family, and if you don’t want to take him, I shall have to go back with him to Neverland to be his mother.” Peter gave the Darling parents a triumphant smile.
We may judge Wendy for trying to trick her way into getting what she wanted. In fact, if we thought about it long enough, we might conclude that we want nothing to do with such a sneaky girl. But Wendy only did what many others have done before: she believed that the ends justified the means when it comes to love.
And so, as the Darlings stood in the middle of the nursery with two possible paths stretching out in front of them, Wendy’s strategy won the day.
“Very well then,” Mr. Darling said, looking at his wife, “Your friend can stay. As long as he follows the rules.”
Peter scowled, but Wendy squeezed his hand and gave him a look of secret delight.
“Ah, lovely, that’s settled then,” Mrs. Darling said before Mr. Darling could change his mind. “Let’s go see what’s for dinner. Come along, children!” she chirped.
Michael, John, and Wendy jumped up and down, clapping their hands. Their exuberance infected Peter. He bounded from the room, hopped onto the banister and slid down it. Wendy and John quickly followed suit, but Michael was too little and had to take the stairs. “I want cake!” Peter cried on his way down.
“Cake for everyone!” Wendy called, not far behind him.
At the bottom of the stairs, Peter bounced lightly off the banister and then stopped short so that Wendy knocked right into him as she, too, jumped off.
Peter stood with his head tilted back, gazing at the painting that hung on the wall at the bottom of the staircase. Wendy looked first at Peter then she looked at the painting. It had hung at the foot of the stairs for as long as she could remember, and she had never paid it much attention. Now she saw it, as if for the first time. It was large and showed a picture of a beach in the golden light of the late afternoon. Three children, barely older than babies, were making sand castles while a woman sat nearby on a green checkered blanket. The woman’s face was obscured by a hat, but a thick braid of lustrous red hair lay over her shoulder.
“Who is that?” Peter asked.
Wendy frowned, “I don’t know, Peter. We can ask mother later. Come On! Let’s go tell the others!” and she pulled him away and into the drawing room where a great cry of “Hurrah!” arose when they told the Lost Boys that the Darling parents had agreed that they could all stay which, of course, Mr. and Mrs. Darling had not done at all. But who can argue with children in the throes of such excitement?
And so, overnight, the Darling family grew from five to twelve—thirteen, really, if you counted Nana.
I could tell you about the Lost Boys—about Tootles and Nibs and Slightly and Curly and The Twins—but they deserve, each one of them, their own story—stories that surely will be told at another time. Suffice it to say that they became part of the Darling household and that, in time, each one turned out as he was meant to if you believe in fate and that sort of thing.
As for Peter and Wendy … well, it became complicated, and it would be careless to summarize the tale, so I’ll go ahead and tell it exactly as it happened.
Though Liza, the Darling family’s cook, was happy that Michael, John and Wendy had returned, she was not pleased to see the dirty bunch of children that had accompanied them.
On that first night she sniffed with displeasure when Mrs. Darling said, “Liza, would you please bring out three extra loaves of bread and another pitcher of milk?”
Under her breath Liza muttered, “Ain’t never seen the likes of these scoundrels.”
“Did you say something, Liza?” Mr Darling asked.
“Nothing, sir—” she sniffed, “Just that it sure is a lot of noise these boys are making, and I, for one, would be none too surprised if the neighbours come complaining.”
At these words Mr. Darling had to fight the urge to silence the children. You see, was the kind of man who always cared a great deal about what the neighbours thought. But instead of telling the children to quiet down, he went outside to take a breath of fresh air and clear his head.
Mrs. Darling stepped outside too and stood next to him, looking up at the twinkling stars.
“I can’t believe our children are back, George. It is real, or is it just a dream? I fear I might wake up and find that it’s not real after all.”
“It’s no dream, dearest,” he said putting his arm around her. “There… don’t you hear the ruckus?”
“But will we be able to manage, George?”
He, brave man and loving husband that he was, reassured her in spite of himself. “Of course we will manage, my dear. I have the new position at the bank, and I heard talk of Henry Duke retiring. I may very well—not that I want to be too hopeful yet—but I may very well be promoted soon.”
Mrs. Darling felt her heart brimming with gratitude that she was married to such a man. “Oh, George, I love you so. I have never been happier,” she sighed, then stood tiptoe and kissed him on the cheek. “Do let’s go in. Dinner is on the table.”
“You go along. I’ll come in a second.” For a few more minutes Mr. Darling stood staring into the darkness while chewing on his lip.
Nobody saw this except for Nana who came and stood next to him, leaning against his legs. He drew comfort from the gesture and felt once again how unjust he had been to banish her from the nursery all those many months ago. “It will be all right Nana, will it not?” he asked.
“Woof!” she barked.
Inside the house, Mrs. Darling strained to make herself heard. “Boys? Boys!” she called. Nobody paid her any attention. “Please go and wash up before you sit down!” she asked and then, when they didn’t respond, she tried again, a little louder this time, “Boys? Your attention?”
It was clear to her, looking at their grubby hands and their equally grubby manners, that the children hadn’t had a real mother for a long time and that she was going to have her work cut out for her.
Mrs. Darling was by nature kind, composed, and soft-spoken. Screaming, yelling, and threatening were simply beyond her. When the boys did not listen (because, in truth, they had not heard her over the din they were making), she caught Wendy’s eye in a silent plea.
Wendy, understanding her mother’s look, knew what to do. She whispered into Peter’s ear. “Peter, look at Mother. I think she wants to tell us a story. But first we have to eat, and before we can eat, we have to wash our hands. I wonder—how can we make all the boys wash their hands?”
Peter puffed out his chest. “Just leave it to me, Wendy. I’ll make these landlubbers wash their paws.” He gave a very loud whistle. In a moment silence had fallen over the room. Peter stared at the boys with menace and said, “Right. Now you listen and you listen well. This mother here,” and he pointed to Mrs. Darling, “Wants to read a story.”
At this, they all shouted “Hurrah!” but Peter gave them a thunderous look.
“Silence! If you want to hear the story, go and wash your hands and feet right now.”
“Just their hands would be fine,” said Mrs. Darling.
“Wash just your hands and don’t let me catch a-one of you washing your feet!” Peter threatened. When they did not respond right away, he shouted. “Now!” and the boys all jumped as one.
Having just entered the room, Mr Darling watched with grudging admiration as the boys filed out of the room to wash their hands. He was impressed, but also a bit annoyed, by Peter’s natural authority.
Mr. Darling himself had never come close to threatening his children—and indeed, they had often ignored his requests in the past. Now he thought to himself, perhaps if I threatened punishment, I too would see results. But one look at Wendy made him shake his head at the idea.
After the meal, Mrs. Darling asked Peter and Wendy to help prepare the younger boys for bed. Nana tried to help too, but the children kept tumbling over each other and her, making it quite impossible for her to do her work, so she sat down in the corner smiling and watching as the three beds in the nursery were pushed together and blankets and pillows were arranged in soft nests on the floor.
Mrs. Darling decided that until other arrangements were made, Wendy would sleep on the sofa in the drawing room downstairs.
The boys were assigned to their beds, and when they didn’t show any signs of settling down Peter shouted, “Now quiet down!” He narrowed his eyes, curved his forefinger into the shape of a hook and glared at them until every last one had gotten into bed and lay with the covers pulled up to their chins.
Wendy had gone to sit on a pillow by her mother’s feet.
When Peter came and sat down next to Wendy, she could not have imagined a happier moment. She moved just a smidgen, so that her arm touched Peter’s. He didn’t move away and she sighed a deep, happy sigh.
Tinkerbell was still hiding. Earlier, when Peter had agreed to stay with Wendy, the pinch in her chest had gotten so bad that she had to lie down for fear of fainting. Now she was curled up behind a book on the bookshelf. Her light was very dim and her thoughts very grim.
Having gone so long without a real story from a real mother, the boys could not believe their luck. They lay dreamily staring at the soft candle light playing on Mrs. Darling’s gentle face and held their breath as she opened the story book.
“Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a king who had three sons …,” she began.
While she was reading, the little ones did not make a peep. Wendy and Peter, cosy in front of the crackling fire, became sleepier and sleepier. When Mrs. Darling finished the story, all the boys breathed a soft sigh of utter contentment. She put the book away and then leaned over each of them to tuck them in and kiss them goodnight. They all pretended to be asleep but they felt, each and every one, that they had died and gone to heaven.
A mother’s kiss spreads like the colors of sunrise lighting up the path to Dreamland, and that is exactly where the children were all heading—all except for Peter, who never set foot in Dreamland. Dreamland, of course, is very much like Neverland: anything can happen there, except that it exists only in your dreams.
Wendy asked, “Mother, may Peter and I sit in front of the fire for a little while longer?”
“My dear, you have had quite a long day. I think it would be better for you to go to bed now. Peter needs to get some sleep too. Tomorrow is sure to be busy.”
Wendy suddenly grew fearful. “Mother … do we have …” Her voice dropped to a whisper, and she hoped that Peter would not hear her as she asked, “… school tomorrow?”
Mrs. Darling laughed. “School? School doesn’t start for another ten weeks. The summer has barely begun. I simply meant that you will need proper rest so that you can play all day. Although …” Mrs. Darling looked thoughtful. “You did fall behind in your schoolwork, and we might need a tutor to come and help you make up for what you’ve missed.” Then her tone brightened. “But we won’t worry about that today. Now it’s time to go to bed, children, and we’ll let tomorrow take care of itself,” she said.
Peter threw Mrs. Darling an ugly look, but Wendy, wishing to please her mother, said goodnight to Peter and left the room in search of her father.
Mrs. Darling said to Peter, “I am glad that you decided to stay, Peter. You’ll see—it won’t be so bad, and very soon you’ll feel right at home.”
That, of course, is a chief characteristic of mothers—they believe, firstly, that their love can repair everything, secondly, that they are right in all matters, and thirdly, that they can set all that is crooked in this world straight, if only they would be given the opportunity.
But Peter knew better than to trust her words and replied “Hmph,” in a bitter, dubious tone.
A Father’s Arms
Wendy found her father lost in thought, smoking his pipe in his favorite chair. When she walked towards him, he woke from his reverie and smiled at her.
“Oh, Wendy … my Wendy … you came back …” He pulled her onto his lap, and she put her arms around his neck and nestled her head against his chest.
In all the time that she had been away, he had allowed himself to think of her only as an idea—the idea of a daughter gone missing.
Now that he had her in his arms, the full force of his love for her and the heartache of her absence washed over him in one enormous, unexpected wave.
Her eyes were closed, and her eyelashes made shadows on her velvety skin. It took all of his self-control to keep from sobbing.
She felt heavier and longer of limb than he remembered, but in other ways, she was just the same. Her arms were warm around his neck, and she had the sweet half-smile that he had seen in his troubled dreams when she had been gone. He thought in that moment, that he might never let her go again.
Wendy relaxed and she let the feeling of safety and love wash over her. She, too, had not realized how much she had missed him. She thought to herself at that moment that even if Peter were to return to Neverland, she would never, ever again leave her father.
Presently Mrs. Darling came in. Seeing them sitting together like this, she fell in love with Mr. Darling all over again. She hated to disturb them, but it was getting late, and she felt that she would like to talk to him about the events of the day. “It’s late, Wendy, dear. Quickly, help me with these sheets so you can get some rest.”
Wendy rose, happy for once to be told to go to bed. It was all fine and well to have been a mother to the boys in Neverland, but she found it comforting to be a child in her own home once more. She kissed her parents goodnight, got into her makeshift, but comfortable, bed and soon fell into a dreamless sleep.
The Darlings went to their bedroom, murmuring to each other as happy couples do, so overcome by the day’s events that it was hard for them to settle down. But eventually they did, and then it was only Nana and Tinkerbell who lay awake listening to the small noises of the night.