Sunday, 28 April 2013

Peter’s Backstory

This post will make better sense if you've read either this post or this post first. Or both. :3

Author’s Notes: I was looking back through my post history for the blog and realised how long it’s been since I posted actual story content. I admit I haven’t written anything new for some time, but months ago I wrote a prose piece about Peter’s backstory from his mother’s perspective that I’d planned to post on the blog. However, I showed it to a friend whom I’d hoped would help me edit it, and the problems that she pointed out were so intrinsic that I despaired of ever being able to fix them short of totally rewriting the whole thing. So I put it away and didn’t look at it.

But just now I thought, what the hell. I’ve already established that I’m willing to put up first draft excerpts on this blog, so why is it so important that this one piece has to be of uber-high quality? Yeah, the execution isn’t great, but it’s the events that are relayed that matter more to Peter’s character, and which are likely to be of interest to you, readers of this blog x3

Even with my newly lowered standards, though, the beginning wasn’t really worth posting xD So I’ve missed out
Peter Pan: The Toddler Years and skipped straight to when Peter is nine years old and already attending secondary school…


At nine, Peter was evaluated by an educational psychologist and finally given the official label of “genius”. His mother wasn’t at all surprised. The psychologist was able to recommend a few things, and the label helped lend weight to her battles with the school, but by and large nothing had changed. Peter still threw tantrums, challenged authority, closed himself off, dismantled the electrics and was more than his mother knew how to cope with. Peter’s father, a fan of old-fashioned discipline and traditional manners, wasn’t able to help much. He worked nine hours a day and liked a bit of peace and quiet when he came home in the evenings, but it was rarely to be found.

Peter’s mother read in a book that in raising a bright child it was important to encourage his or her interests. She remembered the “pretty patterns” that Peter used to report seeing when she played music. Maybe he would like to learn a musical instrument.

One afternoon she took him to the local music shop to try out a few different types. He disdained the violins, the guitars and the woodwind instruments, but showed some interest in a big electronic keyboard, pressing the buttons and hearing the different types of sound they made. Peter’s mother bit her lip, knowing they couldn’t afford even a fraction of the instrument’s large price tag.

Peter was aware of the problem. “Mum, you know we can’t afford something like this,” he said, almost scolding her. “Why are you showing it to me?”

“I’m trying to find something you might like,” she told him with a tremulous smile. “We can’t afford such a big keyboard at the moment, but if you’re interested, you can take piano lessons and learn how to play.”

Peter stared at her intently over the top of the keyboard, as if scrutinising her for signs of weakness. “No, I’m only interested if it’s electronic like this,” he said, and got off the piano stool to look at a display of cheap percussion instruments and music-themed stationery, little extras the shop sold on the side to amuse small children who came in with their parents. His mother ran her hands through her hair in exasperation and the manager looked on with a kind smile.

“What about drum lessons? The drums are very popular with a lot of young boys that come in here,” he said, gesturing to a drumkit in the corner made of shiny, dark red metal.

“I’m not a ‘young boy’, and I can hear you,” Peter threw over his shoulder as he browsed the display.

“Peter, don’t be so rude,” said his mother, as always.

The manager was unperturbed. “I know you can hear me, so what do you think? Would you like to learn the drums?”

“No thank you. Too chaotic,” Peter replied instantly. His mother had suspected the drums wouldn’t sit well with his synaesthesia.

He was trying out some of the percussion instruments now, shaking a small yellow egg filled with beans with a look of disdain and putting it back. By this time his mother was just hoping that there would be something, anything for him to take a liking to. He passed over a tambourine, a guiro and a pair of Indian bells; then his fingers paused over a set of wooden pipes. He picked them up. “What are these?”

“Those are panpipes,” said the manager. “Would you like me to show you how to play them?”

For a minute Peter looked as though he would decline, simply because he hated to admit he didn’t know about something, but then he held out the panpipes. “Go on then.”

The manager, ever-patient, showed him how to blow downwards into the pipes and make a sound. Peter picked up on it quickly and began to play ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’. The manager applauded, and Peter stopped with a scowl. He was very suspicious of being patronised.

His mother stepped in quickly. “Shall we get these for you, then? You can play on them some more at home.”

Peter hung the leather string attached to the panpipes around his neck. “All right.”

From then on the panpipes seemed to become a sort of talisman. Peter would often go out with them hung around his neck or attached to his belt, and she occasionally caught him running his fingers over them like he was drawing strength from their presence. He didn’t play them during the daytime or in front of people, but if she woke up in the middle of the night, she sometimes thought she heard the sound of soft pipe music floating down the corridor.

In the early years it had been possible to appease him like this, to mitigate the sullenness from time to time; but as Peter became a teenager his mother felt like he was steadily slipping away from her. She knew the teenage years were difficult for all parents; she read endless books on parenting, but they only made her feel as if she’d lost her grip long ago – done too many things wrong near the beginning. She’d let him have far too much freedom, and now he was slipping in and out of the house at all hours, and she barely saw him. She waited on tenterhooks for a call from the school to say he’d not been attending, but it never came, and she hated that she hoped it would just so that she had an excuse to try and rein him in, confine him to the house. She’d never given his advanced mind enough stimulation, and so he’d grown up finding entertainment elsewhere, though she could only guess at where and how.

One night she heard him leave the house, and dressed in a dark coat and shaking from head to toe, she followed him. His slow, meandering pace took him to the park, and her heart quailed as she imagined a circle of boys with cigarettes and alcohol, older boys maybe, the town thugs. But there was no-one, and that was almost worse. Peter sat on the swing for a long time, staring into the darkness, and eventually she turned back out of guilt and fear that she’d be caught spying on her own son.

She discovered thirty pounds missing from her purse one day and convinced herself she must have lost it, because she couldn’t bring herself to accuse Peter and acknowledge how little she really trusted him.

Peter’s father caught him sneaking back in early one morning, and an explosive argument followed. She was drawn in after it was revealed how she’d been covering for his absences with stories of after-school clubs and friends’ houses (as if by pretending hard enough, she could make the fiction become reality). Peter stormed out of the house as his parents shouted accusations at each other; the slamming door had a terrible finality to it, and Peter’s father sank into a chair and put his head in his hands, looking as helpless as she felt.

Three days later, Peter ran away from home.


All right, it’s probably obvious I’m not a parent yet and I don’t know what it’s like to raise a teenager, much less a gifted one like Peter; but I tried hard to put myself into his mother’s shoes. I imagine Peter as having been an especially difficult child to raise, and his father as having been quite distant from things, leaving his overwrought and uncertain mother to try and cope by herself. Not having much to go on from the books in terms of Peter’s parents, I just made them up. I surprised myself by how much I liked and enjoyed writing his mother, and don’t worry – this isn’t the last you’ll see of her x3

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