Sometimes love means not being able to bear seeing the one you love the way they are, when they're not what you hoped for them.
There are books that are felt so deeply that they live in your mind for days after you've finished them, retelling yourself the story and reliving each moment of happiness and heartache again and again. You could never write a review that would do the thing some justice. This is that book for me.
I've always loved Tiger Lily more than any other character in any Peter Pan story, mostly because she has long dark hair and olive skin like me, and other than Pocahontas, where else could a little girl see that on tv? The Tiger Lily of this retelling is as mysterious as the stoic girl in all the plays and movies, but with a whiff of otherness to her, a magic that clings in a way that makes her alien to everyone that knows her, and calls the crows to her revenge.
It's her half wildness, her strength and bravery that pulls Peter in, but she keeps him at arm's length because she doesn't know how to reciprocate his love. And so when Wendy appears, unfailingly supportive and always believing in Peter, like a feminine dream from another world where children are safe and warm and cared for and always well fed, Peter begins to love her despite still feeling Tiger Lily in everything he sees and does.
Before Wendy, Peter was forever waiting for Tiger Lily to bend, to be a concave space to his inward push for acceptance, to take his affection, and to give in return. Tiger Lily thinks that to keep him, all she has to do is match him in everything, not realizing that Peter needs more than he lets on about. He gives his love and while she inwardly rejoices in it, he waits and waits and as he wilts in perceived rejection, everything goes left unsaid.
Like Peter Pan, everyone in Neverland seems to hang everything on some form of acceptance. The villagers are wary of accepting Tiger Lily in all her feral otherworldliness. They are slow to accept Phillip's presence, and then openly accept his opinions on everything. Phillip insinuates his religion's refusal to accept the way that TikTok identifies with gender into everyone else in the village, Captain Hook is a broken, angry man because he has had to accept that will he not find immortality, and on and on. Tinker Bell, TikTok, and Pine Sap are the only characters in the book who are wholly accepting of nearly everyone else. And at the end, it is Tinker Bell's love and acceptance of Tiger Lily that saves her.
Fifty years on, Tiger Lily is still fifteen- the age she was when she fell in love with Peter Pan. And Peter is no longer a lost boy, but an old man who still loves Tiger Lily, the girl who never left his blood. In a letter he writes that he "never expected that you could have a broken heart, and love with it too, so much that it doesn't seem broken at all." He's sorry and he misses her, and will always love her so, but he wouldn't change a thing.