Chapter 1: Chapter One
Hatter didn’t know what to think anymore.
A few days ago everything was simple, albeit nothing made sense but he knew how everything worked; how things had to be. He would work both sides of the court so that he was never the victim, he could never lose. And he could even convince himself that he did it because it was the right thing to do; the refugees didn’t starve and he still remained on the right side of the Queen. Everyone was a winner. Or no one was…
But who really wanted to be the vigilante anyway? The martyr that gets themselves killed for their cause? Double-crossing everyone was the only way to look out the person who had always looked out for him; himself. Anyway, he was helping the good guys, helping them fight against Wonderland’s Tea problem. Although, of course he was also the one distributing their Tea problem, but he chose not to think too much about that. Or at least he had.
It had taken one Oyster. One fiery, beautiful, yet ever so slightly crazy, girl to make him realise that there were more people out there that mattered than just him. She had made him care; not just about payment or his own personal gain. It wasn’t that he was completely unfeeling before, but he had always been the most important person in his own life.
All until a pretty girl in a very wet dress, that was, stepped into his office and spun his world upside down. A girl who’s life he valued over his own. A girl, who he was quite confident in saying now, he loved. And a girl that he had let slip through his fingers and through the Looking Glass.
Alice was gone for good.
He turned away as the last of the Oysters filed through the Looking Glass, one by one until its reflective surface lay calm and still. The magic it held now lay unnoticeable and instead it merely reflected Hatter’s own, sad reflection.
What was he going to do now? He could help rebuild his world. Look out for Charlie. Maybe even set up his Tea Shop again and sell actual tea this time. But all of it would be pointless without Alice.
‘Something on your mind?’ asked Jack.
He stepped in front of Hatter and adjusted his crisp, red suit. As much as Hatter respected Jack now, he still couldn’t stand him and his smug, royal face. Especially not now.
‘Look, she’s gone and we both know that we don’t like each other. Let’s just agree to go our separate ways, shall we?’
Hatter grimaced as he pushed past Jack and moved towards the doors. Jack caught his arm and held him in place.
‘Very well, I just need to know if you’re going through now or later?’ he asked, the hint of a smile lingering in the very corner of his mouth.
‘What?’ asked Hatter.
‘The Looking Glass,’ replied Jack simply, ‘I have to close it soon, Wonderland to run and all that. So are you going through now or do you want to pack some things up first?’
‘I’m not going through,’ Hatter stated, ‘I don’t belong in her world.’
‘Does the backdrop really matter when you’re with the person you’re meant to be with?’ Jack asked, raising a perfect blonde eyebrow, ‘now if you’ll excuse me; kingdom to run.’
The corners of his mouth twitched up into a smile as he clapped Hatter on the back before walking to the centre of the room.
He was right. He could think of a million excuses of why he should stay in Wonderland. But all of them were nothing in comparison to the one reason telling him to go. Alice was everything.
But still he couldn’t go. For once in his life he wasn’t about to turn his back on his responsibilities, on his home. Hatter thought of his mother, buried here in Wonderland. He thought of never being able to visit her grave again. He thought of the mess that his world had become and how beautiful it could once again be. He thought of his father and his thoughts turned dark.
‘Any more to go through the Looking Glass?’ a man called out to the room.
It had been an hour since Alice left, maybe two and time worked differently in her world. Who even knew if he’d be able to find her once he was out? She could be back home with her mother and moving on with her life. But at the same time, no time could have passed at all. There was no other way around it. He had to go. He caught Charlie’s eye.
‘I was wondering when you would come to your senses,’ he said with a knowing smile, his armour clunking loudly as he walked towards Hatter, ‘Give Alice of Legend, my love.’
‘But what if she doesn’t want me there?’
‘There’s only one way to find the answers you seek,’ said Charlie.
‘No more? Very well,’ the man operating the Looking Glass took the Stone of Wonderland from the mirror and placed it gracefully back into its box. The mirror would only work a minute or two at most without it.
Hatter took a running start. He cast a quick look over his shoulder at Charlie who waved cheerily. But there was something else. Something he couldn’t describe until he had already passed through the mirror. Charlie looked sad; he was alone, again.
The Looking Glass shimmered and melted around him and Hatter fell straight through, like falling through a cobweb. Then he was falling, constantly tumbling down a deep, dark hole for what felt like a century. Finally he hit solid ground and looked up groggily at his surroundings.
He had no idea where he was. Alice had told him of the place she had fallen though, of the warehouse with the mirror propped against the wall. The mirror that Hatter had fallen through had been mounted to the wall and three porcelain sinks sat beneath it. Opposite them were strange green doors and an overwhelming smell of chemicals and urine.
There were many different mirrors that connected to the Looking Glass, all over the world, he only hoped that he hadn’t ended up too far away from Alice. He placed a hand against the glass only to find it solid once again. He was stuck here.
The main door to the strange little room opened and an old woman walked in. She looked up at Hatter and screamed.
‘Whoa!’ he held his hands up, ‘what’s wrong with you?’
‘Get out! Who do you think you are? Lurking in women’s toilets waiting to pounce on them? Well you’re not attacking me, son,’ she shouted.
She swung her handbag and started hitting him with it, all the while still screaming.
Hatter made for the door as quick as he could, whilst still trying to fend off the attacks from the old woman. Her accent had been similar to Alice’s, so he took this as a good sign that he was close. On the other side of the door he was faced with a bar and almost every pair of eyes fell on him at the same time. He stuck out like a jam tart in a pasty shop.
He tried to brush it off as he walked towards the door only to be faced with the outside world. The first thing that hit him was that he was standing on the ground floor, with no layers above nor below him. Buildings towered up to the sky, but nowhere near as high as the buildings in Wonderland ventured, and the only way in or out of them seemed to be their ground floor entrances. How strange this world was.
The buildings that faced the bar were all closed with metal shutters guarding their entrances. But they all looked like shops, or stores as they were called here, none of them looked anything like a warehouse to him. He had to find Alice, it was all that mattered to him.
Looking both ways along the street, Hatter noticed that the buildings got larger to his left as they went on. If the warehouse was anywhere, it would be that way. His feet started running before he could think any more about it.
At the end of the street he could see metal poles and fences covering the outside of a building. It was his curiosity more than anything that had made him get closer to it. Men wearing brightly coloured vests and shiny, yellow hats bumped into him as they left the building. They looked down at Hatter’s clothes and laughed between themselves.
Hatter looked down at his clothes and then at theirs. Everyone seemed to dress so strangely here. Blue trousers and running shoes with jackets that looked way too thin and flimsy to keep anyone warm. He had to change into them though if he was going to fit in.
He noticed a man inside of the building with a similar height and build to himself. He hated to make a bad start in this world, but needs must.
Hatter walked inside of the building and the man started shouting.
‘This is a private build site,’ the man said.
‘Sorry about this,’ he replied, pulling his fist back and punching the man in the face.
He felt his nose break and the man pass out but Hatter had held back slightly. He wasn’t a bad guy anymore and all he needed was for the man to be unconscious. Once he had stripped the man of his clothes and left his own, beloved as they may be, behind for when he awoke, Hatter walked back out onto the street.
Opposite the strange metal-covered building was a concrete building. It was low but very long, with a wide, gaping mouth of an entrance. This had to be a warehouse. Hatter only hoped to Wonderland that it was the right one.
The inside of the building smelt damp and rotten and his footsteps echoed off the concrete walls as he walked inside. Boxes and other random objects littered the ground in front of him. The warehouse was massive, and if Alice was still in here it would take him forever to find her.
A small circle of light was thrust into his face as a dark shadow walked towards him. The man was a guard, Hatter guessed, by his uniform. Hatter could also see that the man had a gun strapped to his belt.
‘This is private property, lad,’ the man said, ‘you shouldn’t be here.
Hatter was starting to wonder why everything was so private around here. He could see that the man’s hand was hovering over his gun holster. He looked him over, his eyes lingering on the yellow jacket for a moment.
‘You’re from the construction site aren’t you?’ the man asked, ‘the one across the road?’
‘Yeah,’ Hatter thought on his feet, ‘There was a girl. Ran in here. I saw her from over there,’ he pointed over his shoulder at the door, ‘I didn’t see her come out and she looked in a bit of a pickle. Just wanted to make sure that she was okay. Have you seen anyone?’
He tried to peer around the man and get a better look at the warehouse.
‘Can’t say that I have,’ he said politely, ‘but I’ll help you look.’
Hatter agreed and the two men took a side each to search. He had a terrible feeling in the pit of his stomach. What if something had happened to Alice? What if someone had been waiting for her on the other side, someone who wasn’t happy about her dethroning the Queen? Or what if she had returned through a different mirror? Or even worse, what if she had forgotten him? Put her adventures in Wonderland down to nothing more than a dream and moved on with her life?
Just as his mind had churned through every worst case scenario, Hatter heard the security guard call out to him.
‘She’s over here!’ he called.
Hatter ran towards the sound of his voice and found Alice lying on the floor. Her dark hair was partially covering her face but it was definitely her. The mirror she must have fallen through was behind her and Hatter crouched down beside her, gently moving the hair from her face.
‘Is she alright?’ he asked.
The security guard tapped a large wooden box that lay in front of Alice.
‘She probably tripped and hit her head,’ he said, ‘Lucky that you saw her really. I was just about to clock out and there isn’t another guard until morning. Poor thing would’ve been here all night.’
He pulled a strange little box from his pocket and mentioned something about calling for something that Hatter had never heard of before. But he didn’t care. He had found his Alice again. And he was going to make sure that she was okay.
‘It’s going to be alright,’ he whispered to her.
Hatter removed his flimsy yellow jacket and tried to drape it over Alice’s bare and cold arms. He wished he still had his normal clothes. What good were these ones?
Not long after strange bells filled the air and two men dressed in green clothes followed the guard into the building and to where Hatter knelt, stroking Alice’s hair from her face.
‘Pulse is strong,’ said one of the men, pressing a gloved hand to the side of her neck, ‘lump on forehead; possible concussion. What’s her name?’
The paramedic looked to Hatter for an answer.
‘I…I don’t know,’ he lied, ‘I just saw her run in. I don’t know her.’
The guard looked at him from the corner of his eye. Was he suspicious? Hatter didn’t really care.
He travelled in the back of, what he guessed to be the ambulance, with Alice. He explained to the paramedic that he didn’t want her to be alone and wouldn’t be able to rest until he knew that she was safe. The paramedics tried to argue to this, but Hatter was insistent until he won. They found Alice’s wallet in her pocket and from that contacted her mother. Hatter stayed with Alice in her hospital room, sneaking back in after being escorted out by nurses. Finally, he kissed her gently on her forehead and walked into the corridor. A worried-looking woman with short, curly hair and Alice’s eyes was sprinting towards him. He could leave now; Alice would be safe.
Hatter had no Oyster money. How did they get money in this world? He supposed he could trade something, if only he had anything of worth to trade. Back in Wonderland he had always thought of himself as quite educated about the Oysters, but now that he was actually here in their world he could see just how foreign it all really was to him.
It was late night and the crisp night’s air hit him sharply in the face as he left the clinical warmth of the hospital. It was so loud here, even given the late hour; car horns beeped and sirens screeched, he was certain he heard a gunshot at one point. How did anyone get any sleep in this place?
Sleep was another thing that he hadn’t considered. He was used to sleeping rough by now, but sleeping rough in Wonderland and sleeping rough in Alice’s world seemed like two completely different things. Nowhere looked safe or quiet; there were no trees or shaded areas and everywhere just seemed constantly wet.
The ground wasn’t even made of earth and there wasn’t a single patch of grass. Everywhere that Hatter looked he saw concrete and uninviting grey structures.
What had he done? This world was crazy and Hatter all of a sudden felt very homesick. He wanted nothing more than to go home to his Tea Shop and the Great Library. He even missed Charlie, and just having a basic grasp on how the world worked. He couldn’t imagine this place ever feeling like home to him.
But then he thought of Alice. Her eyes, her smile; how cute she looked when she pulled out her black belt moves and beat a guy up. She was entirely perfect to him and it was this thought alone that made him stay. Not that he had much choice to go back either way though. The Looking Glass had sealed itself and Hatter didn’t even know if Alice would want him here in her world.
If she had wanted him to come back to her world she would have said so, wouldn’t she? What if what he felt for her wasn’t reciprocated? Had he just made a terrible mistake?
Before, he had thought that Alice loved Jack, and that she held no room in her heart for someone like him. But if that were true, wouldn’t she have stayed in Wonderland, his ring on her finger? The longer that he was left alone with his thoughts, the more venomous they became until eventually he lay back on a park bench, staring up at what he could see of the stars through the smog of the city.
The next morning Hatter pick-pocketed a man for his wallet and used the strange pieces of paper to buy himself some clothes that allowed him to fit in more. He was delighted to discover that the flimsy yellow jackets and shiny hats weren’t the customary fashion for Alice’s world, and instead found clothes that weren’t luminous and were actually fairly comfy.
He decided to check in on Alice around lunch time. To make sure that she was okay, for one thing, but also to give her the choice; if she wanted him in her life, he would stay, and if not—well he would disappear and let her get on with her life.
When he got to her room all it held was Alice. He had half expected it to be filled with visitors; all holding up balloons and ‘Get Well Soon’ cards, but it was empty. Alice was still asleep in her bed, her head slightly turned towards him; peaceful.
He had only made it a step inside the door before he was followed in by the woman he had seen the previous night. Alice’s mother. She was carrying a plastic cup that filled the air with the bitter stench of coffee and dark circles played around her eyes. He could tell that she was worried about Alice, which only fuelled the concerns that he had himself for her. She shouldn’t have passed out when she came through the Looking Glass. No one else had ever done so.
Maybe she had forgotten to breathe as she came through, or perhaps she hit her head, like the guard had said or maybe it was something else entirely. Hatter didn’t know, and maybe never would.
Alice’s mother looked him up and down before wrinkling her nose at his smell. As she walked towards Alice protectively he took a chance to smell himself and realised that he hadn’t had a decent wash in over a week now. He wasn’t making a very good first impression.
‘Can I help you?’ she asked, depositing herself gracefully into the chair beside Alice’s bed.
‘I’m the one who found her,’ he said nervously.
He didn’t know why it bothered him so much what this woman thought of him, but it did. He fumbled as he tried to take his hat off quickly and held it at chest level.
‘I just wanted to know how she was,’ he said.
Sleep-deprived comprehension happened slowly but surely and Hatter saw her eyes light up in understanding as she looked from Alice to Hatter to the corner of the room where the yellow vest hung on a hook.
‘You’re the construction worker,’ she stated, leaping from her chair, ‘thank you so much for finding her. If you hadn’t…well it doesn’t bear thinking about.’
‘It was no problem,’ said Hatter, his eyes falling to the floor before darting back to Alice again, ‘how’s she doing? Do they know what’s wrong with her yet?’
She looked back at her daughter and returned to her seat.
‘She should wake up soon. The doctors say that physically, she’s fine. Healthy apart from a bruise on her head. It’s mad, but it’s almost as if she doesn’t want to wake up, like she’s given up. She always was a stubborn one.’
Hatter raised an eyebrow and tried to supress a smile, Don’t I just know it, he thought to himself.
But what if she was holding onto Wonderland still? To him? The thought was a tempting one to ponder.
Just then something small and metallic buzzed and flashed on the tabletop beside Alice’s bed. Hatter figured that it was some kind of communicating device, as the guard had used one like it to call for help. What a useful invention, he thought. A way to contact people, all around the world, instantly. So simple and easy. Wonderland would do good, he thought, to adopt some of the objects that this world had to offer.
Alice’s mum frantically grabbed hold of the phone and pressed on the buttons, she seemed momentarily disappointed and placed the phone back on the table.
‘It’s Alice’s cell,’ she explained, ‘I’ve been trying to get in touch with her boyfriend, Jack Chase,’ she said and Hatter nearly choked on air. Unperturbed though, she continued, ‘They had a fight, right before this happened, but I just know that she would want him here and that he would want to know what was going on too. I’ve tried calling and texting but he never answers.’
‘I guess he’s just busy,’ Hatter offered, busy trying to put Wonderland together again, he added to himself, ‘I should leave you to it, but I’d really like to know if she’s okay, is it okay if I come back tomorrow?’
‘Of course, but what’s your name?’ she asked.
Hatter froze on the spot, ‘David,’ he replied after a while, ‘David Hatter.’
‘Well David, thank you so much for all that you’ve done. Do you have a cell number I could reach you on?’
‘I’ll tell you what, here’s my card,’ she said.
Alice’s mother reached into her purse and pulled out a small flat piece of card with words and numbers printed on it. Hatter wasn’t entirely sure what the social conventions surrounding it were but accepted it anyway. He shook her hand and left.
He had only made it a couple of steps out into the hallway when he heard her wake up. She gasped for air and her mother spoke comfort to her. Hatter had to stop himself from running back in then and there. This wasn’t his moment; this was her mother’s.
He listened to her cry on her mother’s shoulder, heard her talk of her dad and his death. He remembered the pain on her face when he led her away from his body, the tears on her face, he remembered his own pain, when he lost his mother. He would do anything to take that pain away.
Alice held onto her mother for support but there was something strange, something different about the room that was demanding her attention. She could have sworn that she could smell hatter; the familiar, homely scent of him seemed to linger in the room. Rolling her eyes, she supposed it was nothing more than the remains of her dream still hovering around her. Hatter was back in Wonderland. A place that she was now forever barred from.
There was no use in trying to hold on to the things that she couldn’t have. She had learnt the hard way with her father that the more she tried to hold onto them—the more it hurt her in the long run. As much as it pained her to think about, Hatter was in Wonderland and she would never see him again.
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Her mother’s apartment didn’t feel much like home to Alice any more. Standing in the vacant hallway, it seemed too empty and quiet compared to the excitement and adventure she had felt in Wonderland. It felt like she was a child on Boxing Day; the event that she had been so looking forward to was over, and a sort of gloomy pessimism had taken hold. Although, she thought, if this really were Boxing Day, she’d have something to show for the day before, presents to occupy her time. She didn’t have a single thing to show for her time in Wonderland. Even the Oyster glow had disappeared when she had fallen back through the Looking Glass. It was as if her adventures in Wonderland had been nothing more than a dream.
Alice’s mother had been more than happy to invite the man that saved her daughter, to her home. He had called earlier that morning from a landline, and although it sounded as if he were standing ten feet from the receiver, she managed to relay to him her address and invite him round to meet her daughter. If Hatter didn’t know any better he would’ve thought that she actually liked him, which was strange as no one liked him in Wonderland. No one cared about him. Is this what happens when you truly do some good without thinking about yourself? Maybe he could start a new leaf here.
The buzzer sounded loudly throughout the apartment.
‘Oh, I almost forgot,’ said Carol, holding a hand to her head, ‘David, the construction worker that found you, he just wanted to pop by to make sure that you were alright. Very sweet.’
She seemed to emphasise the last phrase and Alice could sense her approval of the man. To be honest, Alice was quiet happy for a change in subject from the mysterious ‘Jack Chase’ and why he hadn’t been in contact, when he had been all but ready to propose only the night before. Alice didn’t have the energy to try and even come up with an excuse for Jack’s disappearance, and so instead had to listen to her mother’s non-stop ramblings about how much she liked that Jack and how Alice had scared him off.
The door to the apartment opened and a strange feeling hit Alice in the pit of her stomach. She knew before she had even looked up from her doorway who ‘David’ really was. His eyes met hers. They were cautious, nervous even, but at the same time relieved and happy to see her. She ran at full speed into his arms.
‘Finally,’ he whispered breathlessly, holding her tight against him.
He didn’t know how long he had waited for that hug, but he was sure if his Tea Shop could sell how he was feeling right now, he’d be the richest man in Wonderland.
Alice looked up into Hatter’s eyes and she knew what she wanted. She wanted him, it had always been him. He seemed to read her mind as his eyes flickered to her lips before her own collided with his.
‘I missed you,’ Hatter whispered, before returning to the kiss once more.
It was fitting, Alice thought, as she looked sideways at their reflections in the mirrors on either side of them, that their first kiss would be trapped within a hall of mirrors after a mirror had very nearly separated them. She also caught sight of her mother within the mirror and nearly burst out laughing. She pulled away from the kiss and took hold of Hatter’s hand.
‘I’ll explain it later,’ she offered and led Hatter out the door, ‘I promise.’
‘But wait, Alice,’ Carol called after her but it was too late, she had already gone.
‘I thought I’d never see you again,’ said Alice.
She smiled and stopped to look up at Hatter, he leant in for another kiss and she stood with her back against the stairwell, pulling him closer to her.
‘Okay, there’s plenty of time for that later,’ she laughed, gently pushing him away.
‘I think we need to make up for lost time,’ replied Hatter with a cheeky smile.
He leaned in for another kiss but Alice pushed him away playfully.
‘There’s somewhere that I want to take you first,’ she said.
She took hold of his hand and led him out onto the street. From there she turned left and led Hatter inside of a red building with circular tables and chairs laid out in front of it and many more inside, all covered with checked tablecloths and plastic flowers in small plastic vases.
Hatter was fascinated by the fake flowers and Alice had to pull him inside with a smirk. She led them to a table and Hatter sat down opposite her. A woman dressed in an apron appeared a moment later.
‘What’ll it be?’ she asked in a mildly bored tone.
‘Pepperoni pizza and two cokes, please,’ Alice ordered and Hatter’s face lit up. The woman disappeared into a room at the back.
‘Pizza?’ he repeated with joy.
‘Yep. Usually on dates, you go to a fancy restaurant or something, but for you Hatter, I thought I would go back to the awkward teenager approach,’ she said.
‘So is this a date then?’ asked Hatter.
‘I’d say so, yeah,’ she met his eyes and had to change the subject, ‘so what made you change your mind? I thought you were going to stay in Wonderland?’
‘Do you really have to ask?’ he looked up at her and she smiled broadly, ‘Wonderland was no fun without Alice of Legend,’ he teased.
‘And you found me, in the warehouse?’ she asked.
‘Yeah. I wasn’t that far behind you, but I came out a different mirror, luckily I wasn’t too far away,’ he said.
‘Wait, Wonderland is behind every mirror?’ she asked.
‘Not every mirror, but any mirror,’ explained Hatter, absent-mindedly rubbing a plastic flower petal between his fingers, ‘they were scattered all around your world, most of them are big and antique looking, like the one you came through, but some can be small.
‘Since the Queen of Heart’s rein, some are even modern, like the one I came through seemed to be inside of a public toilet,’ he looked up to meet Alice’s laugh, ‘she needed as many Oysters as she could get so by sending people through many different mirrors she could harvest a wider selection of Oysters.’
‘Do you think Jack will open the Looking Glass again?’ Alice asked, a crease forming between her eyebrows.
‘He was pretty keen to keep the two worlds separate last time I saw him,’ replied Hatter.
‘So then you’re stuck here,’ Alice said and Hatter’s face fell.
‘You don’t want me here,’ he stated, ‘that’s okay, I mean why would you, this is your world. I’ll find my own place, you don’t have to feel sorry for me,’ he pushed back his seat, ‘I’ll get a job, I don’t think I’ll be able to find the same sort of work here, but I’ll do anything, apart from clean. I’m not cleaning out toilets for no one, not even you Alice, and—’
Alice held a finger to his lip with a raised eyebrow.
‘Will you just shut up already and let me finish?’ she asked, ‘I want you here, Hatter. But what if you want to go back? Wonderland is your home.’
‘Anywhere that you are, Alice, is my home.’
Coming up next: Four months down the line, Hatter and Alice go on a trip to somewhere familiar.
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Four months later…
Alice leant against the kitchen counter with a warm mug clutched close to her chest as he mother busily chopped vegetables.
‘I was thinking of taking Ha-David to that village we went to last year, for our anniversary,’ said Alice.
‘Anniversary?’ repeated her mother, ‘You’ve only been together a few months.’
‘Even small anniversaries should be celebrated,’ she smiled to herself as she drained the last of her coffee.
Carol stopped chopping and stood with her hand on her hip, looking at her daughter as if she’d just grown an extra head.
‘When did you become such a romantic?’ she asked.
‘When I let go of Dad,’ she replied, looking down at the floor.
Carol returned to chopping the vegetables, feeling guilty for asking.
‘But David’s something different,’ said Alice.
‘I can see that,’ she said, ‘but explain to me again just how it is that you two met, because I’m still having trouble getting my head around it.’
She raised an eyebrow but didn’t turn around.
‘I told you mom,’ said Alice, turning her back on her mother, ‘we met before I met Jack, but he had to go and I never thought I’d see him again.’
‘Which is why you never told me about him?’
‘Exactly,’ said Alice, ‘but things changed,’ she shrugged her shoulders.
Carol smiled, she liked to see her daughter so happy, but she still had a hard time believing that this was all that there was to the story.
‘I think he’ll like the village. He’s from a place where there’s a lot of nature. You know, lots of trees and grass. I think he liked the city at first because it was different, but I think he misses the little things. I also have a little surprise for him,’ said Alice.
She smiled to herself as she adjusted a photograph of the two of them attached to the fridge. Her mother stopped chopping and turned around to face her daughter.
‘What kind of surprise?’ she asked with a white face.
Her eyes travelled down to Alice’s perfectly flat stomach.
‘Not that kind of surprise!’ Alice clutched her stomach protectively, ‘I’ve bought us a house,’ she explained.
‘But you live here,’ stated Carol.
‘We can’t live here forever, Mom. We need space, you know? A place of our own.’
‘What’s wrong with finding a place in the city? There are plenty of great apartments and if anything went wrong I’d be close to—’
‘Mom…’ Alice furrowed her brow at her mother just as the front door opened, ‘we’ll talk about it later.’
She walked into the main room and kissed Hatter on the cheek. She looked down at the bags in his hands.
‘Bought another hat have we?’
‘Just the one,’ he said with a smile.
He took it from the bag and placed it on Alice’s head.
‘But I also got this,’ he grinned, taking a can opener from another bag and handing it to Alice.
‘Oh…a can opener…you shouldn’t have?’ she forced a smile.
‘Yeah, it’s amazing. I mean, food in cans is genius enough as it is, but this,’ he held it up and smiled, ‘I can’t tell you how useful this would have been in Won…’ he trailed off as Carol walked into the room.
‘Well, I’ll put it in the suitcase,’ said Alice.
‘We’re going on a trip,’ said Alice.
The village was exactly as Alice had remembered; a small, rural place with a woodland running along the perimeter and plenty of grass. The people were (mostly) friendly and the houses were quaint and pretty. Children played in the roads without any fear of being knocked down by cars and people left their front doors open.
She pulled up in her rented car in front of the house that they would be staying in and stared up at the building.
‘It’s beautiful, right?’ asked Alice.
It was a two-storey house with a wooden-pannelled exterior, a bright red front door, with matching shutters on the windows and an apple tree planted in the front garden. A small pebble path led to the entrance from the sidewalk, closed off briefly by a tiny, wooden gate. It was like something off a postcard.
‘At last,’ grinned Hatter, ‘actual grass.’
He left the car to inspect the front lawn.
‘Typical, I bring you here to enjoy a romantic anniversary getaway, and you’re more interested in the grass,’ said Alice, rolling her eyes.
‘I’m sorry, but come on! Look at it. It’s actually green and not like that muddy stuff we had back in the city. Back in Wonderland, I had my own patch of green grass—’ he began but Alice cut him off.
‘—Do you miss it?’ she asked, ‘Wonderland, I mean.’
‘Yes and no,’ Hatter smiled, ‘it was my home and I guess I miss the things that I never thought I’d miss. Certain smells, things you take for granted and that. But your world it has it’s handy little inventions, like the internet or the cell phone, or that thing, what’s it called? The thing you showed me last week for cooking ready meals?’
‘Microwaves?’ Alice offered.
‘Yes! Microwaves!’ he cheered, ‘I love your world Alice. And besides, having you makes it not so bad,’
‘Oh not so bad, eh?’ she raised an eyebrow.
‘I guess you’re alright,’ he joked.
‘Well, if I’m not as exciting as the grass, I guess you could stay out here,’ she teased, walking ahead of him towards the house.
‘No chance,’ he ran after her, ‘I don’t want to waste a minute of this place.’
‘Well we have longer here than you might think,’ she said, opening the front door and stepping inside.
It smelt sweet, like wild flowers, and the sunlight leaked in from the back windows, scattering the furniture in light.
‘What do you mean?’ asked Hatter.
‘I kind of bought this house,’ she said, still with her back to him.
‘You bought this house?’ he repeated.
‘Yes,’ she turned around with a grin, ‘well it’s rented for the first week. I told her we’d give her an answer by the end of it, but I don’t know about you, I’m pretty sold on it.’
She stood facing him with a grin, but it fell when Hatter didn’t return the gesture.
‘But Alice, I’ve just got used to life in the city,’ he said, ‘I moved worlds and now that I’m finally settled with a job and a place to live you want me to move towns too?’ he asked.
‘Well, I thought…I didn’t think, Hatter, I—’
‘I’m sorry,’ he started laughing, ‘I can’t keep a straight face. I’m just messing with you. This place looks great.’
Alice hit him playfully.
‘I haven’t even shown you the best part,’ she said.
Alice took hold of Hatter’s hand and led him to a room on their right. The large, oak door swung open to reveal the master bedroom. In the centre of the room lay a double bed with a patchwork quilt laid lovingly across the bottom of it and an ornate mirror hung on the furthest wall away from them. A double set of glass-pained doors were also set into the far wall, covered by netted curtains, just waiting to be opened.
Hatter looked at the bed, ‘peace at last,’ he said, removing his jacket and leaning in to kiss Alice’s neck.
‘Not just yet,’ she grinned, taking him by the hand and leading him towards the glass doors.
She flung them open.
‘This would be our room because it has the best view,’ she said.
On the other side of the doors was a balcony that looked out over the woodland of the village. The sun was just starting to set on the horizon, casting an orange glow over the sky.
Alice took a step outside and Hatter wrapped his arms around her from behind, gently kissing her neck.
‘It’s beautiful,’ he said, ‘all that’s missing is giant chess pieces and Charlie banging on about toenail readings, and I’d think that we were back in Wonderland.’
A cold breeze had picked up so they walked back inside, shutting the doors, but pulling the nets aside so that they could still look out at the view. Hatter lay on his stomach on the bed with his feet on the pillows whilst Alice propped herself up on her elbow to study him. He was picking at a loose thread on the patchwork quilt.
‘The woman who owns this house made it,’ she explained and Hatter looked up as if he had just been disturbed from a deep thought.
‘Oh I like it,’ he smoothed it out and Alice crawled down the bed until she was beside him.
‘Really? I’ve always thought them a bit…old-ladyish myself,’ she shrugged.
‘My mum used to make them,’ he said softly, ‘I used to sleep with one at the bottom of my bed almost every night,’ he traced a finger along the stitching, ‘she’d cut up everything, a patch from the underskirt of her wedding dress, from the shirt my dad wore when she met him, the curtains of the first house they lived in, my old baby clothes, things like that.’
‘When you put it like that,’ said Alice, running a hand over the many different materials in the quilt, ‘it sounds really special.’
‘They are,’ he replied.
‘You don’t talk about your family,’ she stated, ‘why is that?’
‘Because there’s not much to tell,’ he cleared his throat and sat up, ready to change the subject, ‘so what made you like this village so much?’
‘I don’t know,’ she said, ‘Mom and I came here last year. I thought I had a lead on my Dad but it turned out to be nothing. I don’t know why I thought of it really, it just came into my head. It’s very Wonderland.’
‘It is,’ Hatter smiled.
‘Anyway, we stayed here, in this house. So I contacted the woman and she told me she was thinking of selling. That’s when we came up with the ‘try before you buy’ deal.’
‘I don’t know. I think you’ve been a city girl too long, you’ll miss it,’ he teased.
‘I think you’ve been away from fresh air for too long,’ Alice replied, ‘one week here, Hatter, and you’ll never want to leave.’
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed! Please comment to let me know what you think :)
Coming up next: Alice dreams of Wonderland, but was it really just a dream?
Alice was standing in the middle of the forest, only it wasn’t just any forest. The trees were taller, the air was colder, and there was a rich, earthy smell in the air that could belong nowhere else, she knew exactly where she was. This was Wonderland.
The first thing that entered her mind was how. How had she gotten here? But then all of a sudden that thought didn’t seem all that important as she was met with the familiar screech of the Jabberwock. Alice started running.
‘HATTER!’ she called out, but then another thought hit her, ‘It’s just a dream.’
It had to be a dream. How else could she be in Wonderland? The Looking Glass was sealed.
Alice stopped running. If she were dreaming then nothing bad could happen to her and she had no reason to be afraid. It didn’t matter if the Jabberwock killed her; she’d just wake up. Right?
‘Come on, Alice,’ she muttered to herself as it got closer, she could feel the vibrations the beast made as it ran, ‘wake up already.’
She could feel its breath, hot on her face, as it towered above her. It felt so real. What if this wasn’t a dream? She stood her ground, but at the last minute, held her arms up to shield her face. But no pain came. She couldn’t even feel the beast’s fiery breath anymore. Alice peeked through her arms only to find herself standing back in the warehouse where she had fallen through the mirror.
The mirror itself leant against the wall behind her and she crouched down to look at it. Only instead of her own face reflected back at her, she saw Hatter, leaning against the glass with his back facing her.
‘Hatter?’ she asked but he didn’t respond, ‘Hatter!’ she called, banging on the mirror with the palms of her hands. His face turned slightly towards her but he still didn’t turn around. Instead, his line of sight was met with a flash of gold material and pink flesh; Duchess.
The Duchess sashayed seductively into the frame and stroked the side of Hatter’s face softly; her long, delicate hand stopping at his chin before she moved in close to lay a soft kiss on his lips and whisper something into his ear. Her face turned towards Alice, her feline eyes, delicately framed by dark lashes, boring straight through her. She raised an eyebrow and smiled to demonstrate that she was aware that Alice was watching.
‘I’m going to take him from you, Alice,’ she said softly, her crimson lips shaping the words with an almost seductive manner, ‘just like I took Jack. Although, Jack was mine long before he was yours,’ she ran a hand along the length of Hatter’s shoulder, the other, wrapping itself around his back.
‘But who are you kidding, Alice. You are nothing, compared to a Duchess. Nothing, compared to me.’
Her eyes travelled to the side of Hatter’s face, to Alice, and back again. She moved with cat-like elegance to face Hatter, tracing her hand along the side of his face.
‘Hatter!’ Alice banged on the glass again, ‘David?’ she tried, but there was still no response.
The Duchess leaned in and kissed Hatter and Alice tried to break the mirror with her fists. It wasn’t real, she told herself. She was dreaming.
‘It’s just a dream,’ she repeated to herself, ‘wake up, Alice.’
She pushed herself away and kicked the mirror hand with the heel of her boot. Again and again until a crack started to form and then all at once it shattered into a million pieces. Only the room had started to break off too, as it were made of nothing more than glass. Soon Alice was left floating in nothingness.
‘Alice?’ Charlie’s voice, barely audible, echoed into the darkness, ‘Alice of Legend?’
‘Charlie? I’m in here. I’m here!’ she couldn’t hide the relief that she felt at hearing his voice, ‘Charlie!’ she called again.
‘Alice, we need you, where are you?’
Charlie’s voice was getting further and further away.
‘Charlie, I’m here,’ she said.
She tried to move through the nothingness but it was impossible. She was floating but at the same time weighed down, as if she were stuck in deep mud, unable to move more than an inch in any direction. She couldn’t move, she couldn’t scream. Then she couldn’t breathe.
All of a sudden she awoke with a start in her bed.
Hatter was asleep, sprawled across the bed next to her with his face half squashed by his pillow. Even though his mouth was half open and he snored slightly, Alice thought that he had never looked cuter. She pushed all thoughts of the Duchess from her mind and lay a gentle kiss on his forehead before slowly slipping free of the blankets and pulling a purple, satin dressing gown around herself and creeping out onto the balcony. She looked out over the trees; the sun was just starting to rise behind them, casting an eerie glow about the place.
As the wind blew through the trees and gently picked up her hair, she could have sworn that she could hear Charlie singing faintly. As if he were hiding somewhere in the trees.
She crept back inside, closing the balcony doors behind her. The ornate mirror that hung beside the bed caught her eye. She gently ran her hand across the frame, and then shakily pressed her palm against the glass. Gently at first, but then more firmly. She just had to be absolutely certain.
‘It’s not opening, you know,’ Hatter said sleepily from the bed, ‘no matter how hard you push the glass.’
‘Do you ever think about what’s going on there now?’ she asked, ‘like right now?’
‘Sometimes,’ he admitted, ‘but it’ll be fine. Jack’s got it sorted, he and Duchess will make sure that Wonderland gets back on track, or at least on its way there.’
Hatter smiled but Alice couldn’t help grinding her teeth at the mention of Duchess.
Stop it, she told herself, it was just a dream.
‘I miss it,’ Alice admitted, ‘I miss Charlie. And the worst thing is that I can’t even tell anyone about it. Well I could, but they’d pack me off to an asylum.’
She sat down on the edge of the bed with a sigh.
‘You can talk to me about it,’ he said, gently brushing her hair from her shoulder, ‘and as much as I never thought it would happen, I miss Charlie too. But the old crock pot’s probably doing fine. Inventing the next gravity assisted snare or something,’
‘Yeah, you’re right,’ she sighed, trying to shake off the remains of her dream.
‘So what are we going to do today?’ asked Hatter.
‘I’ve got a few ideas,’ said Alice with a wry smile.
‘Well the first one better be getting back to bed right now,’ he said, grabbing hold of her by her waist and throwing her back into the bed whilst she squealed with laughter.
Everything was good with life, and in that moment, Wonderland, the Duchess, nor Charlie crossed her mind.
Hope you enjoy :) Please comment or kudos and let me know what you think.
Coming up next: Hatter and Alice explore the village and find a piece of home.
Alice and Hatter walked down the street hand in hand, their shoulders brushing gently as they walked, slowly taking in the sights. The village didn’t have all that much to offer; a couple of stores, a diner and a bar. It was mostly filled with elderly people, but the odd family and younger couple also lived there. It seemed like a pleasant place to live.
Alice pulled Hatter inside of an antique shop. It was filled with furniture stacked on top of each other: tables, chairs, wardrobes, and desks. It seemed cluttered, yet ordered, with each item of furniture being grouped together by function.
At the very far side of the store there was a desk with a middle-aged woman asleep on a stack of papers, her mouth slightly ajar and a small amount of spit pooling on her desk. Alice cleared her throat loudly.
‘Huh? Wha—I’m awake!’ said the woman.
She had a British accent and a slightly chubby face. Her blonde hair, streaked with the odd grey stripe, was pulled back into a bun on the top of her head and a pair of cat-eye glasses sat lopsided on the end of her nose.
‘Alice, dear? Alice Hamilton?’ she asked.
‘Amber,’ Alice smiled.
Amber scuttled around the desk to hug Alice before holding her at arms-length and looking her up and down. It was only then that she seemed to notice Hatter. She smiled pleasantly at him but there was something about him that unnerved her.
‘So you’re back?’ she asked with a smile, ‘is you mother here too?’
She looked behind the two to see if anyone else had followed them inside.
‘No it’s just us,’ said Alice and Amber looked curiously up at Hatter, ‘this is my boyfriend, David. David, this is Amber. She helped me so much last time I was here, when I was trying to find my father.’
Alice looked to the ground sadly and Hatter put a comforting arm around her waist.
‘It’s nice to meet you,’ said Hatter, reaching out a hand.
‘Likewise,’ replied Amber, taking the hand and shaking it, ‘any luck in finding your old man yet?’
‘Yeah, I did actually. He…he died,’ Alice stared at the ground again.
‘Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry,’ she gently squeezed Alice’s hand, ‘what can I help you with today?’
‘Just wanted to have a look around, if that’s alright with you?’ asked Alice.
‘Go right ahead,’ she said, spreading her arms wide and gestured at the store.
Alice took Hatter’s hand and led him to the very far corner where an archway led into another room. Once he was close he could see why Alice had brought him there; the entire room was filled with mirrors of every size, shape and possible description.
As they walked further into the room, Hatter could see themselves reflected a hundred times over, a hundred tiny versions of themselves staring back through the glass.
He lifted Alice’s arm above her head and spun her round on the spot. Her blue dress twirled, dancing a hundred times over.
‘It’s magical,’ Alice laughed.
‘It’s something alright,’ Hatter mused.
He walked up to one of the mirrors and gently touched the frame. His home land could be behind any of them and he wasn’t sure how he felt about that.
One mirror in particular caught his eye. It was large and more decorative than the rest. There was something familiar about the mirror; something old that he just couldn’t shake.
‘Anything I can help you with yet?’ Amber asked, appearing out of nowhere and making Hatter jump.
‘Yeah, that mirror,’ Hatter pointed to the one in front of him, ‘where did it come from?’
‘Oh the same place that most of the things come from I suppose: some from sellers, some from auctions, and some just the average Joe from the street, wanting to make a bit of extra cash. I have a list in the back if you’re interested in buying it.’
‘No, it doesn’t matter,’ said Hatter, ‘It just caught my eye is all.’
‘How long are you two in town?’ Amber asked, turning her attention back to Alice.
‘Until the end of the week,’ said Alice.
‘You renting Number 12 again?’ she asked and Alice nodded, ‘Oh, it’s such a beautiful house, but I thought it was for sale now?’
Amber started to lead Alice away from the mirrors but Hatter was still entranced by them.
‘It was, we have until the end of the week to decide if we want it or not,’ said Alice.
‘You’re moving here permanently? Oh how wonderful!’ she chirped.
Hatter had started to tune out the antique woman’s chatter; he could have sworn that ever so quietly he had heard a whisper, so faint and yet so familiar. It had sounded like Charlie. He tried to shake it off and re-joined the girls.
‘We’ll see you again later in the week, Amber,’ said Alice, hugging the woman.
‘Yeah, it was nice meeting you,’ said Hatter.
‘Likewise,’ she repeated, turning back towards her desk.
‘I don’t think that she likes me very much,’ Hatter admitted outside as Alice looped her arm through his.
‘I’m sure she’ll love you once she gets to know you a little better,’ said Alice.
They walked further down the street and Alice stopped outside of a gap in the buildings that led onto farmland.
‘I forgot about this,’ she said, ‘come on, this way.’
She pulled Hatter down the long, dusty path and towards the fields.
‘Alice? Not that I don’t trust you, and your ideas of a ‘fun day out’, but why exactly are you dragging me to a farm?’ asked Hatter, dragging his feet.
They walked for another twenty minutes along the dusty, dirt path until Alice stopped outside of a set of stables. A girl who looked no older than nineteen poked her head around the corner and smiled at them.
‘Are you interested in lessons?’ she asked.
‘Horses?’ asked Hatter.
‘I don’t think he really needs lessons, if I’m honest,’ Alice smiled, ‘he practically grew up on horseback.’
‘Well we have a few horses that are free right now if you’d like to go for a ride,’ the girl smiled warmly, ‘if you’d just like to come through here, we could sort it all out.’
‘Why horses?’ asked Hatter, looking at Alice curiously.
‘Because you’re too used to cars and the subway now. I wanted you to get back a bit of your old identity,’ she admitted.
They were standing in front of the stables once more whilst the girl brought out the horses they would be riding today. It was a warm day with a gentle breeze blowing through the long grass, bringing round the smell of hay and manure to the couple as they waited patiently.
‘I know who I am,’ Hatter protested.
‘Prove it,’ Alice challenged.
The stable girl appeared at that moment with Hatter’s horse. He was a tall, black Shire horse, with a cream-coloured patch on his nose in the shape of a diamond and shaggy white hair around his feet.
Hatter rolled his eyes at Alice and approached the horse calmly, gently rubbing him behind his ears and patting his side. He then lifted the saddle from its resting place in one fluid movement and placed it on top of the horse (after standing on a small step ladder as the horse was truly giant), and attaching it expertly. He swung his leg over in one fluid motion and sat smugly on top of the horse.
‘Wow, a real pro,’ the girl smiled, impressed.
A stable boy appeared then with Alice’s horse. A smaller brown horse, with a long black mane and a shiny coat that glistened in the sunlight. He was already saddled, which secretly pleased the stubborn Alice, who wouldn’t have to attempt to do it herself now in front of everyone.
‘Do you need any help, miss?’ the stable boy asked.
‘Nope,’ she replied.
It took her a while, but Alice managed to pull herself up and onto the horse. Hatter squeezed his knees together and his horse shot of towards the field in front of them, Alice copied him and soon caught up.
‘You have an hour!’ the stable girl called after them.
Hatter sped off around the field, his horse kicking up grass as it went. It took a while, but when Alice caught up to him she could already see the smile shining on his face.
‘See? When was the last time you felt excited and exhilarated like that?’ asked Alice, ‘and about something other than a can opener.’
‘Okay, so the fresh air and nature is fun. But you know you don’t get malls in small towns like this,’ he said.
‘I’m not really the shopping type of girl, Hatter,’ she said with a smirk.
‘Okay then, well you don’t get martial arts studios here,’ he replied.
‘I don’t care about that. Hatter? Do you not want to move?’ she asked, a crease forming between her eyebrows.
‘I don’t know,’ he sighed, ‘give me until the end of the week, I’ll let you know then.’
‘Deal,’ said Alice, ‘race you to the fence post?’
‘You’re on,’ he laughed and Alice’s competitive gene kicked in as she urged her horse towards the finishing line.
Hey all, hope that you enjoyed this chapter. Please comment and kudos and let me know what you think :)
Coming up next: Hatter has a surprise of his own for Alice.