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HomeHorror StoriesWonderland: Alice's Tale - Chapter Eleven (One)

Wonderland: Alice's Tale - Chapter Eleven (One)

In which Alice recalls her memories of meeting Lucy.

My life was curiously empty before meeting Lucy, that summer’s day so long ago. It was my birthday, of which I was only allowed one a year, and unique because of that, as well as it being the one day upon which my un-birthday did not fall. Summer was in full bloom, golden sweet and flower scented, and the sky had chosen to be a particularly vibrant shade of blue that day. It was a day upon which to wander about a heather scented meadow and pluck daisies from their standing sleep and place them with care behind the ear of a lover. Not that I had such thoughts at such a tender age. I was 10 that day, and full of myself. After all, it was all everyone could talk about all week. Those lucky enough to be invited to my party were taking great pains to lord it over those unlucky enough not to fall into my ever widening circle of close-yet-not-close friends. I was a princess to be cherished and well loved and all who knew me wished to bask in my beauty, as it should be.

That was how the world saw me, or the rather small world that consisted of my grade school. Not much of a domain, but then the imagination took over and turned the playground into a tournament full of silk tents and rippling flags, and my classroom was made of marble and stone where Mrs. Randall sat upon a great golden throne at the head. It was a world of knights and knaves, ladies in waiting and scullery maids. And then there was I, Princess Alice, one day to be queen of all I surveyed.

There was another world that I walked in, one in which I was free to be me. It was a quieter one, and sometimes dark, and yet I was happy within it despite the dangers that lurked there, knowing that I was safe as long as I clung to the brighter parts and avoided that paths that ran like a maze through the immense woods that bordered the realms most southern border. Fear and madness lay there, like a fog on the land, cloying and thick. I knew this for I had ventured into them once before, quite by accident, while following a peculiar gentleman in a green velvet suit and a rather impressive top hat. What happened within, I do not often speak about, nor do I fully remember. I do know that the taint of it had taken up residence in the backwaters of my murky mind, warning me to stay clear, and so I did for many, many years. Until I met Lucy.

Lucy. Oh, she was a breath of fresh air, a present to diminish all presents, wrapped up in blue shorts and a long sleeved white tee and sneakers. No ribbons, so to speak, nor was there a card attached, but I knew where she had come from, so none was needed. That was the beginning. She eclipsed, at least in my eyes, all my friends and relations and I remember dwelling upon her every word, memorizing her shy giggle and the way her eyes would grow guarded when sought out and questioned. Most intriguingly of all was the way her lips moved as if she was deep in conversation when no one else was near. I just knew that there was more to her then meets the eye. Having secrets of my own, I became bound and determined to discover hers. After all, she was now part of my domain and therefore a royal subject and I was cursed with a burning curiosity.

It was wonderment indeed to know that she had inhabited the modest two-story dwelling upon which my bedroom window looked out for some time without my having met her. Perhaps she had just been waiting for the right time, or perhaps she truly was a present meant to celebrate my first double-digit anniversary. Whatever the reason, I vowed to make up for my own benefit being somewhat selfish, for lost time and invited her over for a play date the very next day.

That night I had dreamed strange dreams. An enchanted castle, a courtyard, a fountain, and a grand palace. White flags flew from the turrets, perfect red hearts upon them, fluttering in the wind. I was standing before a gate, looking in, through the portcullis wondering why it was so silent and empty. Had everyone left for a hunt? Perhaps they were within the palace where a great ball might be taking place or a fairy tale wedding. I recall being sad that I hadn’t been invited, holding back tears of frustration as searched in vain for another way in.

Morning came, but the memory was still clear. As I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, I wondered at what it meant, if anything. After all, I had been led to believe that dreams had meaning, although all too often you had to puzzle it out, grasping at the ends as they slipped into oblivion during the day light hours. And so it was with this one. With the excitement of my new friend’s imminent arrival, I busied myself preparing my room for company. Every thing needed to be just so. Each stuffed animal and doll in its place, all my books neat and orderly, my bed made and my clothes hung carefully. I’m not sure why, but I felt the need to impress the girl next door.

I changed into a clean pair of red shorts and a white collared shirt, white socks and tennis shoes, making sure that my blonde curls were perfectly brushed, admiring myself in the mirror. I don’t think I’m particularly vain, but as I said, this was a special occasion and I admit to being somewhat nervous about looking my best and, at the same time, not too perfect. Hence the shorts and shirt. Had I given in to fears, I would have chose my best party dress. Somehow, though, I thought she would like me better looking as I did.

The bell rang and I rushed down stairs to greet her, all too aware of the smile that broke out upon my face at the sight of her. At the time I wasn’t aware of my inclinations, only that I was drawn to her as I had been to no one else and that for the first time in my life I worried that someone might not feel the same way about me. After all, I’d always made friends easily and knew that my company was sought after by most of the kids in my class. Not that I took advantage of that. God knows, I could have, but I like to think that I was better then that. Still, it was a heady thing, knowing that you were loved and revered by all and I often wonder if it might have gone to me head at times without my awareness.

That first afternoon was a wonder. I introduced her to all my favorite toys and we sat about on my carpeted floor playing board games. I showed off my dolls and she seemed to enjoy dressing them up and acting out little scenes with them, mostly just silly stuff, each of us speaking in affected voices while the other tried to stifle girlish giggles. We talked about real stuff too, serious stuff. Oh, not too serious, but I was curious about where she had lived before they’d moved next door. I remember that she was reticent to speak too much about her life, shrugging off most of my questions about her past with a put on nonchalance that I saw through immediately. There were secrets within her that I could see. Puzzles and riddles. Intrigued, I vowed to ferret them out, becoming her friend so that I could find the answers that she withheld.

Not that that was the only reason I befriended her. There was something between us, a spark. I don’t know quite what it was it was that pulled us like magnets to each other, but it was there and I know we both felt it, of this I was sure. The one thing that stands out most about that day was my introduction of Mr. Carroll’s Adventures in Wonderland. It was my favorite book and I’d been given the copy by my grandmother at the tender age of 3. Since then I had read and reread it more times then I care to admit to, delighting in Alice’s misadventures in Wonderland as well as the ones beyond the looking glass. I think my favorite part was in the garden with the caterpillar and the looking glass insects. It was so full of whimsy and I used to lie awake at night imaging that it was me standing before the mushroom, watching rings of smoke shimmer and rise about the great creature.

And then, feeling a little guilty that I had decided to seek out her secrets, I told her one of my own. About my dreams. It was strange. We’d been having a delightful time and then it was as if a shadow passed over me, reaching out and touching me. I shivered and I felt as if the walls might be closing in or perhaps the trees beyond were bending over to listen, while dark shapes slipped between their trunks, ears cocked, waiting for me to give away too much…

I felt a strange fear creep into me, and yet I continued on, trusting her. Somehow I knew that here, in my room sitting across from each other on the bed our legs crossed over indian style, I was safe from harm.

"Sometimes I have dreams, Lucy. I really am Alice. The Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, the Queen of Hearts? They are all real. In my dreams, I mean. And… sometimes, I think they might be real outside of my dreams."

I’m not sure what it was that I saw in her eyes. Every time I think back on that moment, I wonder if it was the beginnings of love or just a relief that someone else was as crazy as she claimed to be. Not that I knew that, not yet leastwise. I found out later that the long sleeve shirt she’d worn had been donned purposefully to hide the signs of her madness, words scrawled with felt tip pens upon the soft flesh of her arms. At that time, I thought her a perfectly normal girl. I do know that I fell in love with her at that moment. Oh, not the love that we eventually came to share, but the seed had been planted, and from that would grow something wonderful. She would become the one thing of beauty in my life, and because of her, everything that was to come was bearable. Remember that, for I couldn’t stand for anyone to think that fault lay with her for what happened later.

So, there it was, my great secret laid out at her feet, one that I hadn’t shared with another soul. I felt so vulnerable and naked for the first time in my waking life. Had she sensed that? Or had she just thought she’d found a kindred soul to share with? I never thought to ask her, nor does it matter. What does matter is that she opened up as well, revealing the so-called friends who plagued her life and how she knew they were real, even if no one else believed her. Who was I to doubt her? I looked into her dark eyes, so solemn, so troubled, and just knew that her words were true. I didn’t need physical proof. Her word was good for me. I told her that I believed her. They were not just empty words, I truly did. If she said they were real, then they were. It was as simple as that.

That summer was a magical time. Lucy and I became best of friends, never apart. My mom and dad began to laughingly refer to us as the twins and it wasn’t far from the truth. Everything we did, we did it together. We’d wake in the mornings, rush down stairs and race to finish our breakfasts, making it a competition to see who could be at the other’s door first, dressed and ready to take on the day. Usually it was me, being by nature an early riser. The best thing of all was that our second story bedroom windows faced each other across the fence and we had checked out a book on morse code from the library. Using flash lights to communicate back and forth long after our parents thought us safe and asleep in bed, we were often up far after the clocks had struck midnight.

During that time she spilled all of her secrets. How they’d moved because of her, how she’d taken drugs to quell the voices she insisted she heard, how she’d lied about not hearing them anymore to make her parents stop worrying. Of how she had no memory of writing the things she did on her arms, or why she’d done it. I believed it was a story, one that didn’t make any sense, scrambled riddles to be worked out. Sometimes, in the privacy of our rooms, I’d sit down and copy the words and phrases into my diary, confident that in time I could discover the code. It was exciting to me, sort of like an adventurer mapping out hieroglyphics from an Egyptian tomb. Over time I thought I’d began to make sense of some of them.

There were times, I should add, that she abandoned the practice for long periods. Weeks or months would go be and all the letters would fade, scrubbed until they’d been forgotten. And then, they’d resume for no reason either of us could discern. Often they seemed like whimsy, but as often they were malign and threatening. I remember spending long hours with her, wanting to see what she looked like when she took up her pen, but she never did it in my presence, or anyone else’s for that matter. It was as if they’d just appear. Of course, the obvious answer was she’d write them in the privacy of her room during the night. Taking root in my head, I realized that I the only way to know for sure was to spend nights with her. So began the sleepovers as well as the gifting of journals.

I have to admit, I felt guilty about my quest, knowing that Lucy was both embarrassed and frightened by her strange habit. I wondered if perhaps she had another outlet for her strange outbursts it might help. I began to buy her journals to write in, insisting that she keep them with her at all times, hoping that perhaps she could train herself to pick one up when the urge was upon her and use the blank pages as her canvass. At one point it had gotten so bad that she’d given up wearing shorts or a bathing suite or even wanting to go out of doors, her body swimming in text. They even began to migrate to her walls and mirror.

The sleepovers were a success in one way. We grew closer, if that was at all possible. As far as ‘catching her in the act’, I never did. There were even times when I would awake from unbroken slumbers to discover that she’d used me as a canvass as well. The first time it happened, I didn’t even take notice of it until brushing my teeth one morning and finding the words we will make take her from you neatly printed encircling my left wrist. I questioned Lucy about it immediately, of course. She examined the writing, a look of sadness mixed with fear on her serious face.

"It’s the Princess’s handwriting." She admitted. "She can be… cruel."

I questioned her more after that. After all, it was a subject that she usually avoided and although I was aware that there were several personalities with whom she communed, I didn’t know much more then that. I would need to find out more if I was to solve this riddle. It became an obsession, fueled less by curiosity and more by a desire to cure my friend of her affliction. In the early days it was I who played the part of savior and protector.

And so summer slipped into fall and fall into winter and so forth and so on until the years merged together and we left our idyllic childhood days behind us and every thing changed. As we both grew older, I’d begun to see Lucy as more then a friend. The love I felt for her slowly changed with my hormones until it became a tenderness and then a fierce passion. I began to see her in a different light. While other girls about us giggled about actors or pop stars, I began to realize that I felt the same way they did about my best friend. It was unsettling at first. To be blunt, I didn’t know the first thing about sex or anything related to it and only had a vague idea about the concept of homosexuality. In fact, the only real fact I had was that it was bad, something reinforced by my school mates.

If you were unlucky enough to be branded a queer or a homo at school, you’d be spending a miserable day of derision and taunting. Is it any wonder I kept my feelings to myself? The most popular girl in school suddenly dethroned and tagged as a freak. Those who rise highest are destined to fall farthest. Besides, I wasn’t really sure what I felt. I’d never been in love before and the feelings inside of me, whenever I was with Lucy or merely thinking about her, were confusing to say the least. All I was sure of was that my every waking thought seemed to center around her when we weren’t together, sometimes just grabbing an apple for breakfast so that I could hurry over to her door and stand on the porch waiting impatiently for her to open the door. I kept my feelings to myself, hidden away in my heart where no one, not even Lucy, could unwrap them.

That worked for a while. But soon, it became obvious to me that what I felt was real. Just being near her would fill me with longings so intense that I had trouble thinking. I wondered that she didn’t sense something was wrong, but then she had her own troubles to deal with. Sleepovers became something that I both looked forward to and feared. We’d taken to sleeping not in separate sleeping bags, but together, snuggled close as only best friends could. It got so that I’d stay awake all night, her so close to me, memorizing the scent of her, worried that if I was to fall asleep I’d do something to give myself away. After all, it was all I could do to fight the desire to kiss her and reveal my secret. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer. It was either tell her and risk her repulsion or to push her away from me so I was no longer tempted. I couldn’t do that to her. I would risk a broken heart rather then hurt her, so deep was my love.

In the end, I couldn’t say the words. Not at first, at least. Instead, I let my heart lead the way. Kiss her, it told me, and I did. It wasn’t the first time I’d kissed her, but this wasn’t a simple kiss signifying friendship. I’d never kissed anyone like that in my life, nor wanted to. Only her. Every ounce of love I felt, I put into that kiss, and I think it showed. She didn’t kiss me back, but that didn’t matter. She didn’t push me away either. She simply let me kiss her and oh, I know now from what she told me later that it was a nice first kiss but at the time it felt like the world’s best kiss. I don’t know how long it lasted. You could probably have counted it out in seconds. It seemed like forever. In fact, I wish it had been.

Afterward, before I could chicken out, I told her I loved her. Those exact words. "I love you, Lucy." I said, to which she replied:

"My life is complicated."

That night, once again we shared secrets. My forbidden love of my best friend and the awful reality of the voices in her head. Oh, I had meant it when I’d told her I’d believed her. Never once had I doubted her claims of the beings in her life that only she could see or hear. And yet, to actually experience them as she did was a frightening thing indeed. She paraded them out one by one for me, or at least the ones willing to show themselves, and with everyone she was lost to me, perhaps disappearing to where ever it is they had been called forth from. Her head? Some strange world? Her dreams? I had no idea. I only knew that it was terrifying and all too real. Before they were done, she was in tears and I was on the verge as well. Not only from fear, but for the anguish I felt for her.

When it was done, and she had returned to me, her eyes were fearful and forlorn. I couldn’t do anything other then hold her, try to comfort her with the love I felt for her, suddenly so aware of how close we were beneath the covers, of how I wanted to kiss her again and this time, for her to kiss me back. Instead, I kissed the tears from her face, her cheeks warm beneath my lips. They came again, those awful voices that so haunted her. This time, I simply held her close, feeling that if I could just keep her anchored they’d eventually go away and she’d return to me whole and safe.

I’m not sure if it was my presence or if it was just the way of things, but eventually she did return and somehow I knew that everything was all right between us. I had accepted her madness and she my love. Everything was going to be okay.

We made love, then. I hadn’t meant it to happen. I had only wanted to kiss her and tell her of how I felt. After what had passed, though, I think we both needed more. Oh, it was beautiful in a way I cannot describe. Not at all clumsy, like you might expect. Not that we both weren’t shy. The experience was so new and we took it slow just letting our bodies lead the way. It was sweet and although there was passion involved, it wasn’t passionate by any means. No ripping of clothes or savage kisses. No cries of ecstasy or throes of orgasmic pleasure. I didn’t need all of that. What I needed was what she gave me, and it was perfect.

At first it was simply me taking the lead, but soon she began to follow my example, returning my kisses, stroking my breasts tentatively, our hands exploring each other, marveling at the difference and likeness. Where I had begun to fill out somewhat, she remained boyishly slender. Oh, but I loved her body. After all, it was hers and she was giving it to me. I’m embarrassed to admit that neither of us knew exactly what an orgasm was or how to achieve it. That said, I was convinced the shuddering little cry I gave as unimagined pleasure washed through my body must certainly be the magic I was hoping for. I felt a small twinge of disappointment that she didn’t experience the same. I vowed that next time, and there would be a next time, it would be different.

Afterwards, we simply lay in each others arms, kissing tenderly, caressing with gentle hands, giggling softly. I gazed into her eyes in the moon drenched room, so in awe of the gift she had given me. Her love, or so I hoped. At least it was something beyond what I had hoped for. I fell asleep like that, entwined in Lucy’s arms, no thoughts or concerns for what the dawn might bring, certain that nothing could shatter my happy little cocoon. Perhaps it was selfishness or naiveté, but I truly believed that everything would work out, that we had found love and nothing could ever tear us asunder. My peaceful innocence wasn’t to last. The next morning, it was shattered by the sound of sirens as the paramedics raced down our street and came to a halt in front of Lucy’s home. Something awful had happened. I felt it in my heart and in my soul. Some earth shattering event that would turn both of our world’s inside out.
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