“Alice, is that you? Well, what door will you enter, the red door or the blue? The up or the down; it doesn’t matter you know, both are the same.” She fluffed her pony tale and straightened the lapels of her sky-blue blazer.
“Can’t Wonderland find another Alice? It’s a common name, you know. Just because my grandmother was, and my mother was, and somehow great-Grandpa Wren’s magical blood flows in my veins along with the first, Alice — doesn’t mean I have to follow in their footsteps. I left that world. I chose to leave. Why won’t you let me be?”
A grin appeared between the doors. “Dear girl, it’s you who can’t forget us; you found the doors home. That’s why you’re our guardian, but you as any Alice, must choose your path. Thus, you have before you two doors. Which door, dear Alice? You do have to decide. Time won’t wait.”
Alice trembled, and without thinking her hand turned the knob on the red door. Then, she was falling as the Cheshire cat laughed and Destiny caught up with Alice.
She’d tried to disappear, to become another young woman. But as her predecessors, including her dear mother, she was a guardian of Wonderland. The land of magic wouldn’t have it another way. She fell, and when she woke up, she sighed as brilliant flowers hovered over her whispering.
They beamed at her, brimming with questions. “Oh, Alice is it true? Have you come home. You’re the new guardian now, and your mother been waiting; her time is at an end. Five-hundred years is a long time not too see one’s daughter. Your time to serve has come. The white queen has decreed, as do your grandfather Wren’s people.”
Alice blew her hair from her face. “What’s the point of free will if your choices all lead you back to one path?”
The flowers shrugged. “Tulips and Marigolds don’t think of such things; we simply are.”
Kyria had been warned since she was a small child, beyond the veil was dangerous. Her older siblings had told her monsters lived there, that there were witches waiting to eat a young child.
What the adults said wasn’t much better. Her Grandma Iris said she’d lose her soul if she was caught in the veil beyond. She talked about shape shifters and immortal creatures of the dark such as vampires and werewolves.
One day hanging the laundry on the line at her grandmothers, Kyria gazed at the veil nearby. She hadn’t thought of it for a long time and she wasn’t sure why it called to her now. She’d never admit she could hear the whispers of the creatures which lived their. They were tempting her and she knew it.
Did everyone in the village see the veil as she did? Kyria believed they had no idea where it physically was, that to them it was was only folklore for children and not a real thing; it was extremely real to Kyria and she knew for her grandmother as well.
Kyria was twenty-four and long past the age of adulthood. Her parents lived together and her siblings with their families. She hadn’t found a suitable man to marry so her father decided she should move in with her ailing Grandmother and care for her. He thought she needed to be of use somewhere since she hadn’t married quickly as her sisters did.
The more Kyria thought about the veil and the mist shrouding it, the more she thought about how she’d never put herself out there in life. She’d always done what she was told and when others failed she was the one who took their place, who filled in so everything went smoothly.
It was how she made up for her so-called “selfishness,” still being single and not having children for her family and village. She wondered why she had never pushed her boundaries and was tired of being ruled by her father’s and her grandmother’s whims.
Kyria loved her Grandma Iris the most because she understood Kyria better than anyone. But her grandma still cautioned her to never cross the veil daily. But grandma was inside sleeping and Kyria heard the whispers from veil more and more these days. They were a sirens call to her.
She ignored all she had been told by her grandma, her family, and her friends as a child. She decided today she would cross the shrouded veil into the other world. Dropping the laundry Kyria walked towards the veil and into the mist surrounding it. The veil shimmered as she came closer and sonorous voice could be heard singing on the other side.
When she reached the line where the spiritual and natural worlds met Kyria stopped for a moment and stood. She smiled and with both hands raised in front of her she was able to feel the mystical energy she was about to pass through.
She stepped into the shimmering fog and breathed deeply. Her long blond hair flew out behind her and it was the last thing her grandmother saw as she watched her granddaughter cross into the other world.
Grandma Iris sighed in frustration but she knew as it had been with her, the veil had been too much of a temptation for Kyria. She knew that adventure and discovery awaited her sheltered granddaughter. As it had been with Iris, the veil and it’s magic was in Kyria’s blood. Grandma Iris was the only one besides Kyria who actually could see the veil, she had made herself guardian of the gateway and hoped Kyria would take over for her one day.
But as the last of Kyria’s blond hair slipped through veil and disappeared, Iris couldn’t help being thrilled for her granddaughter. What awaited Kyria would shape and change her. It would motivate and hurt her, it would be an experience far beyond the scope anyone in the village would ever experience.
Iris blew a kiss towards the veil and whispered a blessing for Kyria. The feelings of excitement in Iris were so intense it was as if it were fifty-years-ago and she herself was crossing the veil.
Alice was excited to be eighteen and have her coming-out party in society. The young girl who talked nonsense about Wonderland was gone — the adult had almost swallowed her fantastical self completely.
She participated in garden parties, having tea in different settings such as fashionable tea rooms with her mother and girl friends. Alice went out with friends on picnics and sometimes on a double-date with a girl friend, two gentlemen with potential, and of course a chaperone.
Part of Alice always had a difficult time letting go of Wonderland. She knew it as a world infinantly crazy. At the same time, it was a place where she felt at home and life even though hidden beneath words and rhymes, made the most sense out of any place she had visited.
Alice had been around the world. Her father and mother had taken her to Europe. She had seen art and buildings thousands of years-old. She studied countless kings, queens, poets, philisophers, and clergymen as she travelled with a tutor. She had even been to the Orient, stocking up on silk and tea for he friends. Something about having tea, always appealed to her. It wasn’t merely Victorian society’s obsession with the past-time.
Throughout her travels, Alice found herself thinking about her days in Wonderland. She would consider if her two grand adventures actually occurred. If the dreams she still had of people and creatures in Wonderland — new and old, throughout her life –were true?
Alice could picture her Wonderland friends drinking tea, eating cookies, and talking nonsense; it had all felt real. She missed her childhood, but at the same time thought she had indeed been bonkers. Her friends at school had quickly shown her how odd little girls were treated and mocked, until Alice ceased talking about Wonderland at all.
As she grew-up, she believed she caught glimpses of a furry white rabbit in a vest following her, keeping watch. The White Rabbit would turn his head and smile at Alice, purposefully checking his pocket watch and then waving it at her. She didn’t know what the White Rabbit wanted from her and she was never quite sure if he was real. Alice began to ignore the White Rabbit, but he was persistent, even invading her sleep. Her dreams became increasingly vivid and she felt wherever she went, traces of Wonderland and its inhabitants, grasped her with dreamy tendrils.
Since Alice had first returned from Wonderland as a small girl of six, a pair of intense green-eyes and an attractive smile, had haunted her dreams. She knew this man, knew he’d always been watching out for her in the stickiest of situations as she grew up, keeping her safe. Alice had never had the chance to meet this young man, only knew that he lingered in her presence often, and that when he she felt him, she was at peace.
Alice’s eigteenth birthday was a grand affair. Several young men and women attended with their families. Last night had been an opulent coming-out ball but tonight was a private affair for Alice and her closest girl friends. The best potential suitors for Alice and her friends were also invited.
She was sipping her tea when her eyes caught the eyes of a man she thought to be about five years her senior. His green-eyes were familiar and glinted knowingly at Alice. She stared at him enthralled; he seemed to know she was drawn to him. His smile was devastatingly familiar, but only in her dreams. Alice wasn’t sure she believedher dreams were genuine. Could magic still be real?
The young man was a strange creature to her, as strange as those creatures she’d met in Wonderland long ago. Perhaps more so, if the sins of the flesh the Abbot talked about were as terrible as he said they were. But Alice didn’t much care about the Abbot’s warnings. She was intrigued and had always been a curious girl; she peered at the green-eyed man considering him.
His suit was finely-made and he smiled at her boldly. He moved towards her, but Alice hid amongst her friends, not yet ready to meet him. Her heart fluttered when her eyes met the young man’s mysterious green-eyes again; he was laughing at her shyness.
Alice perturbed by his making fun of her, left her own party and went outside to ponder. She sat on a bench in the garden behind her house. She still tended the roses in the garden but had forgotten the unique song of all flowers, she had sung as a child. Her roses were wilting and dry. She stood up and bent to pick a lone surviving rose. Hearing odd noises she looked up.
She was unsure of where she was at first, the garden had disappeared and Alice stood on a large slippery brown rock in the middle of an ocean. A young man in a boat rowed towards her and the noises she heard was the water lapping against the stone.
“Oh, do hurry, this rock is so small and I think the water is rising,” Alice yelled to the man. She waved her arms until the boat was next to the rock and piercing green-eyes met her shocked blue ones. Strong hands gently held her steady as she stepped into the row boat.
Alice was grateful to the man, but then she recognized his face from the party. He pushed his short dark-brown waves from his forehead. His green-eyes knowingly studied Alice. She felt as a if she were a child again, under a teacher’s gaze, but the young man was not upset at her; he seemed curious and careful with her instead.
“Alice,” the young man said, “Please take a seat so I can row us to safer waters and neither one of us falls in the ocean.” Alice obeyed, sitting opposite of the man with her mouth gaping. The man gently closed her mouth, smoothing her skin with the back of his hand.
Alice’s face heated and she blushed,”Who are you? And why are you here with me in Wonderland? I didn’t think you were real, real enough to attend my party.”
The young man’s eyes twinkled cheerfully, “I’m Wren, Alice, and I’m here and yourhere because Wonderland needs us. It was time for you to return and time I met you in person — not only in your dreams.” Alice flushed red.
Wren chuckled, “You didn’t go easy on our friend the White Rabbit. He’s a bit peeved at you for ignoring him so long. He kept waving his prized watch at you. I’m surprised you weren’t curious enough to follow him, darling.”
“Wren, are you from Wonderland or did you come here as a child too, like me? You’ve been with me before a great deal. I remember your green-eyes and smile; you keep me safe, but you never say hello. I’ve never seen how you actually look before.”
“Dearest, I’ve always lived in Wonderland and you’re correct, I’ve been with you when you’ve visited and I take care you are safe in the outside world. I have a Cheshire Cat who watches you closely, along with my friend the White Rabbit. I haven’t always been able to be with you, but when I cannot you can be sure the Cheshire Cat or the White Rabbit are there.”
“Why do you keep me safe Wren and why do you call me dearest? I always thought you lived only in my dreams. It’s been so long since I visited through the looking glass; do you stand with the Red Queen or the White Queen?”
Wren smiled softly as he rowed the boat effortlessly, Alice peppering him with questions; he listened contentedly as he rowed. “I’m supported by the White Queen Alice, but my influence is greater than hers and so yourinfluence will be greater than any queen as well.”
Alice studied Wren. She had been staring her boots shyly, for far too long. It wasn’t like her to be shy, when she bubbled with questions. Yet, she could feel herself blush anytime she looked at Wren; his smile brightened when he caught Alice staring.
She brushed the blond hair out of her eyes and in her frilly white dress, balled her hands together on her lap, determined to have a long look at Wren. She was assured she’d seen him before in some form and felt his presence keeping her from harm. Wren was beautiful to Alice; he was handsome and lithely muscled beneath his clothes. He was from Wonderland so she was pleased not to have to hide nonsensicallogic from him; he already would understand what Wonderland was like.
She noticed his eyes peruse her and Alice blushed again. Wren reached for her small hand and squeezed it gently, as he stopped rowing the boat. “Alice, you’re beautiful. As a girl, I thought you a fascinating girl, defeating the Red Queen and deftly dealing with Time. You had such a tousled head of blond hair and you still do. You’ve the same inquisitive blue-eyes and you’ve grown into a stunning woman,” Wren told her squeezing her hand again. He seemed genuine and the compliments made Alice flustered.
“Your beauty is also an asset when one has been tasked to guard Wonderland as we have,” Wren continued.”Beauty can attract and fool people and often, at the same time,” Wren said, absently stroking circles on Alice’s hand. “It’s hard for me to explain. Especially since I’ve much more experience than you’ve in life. Humans ageslowly in Wonderland –most creatures here do. But as in any land, we have ourownways to protect and our own tyrants to fight. You have proven yourself twice against our foes.”
Wren held both her hands firmly, appearing serious, “We have always had two guardians at a time, for a thousand Wonderland years each pair, ensuring Wonderland’s survival. Our guardians are a couple; a couple is stronger than one being. I am one guardian, born in Wonderland and familiar with its ways,” Wren said.
“The second guardian is you, Alice, born of the outside world. You have learned and come to love Wonderland — though lately you pretend otherwise. You are the second guardian Alice and I’ve waited forever for you, my other half. You know forever can be a very long time.”
Alice blushed and then upon realizing the great responsibility she now had, her face went white, “Why me? Is this why I have never been able to forget Wonderland all these years ? Am I to marry you, a man I don’t really know?
Wren grinned at Alice tugging gently on her hands as she tried to free herself from his touch; he chuckled, playfully. Alice began to smile too and as she peered up from their joined hands, she saw the row boat resting on a beach. They stepped over the side of the boat and the vivacity and colour of Wonderland surrounded her as they walked into the forest. The flowers greeted Alice immediately, so happy she had returned.
Wren stopped walking a moment, turning to face Alice. He was heads above her and tilted her chin up to look at him. “My Alice,” he began, “Magic is a curious thing. It can find the right people and draw them together. It has always driven me to you. I have loved you since I first saw you.”
“That makes no sense.”
“But it does Alice. You believe in magic, yes?” Alice nodded.
“Then you know. If you want magical things to happen, you must believe in them. We must believe in each other. And what’s knowing? People are together fifty-years in your world and they don’t know each other. Often, they’ve forgotten the magic — the love, between them. Here the world is magic and I will not forget you or our love.”
“Wren, I’m particularly fond of you. I’ve never felt this way, except about you, ever — only in dreams when you visited, when I felt you near somehow. Is that love and is it enough? And I’m only eighteen-years-old, how can I guard Wonderland?
Wren smiled and he gently pecked Alice’s lips.”We have forever. Forever is a thousand Wonderland years. All your old friends are here. Not those girls who were cruel to you for being you at school. Wonderland needs us both and you will soon know me as I know you. We will even know each other better than most people ever know each other. What you feel for me, I’m so thankful for. And yes it is enough, it is the beginning of love.”
“I’m not sure couples should always know each other better. Sometimes secrets are better kept,” Alice said thoughtfully.
“Dearest, we cannot have secrets. We have a responsibility but we have a haven in each other and perhaps much later, a child to carry on as guardian with another girl or boy from your world, when forever comes,” Wren stated stroking Alice’s cheek.
“I can trust you, Wren? I’d rather have the truth in a nonsensical way than an outright lie,” Alice said firmly staring at Wren.
He blushed this time, “I will be truthful to you —nonsensically and sensically.”
Alice smiled and kissed Wren’s cheek before saying,”You never said Wren, who do we guard Wonderland from?”
“From reality, Alice. From those who do not believe in magic. For those who would tell people love is not real and everything has to be logical and makesense. Though our world is much nonsense, we make moresense than the real world. There are always monsters in the midst and as you know, timehimself is often one of them. So are Queens and many tyrants, there is always a badguy somewhere I’m afraid,” Wren said a bit tiredly.
Alice stared at Wren, standing on her tippy-toes, and stroking his stumbled cheeks in comfort. She felt drawn to Wren, as if she were in a pleasant fog. Gently her lips met Wren’s for a kiss. He kissed her back more intensely and she could feel what she knew was passion between them; it was Alice’s first real kiss. They lingered a while, walking and teasing each other, stealing more kisses which were more difficult for Alice to step away from each time.
A stray thought occurrred to her as they walked, “Won’t my mother miss me?” Alice asked, “How can I leave her alone?”
“She will believe you married a wealthy heir and will be pleased, as that will be the truth; we can visit her often, though she will be gone for most of your lifetime.”
Alice nodded feeling sad, but realizing her duty with Wren. She wasn’t afraid, knowing he was with her. She knew their relationship was blossoming and would flourish, perhaps, with ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ as couples had — but perhaps, better. Their connection had been built her entire life.
Taking Wren’s hand, Alice walked off into Wonderland. How curious her home would be here with Wren and his green–eyes gazing at her with love, and the White Rabbit out of no where, jumping beside them.
“Who is this woman beside Uncle Terrance in a wedding dress? Was he widowed before he married you?” Aunt Rosie gazed at Katie as if she had found something she shouldn’t have touched.
“Where did you find that Katie?”
“Oh, it was out on the table by the front door. I saw Uncle Terrance in there today, taking out some boxes.” Katie said.
“Are you okay Aunt Rosie? You’ve gone pale. What’s with the picture?”
Aunt Rosie shook her head.”I can’t. I just can’t,” she said, holding her throat.
“You seem out of breath. Maybe, relax a moment and I’ll make you some lemon tea. Do you want to tell me about this photo Auntie? I think you would feel better if you did.” Katie remarked.
Aunt Rosie began to hyperventilate. It took a few minutes but Katie calmed her down. ” Nice deep breathes Auntie. That’s it, now here’s your lemon tea. It will soothe your nerves.”
Aunt Rosie sat silently and finished her tea. After about twenty minutes, she began to speak haltingly.
“Your Mom and I . . . we had a little sister, her name- her name was, Marrion. She was – was a younger sister. Only, twenty-seven when she passed on.” Tears ran down Aunt Rosie’s usually cheerful complexion.
“Your Uncle Terrance and Marrion loved each other, from -from the day they met in high school. Marrion was sixteen and Terrance had only graduated. He was working at his Dad’s construction company.”
“Mom, never said anything about her having a baby sister,” Katie said stunned.
“Sharon and I, we don’t like to talk about Marrion. There’s a reason,” Aunt Rosie remarked.
“Terrance married Marrion when she was only seventeen. I had always had feelings for Terrance, but Marrion didn’t care. She said Terrance loved her and she was right.”
“For six-years, everything was fine. I managed to hide my feelings about Terrance and Marrion and Terrance were in their own world of love. Marrion became pregnant at twenty-three and had a girl she named Lisa.” Aunt Rosie admitted.
“What happened to this baby and was Marrion alright? I don’t have a cousin named Lisa?” Katie questioned.
“I know you don’t Katie, let me explain. It’s time – time you knew the truth . . . Marrion suffered from Post – Partum depression. She didn’t care about the baby and could barely get out of bed.”
“For the last four-years of her life, Marrion was in an institution. She kept trying to kill herself. Marrion easily became immersed in self-loathing.” Aunt Rosie recalled.
“Sharon, Terrance, and I, we wanted the old Marrion back. No medication seemed to help her. ECT only made Marrion distant, it was if the real Marrion wasn’t there anymore.”
“Who raised Lisa?” Katie wondered aloud.
“Your Mom raised her dear. Terrance asked her if she would be Lisa’s guardian. He said he couldn’t handle taking care of Lisa while working and visiting Marrion.” Aunt Rosie’s voice began to quiver.
“One day Marrion wasn’t in her room or even in her ward. We found her hanging from a storage room ceiling.” Aunt Rosie sobbed.
Katie went to comfort her but Aunt Rosie held Katie back.” Lisa isn’t Lisa anymore. Your Mom raised Lisa from the time she was three-months-old. Lisa’s your older sister Denise.”
“What?” Katie gasped, having to sit down herself. She was shocked.
“Your Mom asked Lisa after Marrion died, if she would like to choose a different name for herself. Almost five-year-old Lisa chose the name Denise. It was the name she had given to her most treasured Barbie.”
Aunt Rosie’s admission hurt Katie.”How did I not know Denise and I weren’t sisters, but cousins? We look so different in appearance. Her hair is auburn and my hair is blond. She has curves and I’m athletically built.”
“Not to mention, Mom never told me who Denise’s Dad was, she said Denise had been the result of an old boyfriend she didn’t want anything to do with now.” Katie said aghast.
“How did you get together with Uncle Terrance?”
Rosie smiled: “Terrance was devastated when Marrion died and had loved her so much. But he needed comforting.We grew closer and got married.”
“It took a few years, but Uncle Terrance eventually loved me as much as he’d loved Marrion, but in a different way I think. Things came together and Sharon met your Dad and had you. We never spoke of Marrion to anyone but your Dad.”
Aunt Rosie had stopped crying. She smiled and Katie could see she was happy again, as if a burden had been lifted from her shoulders.
Katie thought about her Aunt’s revelations: “That’s unbelievable Aunt Rosie, you guys have all been hiding this from me. I need to talk to my Mom.”
“Oh, you can’t ever tell Sharon, dear.”
“But why?” Katie said frustrated.
“I promised her, Uncle Terrance promised her, and so did your Dad. You were never to know the truth about Denise and the sad fate of Marrion. Sharon was close to Marrion because they were nearer in age. Marrion’s death is a wound your Mother carries and it never heals.”
Katie sighed. “I wish Grandma had told me about this before she died.”
Aunt Rosie smiled softly. “She never knew the truth either, dear. We told her Marrion had a reaction to a new medication and died.”
Katie shook her head sadly,” Talk about skeletons.”