The Mad Hatter Never Invited me Pt. 2: The Strange Girl in the Red Dress

I am able to slip away after tea. Mother and Eleanor decide to go for a walk in the village. I feign illness, and once they’re gone, slip out of my chamber and away to the forest. I’ve brought my diary and a fountain pen so that I can sit in my favorite tree and write poetry. With the book opened and  balanced on my lap, I sigh and begin to write.

Besotted by the idea of true love,
Struck by a handsome fellow,
Silk-cloaked and dressed in yellow–

I catch sight of what looks like a person darting through the trees on the forest floor below me, and lose my rhyme for “love”. But when I look down, there’s nothing there. I wait a minute,eyes shifting in suspicion. Nothing happens. With a “hrrrumph”, I focus again on the next line of my poem:

She thinks he comes from above,
Silly maiden, foolish to hope,
Don’t thou know he is the hang man’s rope?

I read that back and cringe–perhaps Mother was right that I was much too inspired by the dead man. He is even creeping into my poetry at this point. I scratch out the the entire stanza except for the first verse. I hear scurrying in the leaves that is much too heavy to belong to a rabbit or another type of woodland creature. I look down and meet the gray eyes of a scantily-clad young woman. She is wearing a red dress, her brown hair hanging loose around her neck. She looks to be at least ten years older than my fifteen years. She flashes me a grin. I cannot think of anything to say. This is all so strange! She is practically naked, and I have never seen the type of cloth she happens to be wearing, in my life. Perhaps she is mad. . .foreign and mad? I stare at her, lips pursed, eyes wide in confusion.

“Uh. . .who are you?” I manage to ask.

She bows to me like a man, “the name’s Alice,” she says, and presents her hand to me–another very manly gesture. I am unsure what to make of such a display, but I kind of like her crassness. I cannot place her accent. It is flat, and she speaks English like me. I continue to stare at her in bewilderment, and she finally drops her hand to her side, letting out a hiss of air.

“Do you not understand the concept of a handshake?” she asks me.

I tilt my head at the term, “Hand. . .shake?”

Then, her facial expression changes, and she appears to be confused as well, “so what year have I stumbled into this time?”

“Pardon me?!” She surely is mad! But how did she get onto my property? The gates are always locked. Not to mention, the nearest madhouse is quite a distance away. The patients of that establishment would not make it to our lands, let alone probably step foot outside of the grounds.

“Oh. You must think I’m mad–” she says.

“Indeed,” I reply, cutting her off.

“Anyway, what year is it and what land am I in?”

I stare at her. This is all too much for me. “Are you joking? You are in Scotland and it is 1872!”

“Ah, that explains the matronly clothing you are wearing,” she says.

“Matronly?! I think not! I try my hardest not to appear like my mother,” I yell, “she is matronly!” I happen to dress in the latest fashions–despite the fact that I would prefer to wear trousers. But no, one must work with what they have. Still, dressing in the latest fashions is preferable to me than appearing “matronly”. It reminds me too much of my mother’s conservative preferences.

Alice laughs. “Such an interesting time I’ve seem to have fallen in. Anyway, if you would like to come with me, then I can explain to you what has happened. I don’t want you to think me mad, and I do need your help.”

“No. I will not be coming with you,” I say, gathering my things and jumping off the tree, “in fact I will be telling my father that there is a mad, nearly naked young woman who is trespassing on our lands!”

I sprint back to the house without looking back, the story on the  tip of my tongue. But when I get back, no one is around except for the servants. Father has gone out and Mother and Eleanor are still out on their walk. I sit in the parlor and watch the sun set through stained glass windows, the fabricated colors reflected back adding so much more beauty to the already beautiful natural occurrence. And soon, I am sleeping on the sofa, dreaming of this strange Alice girl. . .

The Mad Hatter Never Invited Me Part I: The Hang-Man

“Oh Mr. Deadman hanging from the tree,
won’t you cut yourself down,
and sing to me?”

Mother always said I was witty at a moment’s notice, but something tells me she wouldn’t appreciate that one. Sometimes, I can’t help the thoughts that crawl into my ear. It seems the traveling musician Mother hired for my sister, Eleanor’s wedding, has decided to hang himself on my favorite climbing tree. I stare at the bloated, blue figure until I hear footsteps crinkling and cracking the fallen leaves. I slowly turn around on my heels, making sure to plaster a frown to my face as the occasion merits sadness.

“Mary!” Mother curses, paling. Father and Eleanor are at the tail, but not quite close enough to fully realize the scene.
Father sets himself silently behind me. Then there’s a high-pitched squeal of terror from Eleanor. I turn around and witness her fainting. I try not to roll my eyes at her ridiculous sensitivity.

“Jaqueline, get away from there,” Mother finally notices me poking the corpse with a fallen branch. At her reprimand, I quickly drop the branch, backing slowly away on my toes.

“The wedding is ruined!” Mother says.

Yes, even though we all know Eleanor will surely die of shock once she finds out what is expected of her in the marriage bed! I chuckle inwardly at this thought, attracting everyone’s attention. They all stare at me and I curse myself for attracting their attentions.

“Do you not think now is an inappropriate time for a laugh?” Mother scolds me again. I immediately purse my lips into a solemn expression. Her threatening gaze lingers on me a moment longer.

“Sometimes, I think you’re possessed by the Devil, Jackie, ” my sister says, as she recovers from her shock, our maid, Isabel, fanning her as she lay in a pile of dead leaves.

“Now that’s quite enough! Everyone back in the house,” Father says, taking charge of the situation like the admiral he is.

Mother couldn’t be happier to herd Eleanor and me back to our samplers, and Eleanor couldn’t be happier to be led. I, on the other hand, am a bit miffed that I won’t be climbing trees this afternoon. I wish I wouldn’t have startled and screamed earlier, attracting everyone’s attention to the spot in the first place. I could have lived with the rotting corpse, probably. Damn depressive minstrel! I will have to find a way to escape an entire afternoon of sewing in mother’s parlor, while she writes letters to every musician, singer, and acting troupe in Edinburgh, trying to get a replacement in a week’s time. And how I loathe sewing! I hope they cut him down soon so that mother will let us go for a stroll in the garden. That way, I can slip away into the forest while Mother and Eleanor are “oohing and aahing” over the roses! It’s much too stuffy and dry inside and nice outside to sit and sew the whole afternoon.

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I started working on this story series a few years ago when I had an account on Mibba, and have decided that perhaps I will give it another try. I will try to post the next chapters regularly.

Marionette

She lies on the wood floor, bent in on herself and broken like a porcelain doll a child had carelessly dropped. He stands over her, barking orders, commanding her to stand up, to come to him. She doesn’t hear him. He’s gone too far this time. She’s retreated to a world of her own, a safe place where it’s dark and no one can hurt her because it is so dark that no one can find her. Maybe in the darkness and the silence, she’ll finally be able to think and to realize why she continues to return to him.

Continue my story in the comments, if you wish. . .

A List of Things that Mommy Doesn’t Like: A Narrative Exercise in Point-of-View

Atheist. What a silly word. I heard Mommy’s date, Daniel, say that he’s one and when I asked Mommy what the word meant, she got mad. I didn’t know why. It’s just a word. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, coming up with everything it could mean. I didn’t even know how to spell it. As soon as someone told me what the word meant, I would then start asking how it is spelled. But until then, my main concern was defining the word. You have to have your priorities straight, after all.

I wasn’t having any luck with that though. Then it occurred to me that most adults like to receive something in exchange for another thing (like Christmas gifts and giving money to the person at the cash register when you’re shopping). I picked some pretty white flowers I found near my favorite sculpture in the park—a cat statue made of sparkly tiles—and headed over to where Mommy and Daniel sat.

“Look what I found,” I said, trying to make them think that the white flowers were the best thing in the world, since everyone knows that the more value a gift has, the more you get back in return. I held them out in front of Daniel, “aren’t they pretty?”

He took the flowers from me, thanking me. He seemed to fall for it and assume that they were indeed the best things ever. I was glad he was pleased, even if they were just flowers. It’s not bad to lie if the person being lied to is happier that way.

But Mommy wasn’t falling for it. She knew what I was doing. She always knew everything, of course,“Run along, dear. Mommy’s busy,” she said, waving her hand in the direction of the cat statue. I took a moment to glare at her real deep. Why was she trying to make it so difficult? For some reason, she really didn’t want me to know what an “Atheist” is. Maybe that had something to do with what the word meant. I retreated back to the cat and started listing all the things Mommy didn’t like, keeping track on my fingers.

“Hmm. . . Sinners. People who ring the doorbell and give us pieces of paper with lots of words on them. Lasagna. Spicy food. When I say potty-mouth words they say on TV. Potty-mouth words. When my room isn’t clean. Laundry clothes on the floor. Aunt Marjorie. When I don’t eat my veggies. The Liberal media. . .whatever that is,” I had to stop because my mouth was getting dry from talking so much. I licked my lips, but there was no spit on my tongue. I was so thirsty. I hated that feeling. There was probably a drinking fountain in that building where they put all the art that doesn’t belong outside. It was nearby too. I decided that even though Mommy had said I couldn’t leave the area that I would just be gone for a minute, and it was worth it. I mean, people died from thirst in hot places like Africa.

I walked over to the building and went to the back where the bathrooms were. There was a drinking fountain between the room for men and the room for women. As I drank, standing on my tippy-toes, I wondered why there wasn’t a separate bathroom for kids. I drank for a long time until my front hair strands were soaked because they had fallen in the water, and then went back to Mommy, Daniel, and the cat statue. (I decided that I would name the cat statue Shirley. She looked like a Shirley.) Mommy and Daniel were still there. I climbed on top of Shirley and tried to listen to their conversation. Maybe they were talking about what an atheist is since I was gone.

“. . .Maybe if you are ever in Norway, I’ll take you,” Daniel said. Norway was where Daniel was from. He told me that in Norway you have to be fat because it’s so cold there and the fat kept you warm. That’s why he was fat and ate a lot of pizza. He tried to give Mommy a flower, but I knew that she wouldn’t be happy with it. She hadn’t fallen for my trick.

“I don’t like the cold,” Mommy said. She was using her mean voice she used when she yelled at the “liberals” on TV.  I added “the cold” to my list of things that Mommy didn’t like.

Daniel looked sad, like the liberals would have probably looked if they heard her too, “Samara, what is wrong,” he asked, using her real name that I wasn’t allowed to call her. Mommy sighed real big like she did when she was tired or I was asking too many questions. I figured that Daniel was asking too many questions too.

“You’re an atheist,” Mommy said.

“Mommy, what’s an atheist,” I asked again, remembering that I still hadn’t figured out what it meant.

“Emery, go play,” Mommy said, still using her mean voice. My feelings were hurt and I decided that I would stop asking her that question if she was going to be so mean about it. She turned back to Daniel, “see what you’ve done?” What did he do? I wanted so badly to ask, but Mommy wasn’t in the mood to answer questions.

“You could tell her,” Daniel said. He was being what is called my “advocate” in mine and Mommy’s “conflict”.

“Tell a child that there are people who don’t believe in God,” Mommy said, using her outdoor voice, “you must be mad.” That was what an atheist is? Boring. I was hoping it would be something with a lot of pretty colors or made out of candy. My next guess was that an atheist is someone who becomes very fat in order to stay warm, by eating lots of pizza. But I suppose the real definition better explained why Mommy didn’t like that word very much.

I looked back across the grass and saw that Mommy wasn’t by Daniel anymore. She was walking away toward the car. I jumped off Shirley, waving bye-bye to Daniel, and ran to catch up with her. She was walking very fast and when she opened the car door for me–if she was like Arnold Schwarzenegger–she would have probably broke the door off the car. She was mad. I wondered if it had anything to do with Daniel. She didn’t seem to like him very much. But I liked him and that was all that mattered.

“Mommy, are we going to see Daniel again,” I asked, hoping that she would say yes. She clicked my seatbelt in and then went around to her door.

“No.” She was still using her mean voice.

“Why,” I asked, “he was funny.” Maybe that would remind her how much we needed Daniel around. Funny, nice guys who liked pizza as much as I did were nice to have around. Mommy didn’t answer though. I added “nice, funny guys who like pizza” and Daniel to my list of things that Mommy didn’t like.

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I don’t know if I’ll go further with this or not, so it’s up here for now. I really enjoyed writing this, however I know there are flaws.