Disclaimer: I do not own Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll) or any of the book's characters. Now, to Chapter One:
The day was dull and lifeless. A pitiful breeze brushed by the window now and again, lifting dead debris slightly off the grass, causing the leaves to tumble this way and that. There was a peculiar expression of grey about the day. No birds were singing; no people were calling. Even Alice's cats had ceased their usual purrs.
Alice had been sitting by the window for the last two hours. She longed to go outside and make something of the day. True, it may have not been the most pleasant of days; but sitting there stuck inside her room made her feel as though she were shut up in a cold grave.
The sun suddenly gave a promising peek in the sky, before hiding beyond the dark grey clouds again.
Alice sighed heavily.
She bent her head down and studied her hands. They twisted and turned together, as if performing a dance for their possessor, and once again she noticed the small sparkle protruding from her ring finger:
It had been three days since she had been officially engaged to the man. The ring looked odd on her finger. It seemed too dainty and elegant for someone like herself. With a golden band and small, shapely diamond sitting on top of it, she felt like a lady instead of the girl she was. Perhaps it is for the best, she mused to herself, in reality, I must be very lucky. She grimaced. Yes...lucky.
Arthur himself was most pleased with his conquest, considering he never truly asked Alice herself. The match had been arranged by Alice's father, who had conveniently bumped into an old friend with a son whose fortune was dangling from his pockets, within reach of, well, anyone.
Nonetheless, Arthur still counted Alice's presumed heart as a victory for himself. Although slightly vain, Alice had to admit that Arthur was all in all a good man. He had no quick temper, or cruel disposition, no; instead one could almost say he had a tender heart.
These were the thoughts Alice was continuously convincing herself of day and night.
Thinking of Arthur, his own voice protruded her thoughts. He was downstairs, as she heard the familiar greetings exchanged between him and her father:
"Hello, Mr. Liddell"
"Hello, Arthur. Here to see Miss Liddell?"
"Why, yes sir...if that is convenient."
Alice smiled to herself. Would their formalities ever change?
"Alice!" Her father called up to her from below.
"I'm coming Father!"
Alice quickly got up and began searching for her new blue shawl in her messy room. Although Arthur's visits were frequent, her mother always made a point of her being presentable. It drove Alice mad sometimes.
"Alice, you can't wear that now," her mother was shocked.
"It's dinner. Get changed!" Her mother commanded.
"But it's only you and Father. I've been wearing this all day!" Alice protested.
"Good heavens, wash up!"
Ah! There it was! Alice grabbed the shawl and spun it around her slim shoulders.
"Alice!" Her Father was becoming impatient.
Alice yanked open her door and made an effort to compose herself at the top of the stairs.
"Oh, Alice, there you are. Come and see Mr. Rolve. I'll let you two be," and with a final nod, her father left the hall for his study.
Alice came down the stairs slowly, carefully trying not to trip or make a fool of herself. Her skirts were renowned for a mind of their own, and she was convinced she would fall flat on her face at any moment. When she lived to see the bottom of the stairs she worked herself up to produce a friendly smile.
"Hello Mr. Rolve," she stationed herself securely.
"Alice." Arthur was only in the habit of saying her name with her father's absence. "I thought we should sit in the parlour today, if you don't mind."
Alice nodded enthusiastically, although a walk outside in the fresh morning air would have been infinitely preferred. "That would be splendid." She did not sound like herself, she noted, when she talked to him. She sounded like her English instructor.
They sat next to each other in the parlour. Arthur did not mind being so close, but Alice was constantly fighting the urge to squirm, get up and pace, or simply run out. She had to bite down on her lip hard.
"You have not mentioned wedding details," Arthur nudged her. Lately he had been pressing her father for a short engagement, and a large, extravagant wedding ceremony; a plan he had not yet related to Alice herself. Her father had refused this, of course, as Alice was too young to be married right now. 'She needs time,' he had said.
Arthur looked at her. It did not look like she needed time. Just a few days past eighteen, and she looked at the peak of her physical beauty. Her soft, yellow hair was pulled back messily, in what seemed as frustration. A solitary curl refused to obey, though, as it danced at the side of her temple. Her skin was golden, due to long hour's out-of-doors in her childhood.
He frowned; her eyes, now looking up at him quizzically seemed distant and far off. Their blue-green shade seemed melancholy. He wondered why she needed time.
"I'm not marrying you," she stated after along pause, answering his long-forgotten question.
"What?" He asked, startled.
"I mean, I'm not marrying you yet. I wish you wouldn't talk of such things." She frowned out of sheer frustration. How many times had she told him that? And yet, here they were again, having the same conversation as the previous day.
Arthur decided this was a touchy subject, and chewed the inside of his cheek thoughtfully for a few moments before deciding the best tactic to proceed with. "I know you may be slightly, uh...nervous about this arrangement, Alice. I don't blame you. But let me assure you there is nothing to be worried about. I've already told you I'll care and provide; I gave you my word. This may take some getting used to, but you have to accept the fact that, uh, this must happen. People don't just get engaged and then break it off. They don't have long engagements either – it's so unbecoming. We must press forward-"
Alice had the feeling he was beginning to lecture and took the opportunity to cut him off. "I know, I know. I'm not trying to get out of it (much, she amended in her head), I just...uh, I just need time."
Arthur groaned inwardly. There it was again. Time. How much time did he have to give? He was growing impatient with this same excuse.
"What is it with people and time around here?" He demanded impatiently. Alice was slightly taken aback, though; she had to admit to herself, at least they were getting somewhere.
"I turned eighteen three days ago," Alice began icily; "I'm not going to rush into anything."
"Exactly, you are eighteen. And how many of your friends are unmarried like yourself?" He pulled out the trump card.
"Um…Uh, well, none?"
Arthur smiled triumphantly, and then composed himself. He put on his usual superior air. "Think about it, okay?"
Alice nodded solemnly. She already was.
With that Arthur gathered his coat and hat and took his leave. "Oh, and by the way," Arthur poked his head through the door one last time, "think about it...soon. You may have time, but I'm afraid time is something I am lacking."
Alice clenched her fists. The ignorant fool. Yes, he was handsome. Yes, he was rich. But responsible? Humble? She clenched her teeth together.
"I'd rather die than marry you," she muttered to herself.
Realisation struck her like lightening. She threw open the parlour door and checked the hallway. He was already gone, in his carriage. She breathed a sigh of relief. That had the possibility of not ending well if he had overheard her.
She trotted her way to the front door, and into the garden. Time, she thought to herself, what harm does a little time do? She kicked up gravel on the path with the toe of her boot. He wanted everything from her, and the one thing she asks in return is absolutely impossible. Of course. She kicked the gravel harder.
Her thoughts continued to swirl. Time, time, time. Where was it, that place where time seemed to stand still but race forward at the same time? In the back of her memory, a small light was calling for attention. She sighed heavily. It would not come to her now, now with her head swimming through thoughts of Arthur.
She came to the end of the path. In front of her was a wide expanse of property, a flowing river of green, dotted with tall oaks and pines. She could just see the tall, iron gates that set off the property; they were a mere speck in the distance. The grass was a lustrous green as autumn laid a glassy sheen of dewdrops over it like a carpet; it seemed to be calling for running, jumping and foolishness. It was a call she could not refuse.
The cool air was sharp and fresh against her face as she ran. She didn't know where she was running. All she knew was that now she was free. By the time she stopped, her skirts were damp and muddied; her hair wild and tangled about her face.
She decided to sneak in through the back of the house. Her Mother would have a fit if she saw her like this.
"I'm going to have a fit."
Her Mother stood squarely, arms crossed across her chest, a look of pure displeasure stretched over her face.
Alice had attempted the back entrance, only to find her mother waiting at the door for her.
"I promise you I'm going to have a fit."
Alice sighed reluctantly.
"You've been running," her Mother accused angrily.
"Yes ma'am," Alice admitted sheepishly.
"And you messed up your hair"
Her mother eyed her skirts sharply. Her mouth twisted down in a mixture of disapproval and disappointment. "And you've ruined your nice, pretty skirts! Oh, Alice. When will you ever learn?"
Alice frowned. "Give me time, I'll work on it." She seemed to be saying that a lot today.
She was dismissed to her room.
Alice did not sleep well. That night, lying ram-rod straight in her narrow bed she dreamt furiously. Her dreams were images – snippets of a place that used to be: A rabbit. A cat. A Cheshire cat. A hat. A very large hat. Tea. Lots of tea. A Queen. Twins. A small hole. Time....
Alice jolted up right in her bed. She was barely conscience when it came to her. Her eyes flittered open for a moment before closing again, chains pulling her back down into deep, sweet sleep.
She lay down again, her soft, pink lips slightly parted as one word lay resting on them: