My Mother named me Alice after the main character in her favorite book, Alice in Wonderland. I carried the name with honor because it meant my mother wanted to give me a name of something important to her. The book she owned as a child, was given to me when I was four, though she had been reading the story to me much, much longer than that.
Every day before bed, she would come into my room, climb in my bed beside me, and read from that old worn book.
When I got older, I would read it to her.
Eventually, it switched off. One night I read, the next night, she would.
"Did you know Alice, that every time a little girl is born and named Alice, her own little Wonderland is created?" Her mother whispered to her one day, while I was seven.
"Really?" I said, excited at the thought. "With my own Red Queen and Hatter and everyone?"
My mother laughed and said, "Yes, everyone. But its not exactly like the book. Everything is a little different. It's not just like the book. It's different for every little girl. The way you act, think, and the things you do decide what your Wonderland will be."
My little mind would stray to my Wonderland at every chance. During recess, the bus ride home, after home, preparing for bed, and in my sleep. I was there at every moment.
I was happy there, imagining all my friends and how they would treat me.
Looking back, I realize things would change in the Wonderland without me thinking about it, willing it, or dreaming it. Things just changed. The Wonderland was truly alive and moving on its own.
I was eleven when my father came into my room that night, taking my book and setting it on the nightstand.
"Alice," He told me, his voice rough. "Your mother isn't coming home. . .ever again."
I knew he was trying to explain it to me simply, but still, those words were haunting far more than if he had simply told me she died.
Like out of some sick twisted heartfelt movie you might rent with your girlfriends, I was a little girl who lost her mother to a drunk driver while she was hurrying home that night to her daughter.
My father offered to read with me, but I declined. It was something only mother and I did together. There wasn't room for him.
He took my answer with a nod of his head, but it hurt him that I didn't want to share that with him. Maybe if I had let him, it would have helped him too. Still, I pushed him away though.
My father and I had never been close. We grew even more distance.
By the time I was fourteen, he told me he was remarrying.
I didn't even know he had been dating.
By the time I was sixteen, I had two younger half twin sisters. I didn't hate them, nor did I love them.
However, I did hate their mother with a rage I didn't know I was capable of. Every breath she took I felt was stolen from the woman who should have rightfully been in the home all alone. I woman who might have gone on to have my younger sisters, and they would have been FULL blooded.
My step-mother felt the same about me, I believe.
We didn't try to get along. The hostility was as obvious as the horrid pink color she painted the living room.
Father took her side.
I didn't care.
I took a job at a local dinner soon after that and began to put it all into a bank account. When I got this job, my step-mother thought my father should charge me rent for a room that had always been mine.
I fought that harder than I had ever fought before. I screamed and ranted and destroyed everything my step-mother held dear to prove my point.
"I'm working to get out of this damned house!" I screamed at my father, pulling the portrait from the wall of him, my step-mother, and then twins. A picture purposely taken without me. I wasn't welcome in this new family. I shoved the picture in his face. "I'm not welcome here! I know that! I'm just some painful reminder of a woman you used to love! And that bitch knows it too! That's why she's doing this crap! If I'm to exist in your life I have to pay!? That's bullshit Dad!"
"Watch your language!" My dad had said, putting no real effort behind the reprimand. He sounded as tired as I felt. Tired of this life.
"I'm working and putting all of my money into a bank account, so when I turn eighteen I can buy an apartment and get out of your hair! Until then, leave me alone, and tell that woman to stay out of my room! It's bad enough that I am unwelcome at the dinner table because I apparently only glare at her. By the way, I can't glare at the damned woman when I'm glaring at my plate! My room is all I have left and she's been trying to get into it and take away my things! Take away what few memories of Mom I have left!"
My father had turned his head away, sadness gripping him like I knew it always did at the mention of my mother or her things.
My step-mother had thrown away all things my mom had picked out in the house. New furniture, decorations, and paint had been applied to every room. . .except my own.
"What do you want me to do Alice?" He said, looking up at me from that God ugly white and pink sofa.
"Put a lock on my door, give me the keys to it, and just let me live out the next year in a half without worrying about having to worry about the things I hold dear. That little room is all I have." I told him, letting him hear the tiredness in my own voice.
I clutched that frame harder when I heard someone rustling around in my room.
My father must have heard it too because he tried to grab me as I ran back to my room.
There, my step-mother was going through the room and grabbing all the things that belonged to my mother and throwing them into a box. My book was amongst that stuff.
Infuriated, I threw that picture in my hand with all my might, where it crashed against the wall to the left of her head, startling her.
I grabbed the box from her and tossed it to my bed and began to shove her out of my room, my father just watching.
"You have no right!" I screamed in her face, wanting nothing more to choke the life out of her. "Stay out of my room you bitch!"
"This is my house and those things just cause your father pain!" She screamed back at me, trying to shove her way back into my room.
My father had stepped in then, and told my step-mother to go to their room. When she finally complied glaring at us both, my father turned to me.
Angry tears burned down my face, and I couldn't stop them.
I pulled out the one picture that I had with my mother it. It was a family photo of us. I was three, being held by both my mother and father. They were smiling but I was laughing in the photo.
"I'll buy a lock first thing tomorrow." My father told me, looking at the photo I was holding. "Alice. . .I'm sorry."
He left the room and shut the door.
I heard them fighting that night, but I didn't care.
True to his word, he bought me a lock and gave me the keys.
My step-mother had demanded a copy. She claimed it was for that 'just in case' moment that I might lose my own keys.
My father stood his ground and said no.
I brought boxes home from work and packed away most of my things. They were neatly stacked in a corner, ready for the day that I would move away.
When I turned eighteen, my father took a day off of work, and went with me to look for apartments.
I settled for a little one bedroom apartment that was located near my high school that I was going to finish out. My work place was also only a ten minute walk from the place as well.
He helped me move with barely concealed sadness.
That was the closest my father and I had ever been.
"I, uh, have a gift for you." He told me just before he left my apartment two days later, the last of my things brought in. He had been nice enough to help me set up my bed and build my shelves up again.
"A key to the house since step-mommy probably changed the locks?" I joked.
Shame filled his eyes, telling me that she had indeed demanded the locks get changed.
"No, I figure you won't come back anyways." He told me softly. He pressed a car key in my hand and pointed out a little red Honda sitting in front of the apartment. "You have a license and all, but I figured you couldn't afford a car on your own. It's used. . .But I made sure that everything was in working order. Also, you might notice that your bank account has grown. I had your money from your mother's will transferred into it. It will help you pay for insurance and all of that."
Tears stung my eyes as I wrapped my hand around they key.
"Thank you Daddy." I told him, meaning it.
He hugged me awkwardly, but I clung back.
"I can never apologize for the hell you've been through these past few years Alice. I could see what my new wife was doing, but I didn't know how to. . .That's a lie, I didn't want to stop her. Not because I didn't love you, or didn't want you. . .Bit because I was so afraid of being alone again." He told me, tears hitting the top of my head. "I'm so sorry Alice."
When he left only twenty minutes later, I found myself at a lose as to what to do. Without thinking, I let my mind wander back to Wonderland on its own.
It was different, darker, and scarier, but it suited me just fine. I had to relearn that world, but it was a world I welcomed with open arms.