Author's Note: So here is the second chapter of A Separate Life and it gives some insight to Alyss after 13 years of living in London. I pulled some of the Victorian ideals at that time from reading Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle Trilogy, and that really ends my extent of Victorian England living knowledge. And a season is what Victorian girls have to show them prospective husbands and a debut is to introduce them to the London society. Many girls spend time in schools that educate them on the finer arts of being a good wife, like embroidery, dancing, and drawing. I am going on the assumption that, since this is based in Victorian England, Alyss had some schooling in these womanly arts. Forgive any mistakes and please enjoy. (If any are confused about debuts and seasons, just let me know and I'll explain better!)
Disclaimer: These characters are strictly the creations of Frank Beddor and Lewis Carroll. Any mistakes are mine and very much unintended.
A Separate Life: An Empty Heart
Alyss Heart, former heir to the Wonderland throne, and better known now as Alice Liddle, was utterly bored out of her mind at the tea Mrs. Liddle had practically dragged her to. What made matters worse was that her mother seemed determined to ferry her to every house that had an unmarried son. Alyss supposed her adoptive parents were distraught over the fact that, at twenty years old and two years after the start of her season, she had yet to find a suitable husband.
Alyss considered this as she smiled vacantly at Mrs. What's-Her-Name, who had complimented her knowledge of Parliament (where Mr. What's-His-Name was a member) and sipped the weak tea from a delicate porcelain cup. Her sisters even had suitors despite being one step below savages. But she had always been different than her sisters. They enjoyed embroidery and dancing and balls, while Alyss was interested in politics and government. Every inch of her knew why she was interested, but she ignored those thoughts and believed herself to be odd.
Much to Alyss's relief, the tea ended a half hour later with promises of visits, perhaps even by What's-His-Name Jr. This endless train of teas, social calls, and balls exhausted the former Wonderlander to no end, but she couldn't find it in her heart to tell her adoptive parents that she didn't care. She was unimpressed by the unnecessary show of wealth displayed at balls and she tended to ignore the gossip that was the lifeblood of London. Even her debut, where she knelt before Queen Victoria, who was considered formidable by most, had not fazed her. She remembered thinking coldly as she curtseyed that her Aunt Redd was more frightening than the iron haired lady on the throne.
Mrs. Liddle smiled slightly and shook her head.
"What am I going to do with you?" the older woman scolded playfully. "I said that Mr. Bixby seemed like a nice boy."
Alyss grimaced internally. Horace Bixby reminded her of Jack of Diamonds, fat and selfish, but she smiled back at her mother emptily.
"You didn't like him?" Mrs. Liddle asked as they stepped into their waiting carriage. "To the college please," she said to the driver.
"I didn't like the way he stared. It was rude and made me feel like a piece of livestock," the young woman said, adjusting her pale pink silk skirts around her feet.
Her mother considered this for a moment before saying, "He was a little disagreeable. If he plans on being part of Parliament, he is going to have to be a better politician. You don't want to marry a bad politician."
Alyss chucked slightly as her mother shook her head mournfully.
"Oh, Alice, I just wish you could find someone. To have someone to pine and swoon over."
I do, the girl thought, biting her lip against the threat of forming tears. But he no longer exists, remember? Just as Jack of Diamonds doesn't exist.
"I know, Mother. Me too," Alyss said quietly.
"I forgot to tell you," Mrs. Liddle said suddenly. "I found the most curious picture in my jewelry box this morning. It was something you had drawn when you first came to our house."
The former princess's mouth went dry and she stared at her mother sharply. "Really? What of?" she asked, trying to sound nonchalant, her heart pounding nervously in her chest.
"Well, it was of what appears to be a white rabbit in a scholar's robe," the older woman said, smiling. "You had been so difficult for the first few years, insisting that you were a princess."
Alyss struggled to smile while she thought about her big-eared tutor.
"And then after Reverend Dodgeson wrote that book and you refused to see him. It broke my heart because you had been so close with him."
An icy pit formed in the girl's stomach as she thought about Charles Dodgeson, who was better known to the literary world as Lewis Carroll. He was a traitor who had profited from her bloody history.
"I remember going into your bedroom after you had that argument and I had seen that you had ripped down all the pictures you had drawn. This one must have fallen under a chair, but I found it and kept it."
"It was just a silly fairytale I thought of to get through my time in the orphanage and it carried over."
Mrs. Liddle studied her adoptive daughter, knowing that there was more to her than she showed. Behind Alice's dull eyes, there was a ferocity that the dean's wife hadn't seen in years, but she knew it was there and that "silly fairytale" had meant much more to her daughter than it seemed. At times, she missed the fierce gleam that had flashing in Alice's eyes when she was younger because it displayed the girl's defiance and love for life. Mrs. Liddle had been determined to quell that oddness in the little girl because oddness was not accepted or even remotely tolerated in London society. Now she wondered if it had been worth it because, as much as she loved her daughter, the woman felt like she didn't know her daughter at all.
"Mother?" Alyss asked, pulling the older woman from her thoughts.
Mrs. Liddle smiled. "I was just thinking."
"Some people would venture to say that is dangerous for a woman to do."
Despite herself, the other woman laughed. "Not in front of Mr. Liddle, they wouldn't. I was just thinking about the past."
"Me too." Way too much lately, the girl thought viciously.
Her mother sighed as the driver slowed the horses to a stop in front of their house. "I guess this means we are going to another tea. Poor Mr. Bixby. He seemed quite besotted with you."
"He was besotted with something and it was not my intellect or opinion of Parliament," Alyss said crossly, as she and her mother walked up the front path.
"Oh my. No more teas at the Bixby house."
Alyss suppressed a snort and the wave of hysteria that threatened to overwhelm her. The last few years were just now catching up to her as her past and the reality of marriage crept up behind her at an alarming rate.
"Mother, I'm going to take a rest before dinner. I have a headache."
"Okay, darling. I'll have the maid bring up some more tea."
Alyss winced at the thought of more tea, even if it was proper tea. "That's okay. I just need to lie down."
"If you're sure. I'll send her to wake you up when dinner is ready."
The young woman trudged up the stairs, her feet feeling like lead. Standing in front of her full-length mirror, she studied herself closely as she undid the bun at the nape of her neck. Her scalp seemed to give a sigh of relief as her long black hair fell unbound to her waist. She turned her head, analyzing her profile. She wasn't ugly, but men were often intimidated by her knowledge of various male-dominated subjects and of her intelligence. She sighed as she slipped off her boots and grabbed her hairbrush, carefully easing out any knots that got into her hair.
Alyss was startled by a sharp 'tap' against glass. She looked up, confused, and felt her stomach fall.
She stood and touched the mirrored glass with shaking fingers. As she stared at her mirror, the people that she had determinedly forgotten stared back at her. Her mother, her father, Bibwit Hatre, General Doppelgänger, Hatter Madigan, Sir Justice. And standing right in the center was Dodge, as she imagined he would look if he were still alive.
"You're all dead," Alyss whispered to the polished surface.
They just smiled sadly at her and Dodge's eyes seemed to say, "Yes, we're dead. But only because you let us be forgotten. You let us disappear."
"I had no choice."
Her old friend raised a disappointed eyebrow and frowned. "Really?"
"I had no choice!" Alyss screamed, hurling her hairbrush at the mirror. It shattered, causing her past to disappear, and she sank to the floor and sat amid the shattered looking glass, sobbing for people she couldn't save.
Later, she told the Liddles that she had tripped and knocked the rocking chair into the full-length mirror. She had started crying because it had scared her.
That night as she lay staring at the moon, she locked her heart and shadowed memories of Wonderland away, deep inside. Wonderland no longer existed and her heart was an empty shell, beating hollowly in her chest. Alyss shut her eyes and dreamed of nothing except fleeting images of flesh-eating roses and maniacal laughter.
A/N: Thank you to everyone who read my story and liked it. I hope I was true enough to the characters. And a note on Alyss's comment about how thinking is dangerous for women. Intelligent women intimidated most men because a woman's place was in the house. Many discouraged the education of women beyond what they would need to attract a husband because women were meant to be seen not heard and intelligence gave them power. A woman with power was an utterly frightening idea during that time. It is just a statement of the times, and in no way reflects how I feel about women (considering I am one myself). I just felt that I should provide an explanation. Please, for the sake of curiosity, leave a review and tell me what you thought. I love to know what my readers think.