A/N: Alice isn't mine. Enjoy.
"should have known"
five times for Carol Hamilton
It starts when they tell her his name is John. She tries to make a joke – first there was Jack, now there's John, and hadn't he given her David on the phone though he's already forgotten that and won't admit to it now – and they both give her a look that says they're humoring her.
He doesn't look like a John—or David. It almost feels strange when it rolls off her tongue, but she stops herself there. How can a word feel like anything? But it does; a stone, it sits there heavy, completely unlike the other – Hatter – that flies so easily out of her daughter's mouth she would think it had wings.
When she uses that leaden name it never has the desired effects. First of all, he never responds to it—to the point where she begins to wonder if perhaps all of that construction work has caused some hearing loss. But when she brings it up to Alice she's told it's just his left ear, you see, and hadn't she always been sitting at his left?
She can't truly remember where she's been sitting, just as she stops counting how many times he ignores his own name, and how many different hats he must he own if he wears a different one every time she sees him.
Hatter indeed. They finally tell her to call him that – as a "nickname," they say – and not for the first time she wonders why they didn't simply settle on that from the beginning.
"I wish he could have met your father," should have been a simple enough sentiment, but not with him.
To start, he was like one of those omniscient narrators in a movie, always there, always listening, always popping up—the kind voiced by the likes of Julie Andrews or Morgan Freeman. While Hatter certainly was larger than life, he was hardly that level of celebrity.
But there he was like always, poking his head in the kitchen where they were, chiming in with the delusion that he had met "the Carpenter" and had never cared for him much, but supposed he'd grown better with age. That was the point where Alice gave him a look, and he gave her a smile, and Carol was reminded of that curious behavior on her daughter's part when she'd packed up all her of Robert's things after what seemed only an hour of contemplation.
Her husband hadn't been a carpenter, but she forgave the misconception. Hatter clearly had his industries jumbled – she knew he couldn't be a construction worker after a bungled attempt at assembling a bookshelf – and she didn't have the heart to correct him.
There's an art festival on Tenth Avenue and Alice says they must go. Must—despite that she never seemed to care for such things and Carol finds the Bohemian subculture almost as peculiar as her daughter's new beau.
They weave their way through stalls and stands filled with flashy but unappealing sketches, crafts, clothes – alright, perhaps the perspective drawing in sidewalk chalk was marginally impressive – and Hatter is slack-jawed in awe and wonderment. It's as if he's never seen a fair before, or anything before, for that matter.
Just as she mutters that beneath her breath he is there again at her elbow, with that jolly smile and some tale spun about how his hometown had plenty of pretty things once upon a time – like in a fairy tale – but the sip he'd stolen of awe one time didn't quite do it justice. Joy tasted no better; it was bittersweet when borrowed from someone else.
Yes, tasted – she distinctly remembered that part of the conversation – because to him everything seemed to have that quality, despite that you couldn't taste happiness or pleasure or love. He insisted Alice tasted of the last two, however, and given that her daughter was the apple of her eye she couldn't help but be charmed twice over by the assessment, even if it was a tad ridiculous.
Never mind that she still hadn't quite figured out where to find Wonderland on a map. They'd only mentioned it in passing when they thought she couldn't hear, looking like two kids caught with their hands in the cookie jar when she asked about it. As far as she could tell it was somewhere in Europe – she found his accent charming as well – and that made sense, didn't it? Europeans were strange, after all.
Or perhaps it was that Americans were strange, and no wonder Hatter often looked at her like she was speaking an entirely foreign language when describing simple things like how the game of baseball is played. Obviously he was a fan of cricket.
When he asks her about the big word – as he calls it – she has to laugh. Commitment isn't something to be afraid of, no matter what anyone might have told him.
It was funny, actually, how he seemed more afraid of it than her daughter. She'd gotten used to just how frightened of the concept Alice was, and suddenly here was a young man a much lesser fan of it than she. Granted, it was probably for that very fact – he was a man – that lent itself to such a turn of the tables.
He's never tasted it before – again with the tasting – he claims, and that's what makes him wary. He learned a long time ago that getting carried away in emotions he hasn't sampled prior only leads to bad things; at least he has the foresight not to delve into any of those misadventures when she already thinks he's nearly certifiable.
But that is the problem, she pinpoints, because commitment is less a feeling and more a choice and she's ignoring the fact that you still can't taste it whatever he might think.
With that, he has his epiphany. No wonder they couldn't get it quite right back home – it always tasted a bit stale – and he needn't worry about getting it right here. Indecisiveness never really ranked high enough to earn a spot on his list of faults anyway.
It's never more evident than when Christmas rolls around. Again, a tradition he's never heard of, and one he doesn't quite understand.
The tree suffered scrutiny first. He wonders why they ship them into the city for everyone to buy—especially given that the city is far from green and, oh, isn't it ironic considering oysters turn green in Wonderland's sun? Her daughter laughs like it's the funniest thing in the world while she just hopes he never ate any of those green oysters before the very thought makes her excuse herself so she won't lose her lunch on his shoes.
Stockings are another anomaly. Having them isn't quite so strange – he did have a closet full of coats in various shapes and sizes before – but hanging them over the fireplace seems eccentric even to him.
But gifts he knew. Giving, more like, because at first he doesn't seem to realize usually gifting goes two ways. That's trading, not giving—to him.
He is a very big fan of giving, and considers himself something of an expert on the subject. After all, it was the gift of a ring that sent Alice into Wonderland in the first place. Then, of course, he gave her something to keep warm – much more practical – and certainly the better of the two. Yes, he's an expert at giving.
Carol starts getting tired of explaining to the world why it seems her daughter's boyfriend was born yesterday, just as she gets tired of explaining the simplest of things to him, and tired of feeling like she's out of the loop when they share those looks and laughs and stare at her like she is the crazy one.
He'll learn, Alice says, and for now she's able to believe her. He'll learn – eventually – and things may just turn out normal after all.
It'll just take awhile. A long while. Because Hatter is a clam in an oyster's world—she just doesn't know it (yet).