"Alice," Hatter called as the young girl made her way closer to the rabbit hole at the end of a long winding dirt corridor, "My dear Alice, please slow down."
"Mr. Hatter?" Alice asked turning towards the man jogging to catch up to her.
"It seems that I had forgotten to give you your unbirthday present at your going away party." The Hatter grinned at her as he held out something small and glittering to the young girl in front of him.
Alice squinted and took a few more steps closer to meet the delightful mad man. She realized now that it was in fact a tiny gold locket, shaped like a card suit spade. The spade was upside down, making it look more like a heart shape. The fastening to keep the spade on the necklace chain was attached to the stem coming off of the heart shape. Alice let her curiosity take over, she accepted the necklace, immediately opening it up. Inside was an inscription reading His Majesty, The Mad Hatter. Alice looked at the Hatter, who only smiled and closed her hands around it.
"Would you like me to help you put it on?" He asked, reaching for the thin chain. Alice only nodded, staring at the locket and wondering why it was inscribed to His Majesty, The Mad Hatter, and not something more like, Mister Mad Hatter. She had learned in school that titles were very important, and after her lessons she had made sure to address all the plants in her home as your majesty in order to upset her governess.
"Mister Hatter, why are you his majesty?" the ten tear old girl asked, catching her name glinting in the light from the front of the locket as she stared up at her childhood friend.
"I'll tell you when you're older," He smiled as he took a step back to admire the necklace around little Alice's neck, "But for now, please hold onto that locket for me will you?"
"Of course Hatter, but why?" She asked, her undying curiosity forcing another warm smile upon the Hatter's lips.
"It's a very important necklace Alice," He explained, taking a knee in front of her, "I need you to keep it safe for me, alright? If ever you need me this will being me back to you, just call my name, and I will be there. I promise."
"I will keep it safe! I swear!" Alice answered, closing her fist around the locket.
"Good." Hatter replied standing and looking over his shoulder nervously, "And should you ever wish to return here, it will lead you back home."
"Home?" Alice asked curiouser still.
"Yes, you should get going," The Hatter said in his normal goofy voice, "your parents must be missing you, it is your unbirthday after all."
"Hatter, I don't think I will come back for a long time." Alice said reaching for a gloved hand, "I may never come back. You know that they're sending me away for school. I must become a lady, they say. No more silly games, and no more hatters they said."
"My dear, dear Alice," The Hatter said, walking her closer to the rabbit hole, "You don't have to do what you don't want to do, you must only pretend to do what you must do. Do you understand me, Alice?"
"Not completely, but I think you mean that I don't have to be a lady, or stop seeing my friends," Alice said stopping just short of the rabbit hole, "I just have to make them think I am what they want me to be, right?"
The Hatter smiled and nodded, slipping his hand away from hers. She turned to him with a questioning stare, only to feel his hands firmly around her waist.
"Goodbye, Alice." He said, and if Alice hadn't known better, she would have thought that he sounded sad.
With that, he lifted her up and nearly threw her through the rabbit hole, and into the glaringly bright light of the outside world. The last he saw of little Alice was the shocked face she made as she was hurled into the real world and the rabbit hole went dark behind her. She could see no trace of the hatter's sad eyes, or large hat when she looked back. She lay a ginger hand on the locket, smiling as she called back down the hole;
"Goodbye Mister Hatter!"