Hello hello hello! Just writing this story and seeing reviews and favorites and followers that the story is getting….AHHH I'm just smiling right now. Smiling! So happy! But really if it wasn't for Nick Willing and his show and the beautiful Andrew Lee Potts, my story would not exist. And…I just can't… I just want to squeal and fangirl and thank goodness none of you can see me now acting like this (but if you feel the same, we're friends!) Well, I have said all for right now. Chapter 7, here we go!
As I clung tightly onto Hatter's jacket, as we soured through the sky on a flying flamingo machine, I tried to ignore the realization that we were thousands of feet above the water and just enjoyed the ride. The wind soured through my hair. The little distance between me and Hatter. My cheeks burned and my heart beat faster. Could I possibly like Hatter? Well, the thought of him dying did sadden me. And Dr. Dee and Dr. Dum did point out how Hatter made me happy. But…I didn't think this classified me as having feelings for him. Right? I hadn't had a boyfriend for some time now…but I barely knew Hatter. But there was something there, or else I wouldn't feel the way I would. Ugh! What's going on with me?
I shook my head clear of these thoughts as Hatter turned his head slightly to look at me.
"I suppose it's his lofty airs and graces, huh? That's why Alice likes him."
"Jack? No, he doesn't have any airs or graces."
"Really? Then, what then?"
Why would he be so concerned? "Look, just shut up and drive!" Hatter kept looking at me, but said nothing else and turned back to look where we were flying. My eyes skimmed his overall appearance and I must admit he was handsome. But his offhand questioning of the reason Alice would be into Jack left me with a hole in my heart. We continued to remain in our silence as I went to rest my head on his back. My mood being in a state of despair and a frown stuck on my face, I just wanted us to quickly reach land. Not even Charlie's joyful yells next to us could cheer me up. To make matters worse, I could feel things fly past us and loud noises coming from behind. I turned my head to look and saw that the Suits had followed us, flying on similar flamingo machines and guns in their hands.
They shot at us and I saw that they had hit Charlie's engine. Black smoke ascended and he was quickly falling.
"I'm going down!" Charlie yelled as he became smaller and smaller, getting farther away from us.
My eyes stared in horror as Charlie finally reached the surface of the water and plummeted, causing a large splash of water to spring up before falling back down. Charlie was nowhere to be seen. Bullets continued to fly past us as we focused on our current situation: the Suits were still after us.
"Ellie, hold on!" No sooner had Hatter said this, our engine was shot. We quickly followed Charlie's lead and approached the water as we dropped down. My hands tightly gripping around Hatter's waist for dear life. I heard Alice scream before both Hatter and I crashed into the water and I lost consciousness.
"Ellie. Ellie, please wake up," I heard as I felt someone shaking me. I opened my eyes and everything was distorted. It took a couple of seconds before my eyes readjusted, but when they did, there was Hatter staring right at me, several inches away from my face. I jumped up out of fright and our heads collided with each other's.
"Ow." I rubbed my head with one hand as Hatter offered me his hand, his other hand also rubbing his injured head. I gladly took his help and when I was back on my feet I released his hand and looked around us. My whole body was soaking wet and it seemed we were washed ashore after we crashed. A thought struck me then. I took off on my own; I heard Hatter follow close behind me but I chose to ignore him.
"Charlie! Charlie! Alice!" I yelled, trying to find some sign that they too were safe.
"If they made it, there should be some tracks," Hatter pointed out. I ignored him once more.
"We're sitting ducks on this beach. Ellie, where's the ring?"
I stopped in my tracks but didn't turn to look at him. "It's safe."
A dead silence passed by us.
"You don't trust me? Even after all those moments I saved you; I risked my neck getting you out of there."
I turned to face him. "Why did you risk your neck?" This caught Hatter off-guard but he soon recovered.
"Unbelievable. Why are you being so ungrateful?"
"Look, I understand; I don't blame you. Your people need you. The ring could make all the difference." I looked him right in the eyes and crossed my arms across my chest.
Hatter rushed forward and grabbed both of my shoulders. "Is that why you think I did that? Did everything? Just for the ring?"
I looked away and took a couple steps back to distance us. Suddenly, something caught my eye. I looked past Hatter and saw a figure lying on the beach. I gasped and ran towards it, completely ignoring Hatter's presence. As I reached the figure, I saw that it was Alice. I took her in my arms and lightly shook her awake.
"Alice, are you okay?" Alice's eyes fluttered before they opened. She looked around her before focusing on me; when she had gathered her bearings, she smiled and gave me a big hug.
"Ellie, I'm glad that you're safe. Where's Charlie? Where's Hatter?"
"Right here, but we don't know where Charlie is," Hatter answered as he reached the two of us. I looked to the sides and felt the atmosphere change a little. Alice did too as she gave me a concerned look.
"Alice, where's the ring?" Hatter persisted. I got up and pulled Alice with me. "Like I said before, Hatter, it's in a safe place."
"It's okay, Ellie. This shows Hatter is a man of integrity but first I need to use it to get my father out."
I stared blankly back at Alice. Her dad? He's here?
"Your father?" Hatter was utterly confused.
"He's here. Jack slipped me his watch," Alice started explaining, as she went to pull the watch from her pocket. So Jack did whisper something in her ear. Something clicked in my brain: Jack went to find Alice to help her reunite with her father. I smiled at this new development. Alice flipped the watch to look at its back. "R.H. Robert Hamilton. I remember this watch; it's his for sure. Look it's stuck on the exact date and time that he disappeared-March 23rd. I mean he's in the casino somewhere." Alice stared at the two of us, expectantly.
"That's great news, Alice. You've been looking for him forever, and now he's so close." I took both of Alice's hands and squeezed.
Hatter however went and crushed that hope. "He's lying," he stated, point-blank.
Alice frowned and turned, starting to walk along the shore. "Jack took a big risk passing this to me."
"And you believe him," Hatter asked incredulously, following Alice. I followed after them.
"Why wouldn't I?"
"Because he's lied to you, about everything!" The two of them stopped in their tracks and so did I. "I'm stunned. Why are you even defending him?"
"Because he's trying to help me."
"Really? Now let's just think about this: he took the ring from his mother. He gave it to you. Why? It made you a target, Alice. Made both you and Ellie targets. Why is he even going around pretending to be someone else anyway?"
"He's hiding from them."
"I don't know!" I ran up to Alice and Hatter and placed myself in between them, distancing them from each other. Everything grew quiet until Alice spoke once more, almost in a whisper. "He's engaged. To a duchess."
"So he's two-timing?" Alice shook her head no. "And now all of a sudden, he tells you that your father has been in the casino all this time. Does that not seem a little bit fishy?"
"What do you mean?"
"It's not a coincidence; he's a bad guy, Alice." Now that sparked something in me.
"Hey! Wait a minute! How would you know? It's not like you spent that much time with him, not like Alice did. You probably haven't even had any contact with him. Yes, he might have been lying. Yes, he might be the son of the Queen of Hearts. But does that really mean he's bad; does the title really make the person. I believe Jack has something more to him than what the surface shows. You could say the same about us too; we've only known each other for a little bit. And now it seems to me that Jack is the better man than you've been, Hatter. He's trying to help Alice find her father, and if you're not, I guess this is separate ways." I stood my ground, my face held a determined look. Alice gripped my hand tightly. Hatter stood stunned, not knowing how to respond; his eyes held a look I couldn't discern: sadness, guilt, disappointment, shame. Everything seemed to freeze at that moment, only breaking when we heard yodeling coming behind us. A smile broke out on my face as recognition set in.
All of us ran toward the noise, finding Charlie sitting in front of a big fire.
"Hey! Nonny nonny!" Charlie sang/chanted.
"Charlie!" I exclaimed, running as fast as I could and soon reached him, as Alice and Hatter straggled behind. I threw my arms around him in an embrace. Charlie was startled in the beginning but soon returned the hug.
"Thank goodness. I was just about to go back in the water and look for you again." The two of us separated, giving Alice her turn at a hug.
"How did you get ashore with all that armor on?" was Hatter's first reaction to seeing Charlie again.
"I'm a knight. Besides, I invented a very useful whirly-majingamathing, which I can't tell you about. It's classified; patent pending. Very hush-hush, that sort of thing."
Hatter shook his head before placing his hat back on. "We should get off this beach before we get spotted."
"No!" Alice stood her ground, me alongside her. "Listen guys, I'm really grateful for what you did, getting me out of the casino but I have to go back."
"Why are you still hooked on Jack?" Hatter, getting really frustrated, questioned.
"I told you; he was trying to help me."
"Really, because to me, it seems like he was using you."
"And you're not," I injected.
Hatter looked straight at me. "Don't you care what's happening? All the people's lives that are getting ripped apart by the Queen?"
"Of course I do. Why wouldn't I?"
"Then give the Resistance a chance. If we get to the top man, he'll help us."
"Do you know him?" Alice looked interested.
"Yes. No, not exactly. No one knows his true identity, but he goes by a codename: 'Caterpillar'. Give me a few hours; I'll slip back into the city and I'll make contact. You guys can stay with Charlie in the fortress. You'll be safe there. If I'm not back by nightfall, do it your way."
We nodded. Alice and Charlie gathered up Charlie's armor so we could leave immediately and reach the fortress before it got too dark. Hatter was about to leave to find his smuggling boat before I grabbed onto his sleeve.
"Hey, you promise to be back by nightfall?" I asked, looking down at my shoes.
I felt my chin being lifted up. As I looked up, I gasped as I stared into Hatter's eyes. "I promise; remember: I won't let any harm come to you, and I certainly won't leave you alone. And…I'm sorry for back there. What I said, it was out of hand." I nodded, accepting his apology. I was shocked when Hatter came forward and kissed the top of my head. I looked back down again to hide my blush; I looked up to watch Hatter getting farther away and eventually disappearing amongst the leafy green of the forest.
The three of us sat at our campsite in the kingdom: Alice fiddling with her father's watch, Charlie breaking large tree branches for firewood, and me concentrating on those last moments spent with Hatter (where he kissed my forehead before he left), where I then proceeded to smile to myself from the memory.
Both Alice and I looked up at Charlie broke the silence among us.
"How old were you when your father disappeared?" The question directed at Alice.
Alice was taken aback by the sudden question but simply responded with "ten".
"Huh? Must have been a shock."
"You know how kids are: they blame themselves for stuff like that." As their conversation was going on, I moved to sit beside Alice and took her hand in mine.
"You okay?" Alice asked me. I nodded, knowing she was referring to the discovery of the whereabouts of my mom.
"I was ten once. I was ten when the armies came-one of three squires to the real White Knight." Charlie stated. Alice and I turned to look at each other, confused of what he just said.
"My job was to carry the great lance. But when it really mattered, when I was needed the most, I…lost my nerve and I ran," Charlie couldn't look at us. "I hid for three days, and when I came out, everyone was dead, even the magnificent Red King up there on his throne. At first, I wished I died with them. But after a while, a deeper feeling took over. I wanted a second chance; I wanted to avenge them. So I stole the White Knight's armor, his name, his courage, and I waited for the right time." Charlie looked up, his eyes glassy and a smile on his face. "When you showed up, both of you, I knew the right time had finally arrived."
Now everything made sense. The reason Charlie survived, why he was so proud of himself, why he was excited to know Alice. He felt responsible for the Knights' downfall, and this could be his chance to make up for it.
I went to Charlie and gave him a hug, putting all my emotion into it. I reassured him that despite what he may think, I didn't think him to be a coward. Heck, if I was the last of my kind I probably would go insane. Charlie, all on his own, was able to live this long by himself in the woods. He smiled at this. I could see the small glimpse of sadness still in his eyes but at least he held onto his hope. Charlie told us that he was exhausted from his recollection of past memories and that he was going to take a nap; I bid him a good rest. As he stood and went to his hammock, I caught the look on Alice's face.
'What are you thinking about?' I mouthed to her.
'You'll see. Wait until Charlie is asleep,' she mouthed back to me.
-Hatter's Point of View-
As I was back within the walls of the city, I was cautious of my whereabouts. One bad move and either the Resistance or the Suits could be set on my trail. I made my way through the streets, looking this way and that, until I reached the dilapidated part of the city. The concrete of sidewalk changed to grass and I soon caught sight of my target.
Dormouse made his way through the grass towards me. I hid around the corner and waited for him to reach me. As he turned and was within my grasp, I reached for him and grabbed the collar of his shirt, holding him a couple inches off the ground and held his back against the building.
"Ahhh! Not the face! Not the-!" he started, before he realized it was me. "Hatter? What do you want?" he questioned, frightened by my sudden appearance.
"Just keep your voice down, Dormie. I need you to get a message to Caterpillar."
"What makes you think I can do that?"
"Don't be cute. I haven't got the time."
"Dodo's the only one I know in the Resistance. I'm not even sure Caterpillar exists. He's probably some mythical figure made up to keep us treading the mill."
I looked to my left and right making sure no one was around. This is taking too long. I wasn't sure I could make contact with Caterpillar and now Dormie's saying he might not even exist. I sighed. "You tell Dodo to get a message to him then: we still have what they want. We're ready to make a deal." I released Dormie and turned to get back to Ellie…and Alice and Charlie, of course.
I left with a heavy pit in the bottom of my stomach. Hopefully Caterpillar is real and he'll be able to help us. As I was about to reach my smuggling boat, Dormie came running after me.
I turned my head, thoughts interrupted.
"The Resistance is able to help!" I grinned and started up the boat, now more eager to get back to share the good news.
When I reached the kingdom and saw that the girls weren't there, a million different thoughts swam through my head. Oh, not again! Everything led to bad outcomes that made me cringe. I spotted Charlie snoring in his hammock and slowly approached him.
When I was couple of inches from his face, I yelled out his name. He was startled and rolled right out of his hammock and onto the ground.
"You're supposed to be looking after Ellie and Alice." I pointed out.
"I know what you're thinking, but I wasn't really asleep. I had simply let my soul lift out of its mortal shell to stand sentry on a higher plane."
I normally would tolerate his ridiculous excuses but worry got the best of me. I mean, what if Ellie got hurt? And Alice along with her? "Where are the girls?"
-Back to Ellie's Point of View-
Alice and I stood in a clearing on the outskirts of the kingdom. When Charlie fell asleep, Alice told me her plan and we went to set it in motion. Afterwards, we went to get some fresh air. We remained there, just looking at the surrounding areas and thinking what it was like before the Queen of Hearts took control and slaughtered the White Knights. I heard a snap from behind us and turned. My heart stopped.
"Hatter?" Alice turned her head to look as well but I paid no attention. I ran towards him and when I reached him, threw my arms around him.
"I told you I would be back," he whispered in my ear.
"I was beginning to think you weren't coming back," I replied.
"You still don't trust me?" I released him and shook my head. We exchanged smiles as Alice walked towards us.
"Good news. The Resistance wants to help. They're sending a special agent who will take us to see Caterpillar." I turned to look at Alice.
"How soon till he gets here?" Alice inquired.
"Those guys can move pretty fast when they need to-" Hatter began before he stopped short, looking to his left.
Both Alice's and my eyes traveled to where Hatter was looking. In the distance laid the vast statues of the Knights' kingdom. The sight of these colossal monuments lining the horizon.
"You're going to join them aren't you? Fight alongside them?"
"I have to try. As Dodo said, I've lived my life playing both sides of the court. It's the only way I could stay alive." I grabbed onto one of Hatter's arms and rested my head against him. "I made the Hearts think I was working for them, while I fed their enemies. Those days are over." Hatter turned to look me in the eyes. I nodded my understanding. He then proceeded to look at Alice, who copied my movements. "Come on. Charlie was worried about you guys."
All of us made our way back to the kingdom. I led the way, followed by Alice, and then Hatter. I reached the camp site before the two and went to find Charlie. However, I went and was shocked at what I saw. More like who I saw. In front of me stood Jack, aka my brother. Charlie laid tied up on the ground. "I know what you're thinking: how could anyone sneak up on me, of all people? And in my own manor, too?"
"Are you okay, Charlie?" When he gave an affirmative answer, I focused my attention in front of me.
"What are you doing here? Don't tell me, 'mother' told you to keep an eye on me," I spat out.
"I know what you're thinking and trust me, I would have told you. But there wasn't a right time to-" Jack began.
"Oh, there wasn't a right time? So even after all that time getting to know me. That time when I let you take me back home when I visited the studio and you were there and Alice had to go home early. Remember that day? It was raining. I let you escort me home because you said it was dangerous. You dropped off Alice and then proceeded to drop me off. You wanted to come inside. You met my dad and you asked me later why my mom wasn't there. I told you. I told you how my mother left me and my dad when I was only eight. How I felt. How I blamed myself. You didn't think that was the perfect time to tell me? It was probably the same reason you didn't tell Alice about Wonderland, right? How I probably wouldn't believe you? Well…" I was gasping for air by then. Tears started streaming down my eyes. I stood shaking, my hands clenched in fists. All the emotions I kept trapped in me about my mom resurfaced from the dark recesses I kept them. How much she'd changed and how that scared me, disappointed me. I always imagined me finding my mom at my doorstep and her smothering me in hugs and kisses and begging me and my dad to forgive her. But that wasn't how it worked. Not in reality.
I didn't notice Jack had moved until I felt two arms wrapped around me. I rested my head in his chest, just letting his warmth come me.
"I know. I should have told you the truth, instead of having you find out back there. It's all my fault." I couldn't respond to this, just returned Jack's embrace. My tears stopped to only sniffles but we remained like that.
I heard footsteps approach but didn't remove myself from Jack. The footsteps stopped, only to be replaced by voices-two familiar ones.
"What's the matter?"-definitely Hatter's.
"What will I do if I get stuck here?" –definitely Alice's.
Jack stiffened when he noticed their presence. He released me but kept an arm around me. I turned to see Hatter and Alice a distance from us. Jack quietly stepped towards them, me in tow. As we neared them, I could distinctly hear them as they continued their conversation.
"Then I'll make sure you're okay."
What happened next just killed me. Hatter started inching his face toward Alice. I stopped frozen in my tracks, Jack too but I could see his other hand clenched in a fist. I looked in his eyes and could see jealousy clearly shown within them.
"I think your luck is finally changing." Hatter said, as the final nail was hit in the coffin. A deep hole was felt in my heart. So Hatter likes Alice. Well, he didn't really say he liked me. Everything he did was to protect me because I was Alice's friend. I could feel newly formed tears prick the sides of my eyes. Jack pulled me closer into him and rubbed his hand up and down my arm to sooth me.
"That's right it is," Jack interrupted them just as their lips were about to meet. The two of them turned to see us. Jack walked forward and I followed, still by Jack's side. "Hello, Alice. I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"
Hatter lightly pushed Alice behind him, to shield her from Jack. I gripped onto Jack, trying to hold my sadness within me. Jack turned to look at me, giving me an understanding look. He was going through the same thing: having someone you love not reciprocating your feelings. Hatter saw our exchange and noticed Jack's arm around me. He shot me a look but I looked at the ground to avoid his eyes. He glared at Jack, which Jack responded with one of his own. I looked up at Alice, questioning her. 'Weren't you the one who wanted me to figure out my feelings for Hatter?' I mouthed to her. 'Well, I did. I guess it's too late.'
'It's not what it looks like,' she responded, pleading with her eyes. I didn't believe her though. I knew what I saw: Alice didn't stop Hatter's advance. She could have, but she didn't. There we all stood: Hatter protecting Alice, while glaring at Jack. Alice sending me apologetic glances, while I ignored her. Hatter trying to catch my attention, but I also was ignoring him. Jack protecting me, while going through the same situation as I was, with Alice having feelings for Hatter (and Jack still having feelings for Alice). Jack and Hatter stood having a battle of glares.
And that's all for now. Whoo! Chapter 7 done! Thanks everyone for reading (as always). Your support keeps me writing. How did I do? Comment/ review- not required though. Until next time…