Chapter VIV. – Back To Reality

I saw my sister's casket being lowered into the ground. All heads were bowed reverently in silence. Father wept as he threw a single, red rose onto the casket. I felt as though I was falling into a bottomless pit, with no one to pull me out from this darkness. As the priest finished his prayers, a hand touched my shoulder. I turned to look up at the man who had broken my heart, Lorina's fiancé. He smiled a painfully empathetic smile down at me, attempting to usher me back to the carriage. Feeling nauseous, dizzy and confused all at once, I stopped midway, clutching at my head and my stomach. I needed to get away from him, from that pitying smile. I needed to get away from it all.

Slowly but surely, I willed my legs to break into a run, hands lifting up my heavy skirts to aid my escape. I heard him call after me, the sound of footfalls chasing after me over the churchyard green, boots of both parties sliding in the mud. It hadn't stopped raining for a solid week since Lorina's departure. Weaving my way amidst the tombstones I tried to throw him off my trail. I thought I had. I made my way into the church, pulling desperately at one of the monstrously heavy oak doors, making my way inside. My damp dress clung to my heaving body, ragged breaths forming a cloud from my mouth. Willing myself to breathe quietly I tread lightly on the floor as I headed to the stairs.

One floor, two floors, three floors, four floors, five floors and gradually the sixth floor to the highest tower. I bit back a wave of fresh tears. The tower room had been where Lorina and Edith and I had once played, much to our parents' dismay. We would sometimes sneak out of Sunday school and come here to play. I pressed my back in to the brick wall, the cold numbing my pain. Slowly sliding to the floor, I sat and watched the endless gray sky from the window. It was brisk because there was no glass covering it and the wind blew in freely, whistling all the way down the long, spiral stairs. Hugging my knees in to my chest, I rested my head, willing all thought and feeling away.


My head shot up in alarm, turning to see who it was that had broken my peaceful solitude… Of course. It was him. My sister's fiancé was standing at the top of the stairs. The last person I wanted to see. Pretending to ignore him, I sat there pouting like a child, trying to eliminate the warmth that was beginning to spread through my frozen body. I must not remember those times, those feelings when I had not a care in the world. He had made his choice, and I mine. What he would have to say would make no difference now. I heard him approach, saw his boots step right in front of me, facing me. He kneeled down so that his face was just above mine. What on earth was he doing? My heart pounded uncontrollably at his close proximity. His indecent proximity…

"It's alright to cry," he said, gently, in that tone that I despised. It was that superficial gentleness that I had fallen for in the first place. I would be insane to fall for it again. No, I must not fall for it again! I should be thinking about Lorina, not him! Then why…?

"Go away," I whimpered painfully. His breath, his scent – all of it were throwing me back into the past, when he might have been mine. And I did not want to go back to that time. I would make sure I did not.

"Tch, so stubborn. As always…" he said as he roughly pulled me into his chest. The movement startled me. He would never do something like this. As I breathed in the ever familiar scent mixed with…wait…roses? Frantically, I shoved him off me and everything went black. My head started to throb violently, the pain coming in waves; I tasted something metallic in my mouth. Along with that was a sharp, grating sound jarring my brain with unbearable nausea. I was forgetting something frighteningly important and the blurry images were fading fast. Roses…an outlandish hat…a gentleman's gloved hand extending towards me… No, he was the farthest thing from a gentleman. I opened my eyes to see that I was being carried into my room, my mourning attire so wet it was dripping all over the floor.

"Fetch me some towels – and some dry clothes!" Someone was barking orders at the other people in the room. They just looked like shadows to me. I was in a daze, not really knowing or caring for my situation at all. I felt strong hands set me on the bed and start to unlace the bodice of my dress swiftly and skillfully, with a practiced hand. Just who was this busybody anyway? Interrupting my euphoric illusions of midnight tea parties and stolen embraces. Really, what a bothersome person…

"Alice," a male voice cut me like a knife, making me thrash about on the bed. "Alice, quit it, or I'll get serious," he warned. How did this encumbrance even know my name? Lorina…why had you gone?

"God dammit, Alice! Open your eyes!" He demanded and then slapped me. Hard. Nope, my ex definitely would not do that, so who the hell could this person be? Slowly I opened my eyes, my head stinging in the lamplight that dimly lit my bedroom. Wait. Which bedroom? As I looked up I stared directly into the face of the man whom I had almost forgotten. Blood… Blood Dupre…the Mad Hatter; and boy was he mad!

"Here, drink," he commanded as he tipped a short glass of steaming brandy to my lips. Liquid fire poured into my mouth and throat as I downed the scathing alcohol. My body shuddered at the harsh sensation. Unexpectedly, Blood clasped his lips over mine; forcing more of the liquor down my throat.

"The hell-," I shouted as I shoved him off. It was only pretense though; I immediately felt yet another wave of dizziness and nausea hit me as a result of my sudden exertion. Blood sat on the edge of my bed, a dangerous glimmer in his eyes. My vision turned gray and I felt his strong arms catch me just before I would've hit my head on the headboard.

"So troublesome," his voice rasped anxiously. My body became immobile and my vision was all gray… His fingers began undressing me once again. This time I didn't raise a hand to stop him. Powerless, I gave in. He took off everything, and then threw my wet clothes onto the floor. Covering me with a warm towel, he began to wipe my body dry. Slowly, excruciatingly…I drifted in and out of consciousness, not caring what he was doing anymore. Did it even matter anymore? I was just happy to know that I was back; back in the arms of the one I had fallen so ardently…wait. Was I really this much of a sap?!

"It hurts," I mumbled painfully as I clutched at my temples, which seemed to be pulverizing my brain into mush. Alice lifted her face up to his, quite unexpectedly and touched her lips to his. Surprised, Blood didn't react at first but stayed there frozen against her lips. Slowly, he regained his composure and kissed her back. Bringing up his hand to cradle it around the back of her head, he gently pulled her in closer. He felt her heart pounding in her chest; an amazing sound, a wonderful sound. He deepened the kiss, sliding his tongue in to meet hers – it seemed as if it had been a lifetime since he had last tasted her. When their lips parted, Alice finally opened her eyes.

"Blood," she half-sighed, "you are the worst." Mockingly she stared at his devilish grin as he pushed her back down onto the bed.

"Young lady," he drawled languorously, "have I ever given you a reason to believe otherwise?" He was already half undressed – his hat, overcoat, vest and riding boots were strewn all over the floor.

"I must hasten to warm you before you catch cold," Blood interjected shamelessly before Alice could scold him for attempting to violate a sick person. With a touch of elegance he whisked off his dress shirt and that too settled down in a heap on the floor.

"Any last words?" he asked wryly, a suspicious twinkle in his eye. Alice looked at him directly, "Oh, just get on with it," she said while chuckling as she circled her arms around his neck.

The next morning, Alice awoke to the pleasant feeling of gentle fingers stroking of her face. Opening her eyes, she looked up to see Blood's face smiling warmly down at her. Wrapped in his warmth, it felt like the safest place in the world. I don't want to imagine my life without him, but can I trust his intentions? But before that… Is Wonderland even real? Can I trust this is a reality?

"Good morning," his deep voice rumbled reassuringly, casting off all her worries.

"Mmm, good morning," she beamed as she leaned up to kiss him. Her cheeks flushed as she remembered their lovemaking. As her thoughts drifted down a less virtuous path, Blood chuckled as he grasped her chin and leaned down to kiss her again.

"You were quite a xxxxxxx xxxxxxxx last night," he said, knowing her slight flush would turn into a burning crimson at the thought of 'that'. He knew she wasn't used to the idea at all of them being together in such a way, but really…her reactions were just too charming. Embarrassed to a "t", Alice gasped and then flung a pillow at his face.

"You-!" Blood made a measly attempt to shield himself, his laughter betraying him, but he caught her around the waist and pulled her to him tightly.

"If you don't like it, then don't scream so loudly next time. But then again, it's not as if I mind," he snickered as Alice, practically breathing fire now, wriggled out of his grasp and stormed out of the bed. As she went to her wardrobe to find some clothes to wear to the bath, Blood leaned back on the pillows and gazed at her greedily. No matter how innocent and green she acts, she's such a provoking little minx.