When I was younger, in the days of my youth, my mother did not believe my stories of Wonderland. She told me it was only something I used to escape the reality of my school work; perhaps only a dream from all the times I fell asleep during my tutoring.
As I grew older, I never let go of my happy memories of Wonderland; I spoke less about them around my mother though.
She told me to get my head out of the clouds, to stop letting my imagination run wild, that I was too old for fairy tale nonsense.
She could not help but remind me how regretful she was for letting my father read to me before bed every night; if only she knew it would lead to "this."
"It filled your head with rubbish."
"Gave you false priorities."
One day, a day that feels far from recent, my mother invited a guest over for tea. She called me to the porch from the meadow where I pranced.
"Alice," she called. I ran to her side giggling.
"Alice dear, this is Hamish. He will be joining us for tea."
I stretched out my hand to meet his.
He cleared his throat and retracted his promise for a handshake.
"Good heavens Alice, you are filthy. And where are your shoes?"
I looked down at my feet, tapping my bare toes on the damp ground.
"Wash up, immediately."
I danced through the door.
My mother was quiet during tea but her eyes did not leave me.
Hamish kept trying to make small talk about nothing important.
I just nodded and sipped tea, staring at the meadow through the glass, wondering when I could remove my horrid shoes and join the breeze again.
"What do you think Alice?" Hamish inquired.
I blinked and turned my focus back from the meadow, "About what?"
"I think it is a splendid idea," mother clapped.
"Yes dear, Hamish just asked you for your hand in marriage."
"My hand in..." I stared at the table for a moment, my brows furrowed in confusion.
"You want my hand in marriage?"
Hamish looked around confused, "Yes."
"When we met, you would not even shake my hand, now you want to marry it?"
I began unbuckling my shoes.
"Alice!" mother stood from her chair.
"Sooner or later you will have to grow up! A young, rich, handsome man is asking to marry you and all you can think about is your made up land."
"It is not made up! Wonderland is..."
"You WILL accept Hamish's offer, and if I ever hear another word about 'Wonderland' again, so help me Alice..." she took a deep breathe and sat back in her chair.
That night I dreamed that a beautiful blue butterfly flew into my room through the window.
"Alice," it whispered as it fluttered around the room.
"Absalom? Is that you?"
"Alice," it called out again.
"Wait, where are you going?"
It flew through the crack under the bathroom door.
"Wait!" I turned the handle.
"How did you get in there?" I asked the butterfly.
"Quickly Alice, before it's too late," the butterfly called from the other side of the glass.
"Quickly!" he spoke more sternly.
I reached my hand out toward the mirror.
I blinked back to consciousness.
I was on a stretcher racing down a white hall.
I felt a sharp pain rush through my right hand.
There was glass submerged under the layers of skin, blood spilling out.
I could not move my body.
"Is she going to be okay?" I heard mother's voice.
"We are going to treat her right away," replied an unfamiliar man.
"When she talked about 'Wonderland' I thought it was just because she did not want to grow up; I did not think she truly believed in it. But when I heard her open the washroom door in the middle of the night and talk to herself...and when I ever saw her reach for the mirror..." I could feel mother's eyes looking at my hand.
"It will be okay Madam, when you see your daughter next, she will have no memory of 'Wonderland.'"
My eyes widened.
I tried to sit up but I was strapped to the stretcher.
My crying mother was being held back as I was rolling down the hall into an unfamiliar place.
I was there for months.
I stared at those white walls, seeming to never blink.
But no matter how much they poked and pried, I knew I never imagined Wonderland; I knew I would see it again.
No amount of medication or needles could take that from me.
I traced the scars on my palm with my finger.
I knew I needed to get out.
I quickly stood from my rickety white bed and opened the door to the hall.
"Back to bed. Sunrise is not for another six hours," the hall warden spit.
"The light in the bathroom went out," I said holding my skirt and twisting my legs.
"Use the one in the hall, if you are not out in three minutes, I am coming in after you."
I flicked on the piercingly bright light.
There hung a mirror on the wall.
They removed the one in my bathroom; I had not seen one since the incident that brought me to this dreaded place.
I quickly and quietly closed the door behind me and pushed the towel cabinet in front of it.
"Absalom," I whispered.
There was a soft flicker of light, then the blue butterfly appeared behind the glass.
He fluttered around, seamlessly dancing in the air.
"Quickly Alice, before it's too late," Absalom repeated those familiar words.
Then, on the floor, appeared a small, clear, glass bottle.
"Drink me," read the tag.
"Time is up, open the door," the guard knocked aggressively.
I took a deep breath and drank from the bottle.
"Open this door!"
The guard tore down the door and knocked the cabinet down to find an empty washroom.
I was finally home.