Mary Anne applied her lip color with care, turning her head from side to side in the mirror to admire her long, platinum hair. She could barely contain her excitement. After all this time, her Love was going to present her with her heart's only desire: a proposal to be his one and only for the rest of their long, wonderful lives. She stood up and spun in place, admiring the shimmering fabric of her mint-green gown and the way it flowed over her petite, sweetly curved features. It took so much wheedling and begging to convince that nervous White Rabbit that she needed the evening off, but he finally gave in. Nothing was going to ruin this night.
Never in her life had she been this happy. Born in an alleyway, she never knew the world to be anything but cold and uncaring. That is, until she fell into the Looking Glass and found herself in paradise, or close to it. She was still just a servant, one of the lowest classes, but at least she could afford to buy finery such as this. And now, her future looked as bright as the dress she wore.
She frowned when she saw the small tear in the hem of her dress. She suppressed the flash of anger and pulled out her sewing kit. When she married her Love, she would be able to hire someone to do this for her. Months and months of planning were going to finally pay off.
Reginald downed his ale and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Tonight was the night. He would surprise his dear Mary Anne and there would be no question about how he felt. He had hand-picked the guests and arranged for a band to play while he sung his song to her. The evening could not be any more perfect.
The March Hare returned from the outside patio, having inspected the decorations. He clambered up the stool next to the Hatter and ordered an ale from the nearby barkeep. He looked up at his friend.
"The band has arrived," He announced. "I still don't understand why we didn't throw a Tea Party for this event."
"For an announcement this long in coming, I wanted to do something different." The man said, tossing a coin on the counter and winking.
"Are you sure about this, Reg?" Ears asked quietly. "Doesn't this seem a bit… over the top to you?"
"Ears, my dearest friend, I've never been more sure of anything in my life." The Hatter grinned.
The Hare shrugged and drank his ale. "Your funeral." He chuckled.
Reginald stood on the stage and looked over the crowd. All the guests had arrived and the band had played a few sets. Now if only the Lady of the Hour would finally show up…
And there she was, resplendent in her mint green gown. She was beaming happily at the crowd, tittering daintily into her hand at their open admiration. She was finally in her element and her sultry grey eyes glittered. Now was his chance.
"Mary Anne, darling! Welcome!" He crowed, arms outstretched. "Have a seat, lovey, and enjoy the wine! After all, this is your party!"
"And yours, dearest." She said loudly, looking around meaningfully at the guests.
The hoots and whistles rose in response. She gracefully settled in her seat and sipped the wine, eyes never leaving Reginald's.
"Quite right," He smiled indulgently. "Now on with the show." He chugged from a nearby tankard of ale and grabbed the microphone.
The band began to play a slow, gentle tune, one Mary Anne had never heard. Her eyes sparkled with tears, touched by her Love's consideration.
Eyes locked on hers, Reginald began to sing the gentle opening lines of a Lynyrd Skynyrd song.
Mary Anne raised one hand to her heart, touched by his song. How sweet—
The song took a turn, stating how he must move on. How he is as free as a bird...
Wait, what? Mary Anne felt her mouth drop open with surprise. All her beautiful, well-thought out schemes began to smoke as fire was set to them. The Hatter was just getting started.
His eyes closed as he sung with all his heart, the power ballad beginning to gain speed and depth. He didn't see the raw fury that poured from her eyes. The ashes of her dreams left a bitter taste in her mouth, a deep, unflattering frown marring her perfect face.
Mary Anne couldn't take it any more. She stood up, trembling with rage as the music sped up and he sung the last lines of the song, dancing along with the guitarist, the crowd roaring and cheering at his antics.
"What, exactly, is the meaning of this, Reggie?" She hissed, hands on her hips.
Reginald grinned at her drunkenly. "This, Mary Anne, is goodbye!" He roared. "Now... Bye-Bye!" With a saucy wave, he continued dancing, leaping to join the screaming, high-energy crowd.
Mary Anne marched over to the Hatter, parting the crowd with a glare. She waited patiently until the band died down and the Hatter stopped dancing, her arms crossed. Everyone on the patio waited excitedly for her to speak, a mixture of pity and malice in their eyes, as most of them felt that this goodbye was long in coming.
The Hatter looked calmly at Mary Anne, meeting her tear-bright eyes with surprisingly little difficulty.
"Why?" She finally whispered, her dark, raspberry lips trembling.
The Hatter's eyes grew cold, his buck-toothed grin mocking. "Well, Mary Anne, I'm bored of you, that's why."
Her eyes overflowed and her sweet lips pulled down in grief. "But… Reggie…" She whispered. "I love you, can't you see?"
Was that a touch of guilt he felt? He held on tight to the wall of indifference he had put up. "My dear, it has been over for a long time, and the only one who denied it was you." His words were a violent caress. "And I'm done trying to convince you."
Her shoulders slumped, eyes wide and pleading. With a cry, she turned and ran through the crowd and out the door.
The crowd remained parted, watching her leave. As one, they turned and looked at the Hatter. He paid no mind, fixing his face into a fierce scowl and turning to leave the opposite way.
Ears stepped into his path, his dark eyes reproachful. Hatter finally realized that he had gone too far. He sighed and walked to the gate, opened it, and disappeared.
Mary Anne had cried herself completely out of tears. When the tears ran out, only the rage remained. She shrieked her fury into the empty parlor and beat her hands on the old couch, raking the cushions with her nails. Her muddied dress left a trail on the plush carpet as she paced.
All her plans ruined! How could this be? She roared, picking up a lamp and throwing it into the fireplace. She flung herself on the ruined couch and ran her hand over her hair. "You said that this would be easy!" She snarled. "You promised me that he would propose!"
The purple-pink mist flowed from the ceiling of the Victorian Parlor, hovering lazily over the woman. "Ah, but that part was completely up to you, my dear." The Cheshire Cat giggled. "Why blame me for your shortcomings?"
"I needed him!" She wailed. "He was my only way to stay here in Wonderland…"
The Cat laughed, reversing his tumble to hover above Mary Anne, his grin inches away from her face. "Not true at all, Mary Anne," he purred, sensually. "You can always try again..."
Mary Anne felt herself trapped by the Cat's eyes, pulled in by his seduction. Her lips parted slowly as he moved closer.
"But all you have to do…" he murmured, "is change everything you are!" He howled and bounded up to the ceiling, cackling loudly.
Mary Anne shrieked in outrage and threw a jar of "Eat Me" candies at the rapidly retreating mist, shattering it against the ceiling.
"Wait," she panted after a moment, her rage spent, "he has a point." She breathed. "I can try again, I just need to find someone else who I can charm." She stood up and tapped a finger against her dark lips. "Someone who is far enough away to not know who I am..." She made her way over to the fireplace, lost in thought.
At that moment, a young girl was falling into a rabbit hole, tumbling head-over-heels into a world that would never be the same.
The Looking Glass above the fireplace mantle shimmered, changing texture as it rippled, slowly opening in the center like a whirlpool.