Bonus Chapter: Alice From YA Fantasy Novel Lady Janus’ Finishing and Reform Academy for Incorrigible Young Ladies
“Was I cursed or blessed with the site?”
“Silly girl. There is no such thing as cursing or blessings.” The girl looked deep into the face she trusted. The one who’s wrinkles and valleys she knew as well as any map of her homeland. Her Grandmother’s eyes twinkled the way they always did when she had placed the truth in a half truth and waited to see if her granddaughter could puzzle it. Of all the grandchildren she had sat on her grandmother’s knee the most often.She could time her pulse to the cadence of her Grandmother’s voice.
“Is that because every blessing is a curse and every curse is a blessing?”
“Oh my Alice. Down the rabbit hole and back for you my dear girl. To clever by half.”
“Are you a real duchess grandmother? Like in the story?”
“I always felt your father had the piglet to him when he was a babe.”
“Are you still a duchess grandmother?”
“My little Alice. Hold your name my dear that is yours. You will find a title is not. I see your brows knitting a sweater no you may not ask how. I am tired and my bones are only half full.”
“You are not going to die are you grandmother?” Alice asked with a voice of a child with all of the trust and faith that a grownup word could stand up to any dangers. That death might just be a myth or a legend that grownups used to keep disobedient children out of their herb gardens or from having true adventures in forests.
“Do you see that there my dear?” Her grandmother pointed with a finger that was an exact copy of a branch from a twisted oak on the east side of the gardens. She pointed at an oil portrait on her wall in a lovely carved gilt frame. “He was a dear friend of mine once.”
“Silly Grandmother that is just a white rabbit.”
“Yes, it has been a long time and my eyes are not what they were. He looked differently when I knew him. More of a shape of a boy to him then but with very large ears if memory serves.”
“What does a rabbit have to do with you dying?”
“Well my pet, my love, my poppet he said last night that I was late. Late for a very important date.” She brushed her finger over Alice’s nose making it crinkle. “There is something in you that reminds my of him. Do you still draw my love?” Alice nodded moving to grab the stacks of drawing waiting in the nursery for someone to care to look.
“No do not leave me yet child. I have something for you. It is no use asking I shall not tell and I have a lifetime of secret keeping practice to hold my tongue.”
“Like a cat?”
“With all of their yowling? No the rabbit. Silent little creatures. Silent with all of their secrets under ground. I would like you to promise me something my delight.”
“What is it?”
“Clever girl. Your sisters and brothers would have agreed. You ask for information and terms even with the one’s you trust. No do not take back my esteem in you by protesting. I am complimenting you and ask your father if you think I hand out compliments like candied violets.” Alice held her pinky to her grandmother who took it in hers. “A pinky promise? If you don’t put the marrow back to my bones girl. A binding pinky promise then. Promise me you will never chase the butterflies of the world. Not beauty. Not Attraction. Promise to be my heir in adventure. Fall down a rabbit hole. Keep your head raised even if an axe is coming for it. And above all my little Alice, if the horrors come and monsters are real put on the armor and be your own knight.”
“I rather be a knight than a princess anyway.”
“Do not let your father hear you but yes you will make a wonderful knight.” Now kiss my cheek and hand me my book.” Alice scrambled off her Grandmother’s knee and collected the book with a golden leather cover. “Let me sleep my imp.”
That was the night was the last night Alice had true company. She drew until she slept. The governess had placed her in bed but grabbed what Alice drew dismayed threw the sketch of Alice in black at an open grave that looked more like a rabbit hole. When the Grandmother was found dead in the morning and the governess came to tell the child finding her already dressed in black crepe she gave her notice.
Many years later Alice was curled, a nautilus, a shell, Aphrodite before birth. Her skeleton disagreed with her creating its' own shapes so she curled trying to contain the bones and hold them tight in their joints and under her skin. Doctors by the case had been ordered and dismissed. Her parents had first stopped asking how she was. Then they came only once a day to pet her hair and then the appointment to India came and she was left in the home with a nurse. Not a governess but a nurse who after she threw her first fit was happy to make sure she had a tray of food and a fire.
There was nothing to be done and if Alice knew anything about adults Nothing To Be Done was more intolerable than anything.
She had made a game of watching the light pass over her room, touching her toes, drifting over her legs, lighting up the side of her face then out of her vision. If she let her eyes unfocus long enough she didn't even notice her own cries. If only. If only a rabbit. If only her bones settled, if only someone would speak, to her, if only she would be left alone, if only there was a white rabbit and a hatter mad enough to befriend her. If only. If only her fingers did not buzz so. If only the nurse had not removed her papers and pens. It was too painful for Alice the nurse had said as she gathered everything up. It was when she saw the last of the drawings. The one of herself in her nurses' starches holding a group of papers staring back at Alice in an awakening of horror. "Not naturaul. You are not a natural child." She said. From then on a lower servant brought her food and if she cried softer she could hear the nurses rosary. Every so often she would sound it out. Just in case. Without her pencils it gave her something to do.
Her secret. The one in her head. The one she curled around. The one that did not hear her scream or care that she did. The one she would not tell anyone even if they were there was that it didn't matter. Paper, pencil or no. The reason she almost never got up or why she would stream her hair over floor.
The drawings still happed. She no longer had to make them. If she saw herself doing it it was all the same and would appear somewhere on her floor. The reason she was not crying today. The reason she was curled tight around her secret was what she had woken to. The dream where she drew a school with twin otters and two girls one of them splashing the other was sitting on the banks her hand over something Alice could not see. The dream where her drawing could be seen in tea cups. The dream where she would find a ring bright flat opal with its own stories to shift in the colors with gold pencil and paint brush holding the stone. She was waiting and when the sun passed over her hand the ring was on her finger and when the sun passed over her frame there was nothing for the nurse or the maid to find but for a very detailed life size sketch of the girl but the time the girls was not crying she was smiling.