Return to Wonderland

Looking Glass Saga - Book 1

"Finding yourself lost again in a strange new world?"

Overview

Years after that fateful fall down the rabbit hole, Alice has moved on from the memories of Wonderland and is now attending the prestigious Lucena Academy to get a fresh start.

Unfortunately, a purple haired boy appears at school and reveals himself to be the Cheshire Cat. He speaks in riddles about how Wonderland is a much different place than when Alice last visited and tempts her with a visit back. Alice must decide whether or not she will go back, or the Cheshire Cat will make the choice for her.

Details

Ebook


Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 690 KB
ASIN: B00LF6LM46

Excerpt

Chapter 1


Lucena Academy


At last, Alice had made it.

For years she dreamed of attending Lucena Academy, the prestigious boarding school that her older sister, Lori, went to. It sounded like the best place in the world, complete with grounds to run through, a garden that she didn’t have to pull weeds out of and a forest that, though it was off limits, was at the center of many tales that Lori brought back with her on breaks.

There was also school, of course. That was what her mother and father were more concerned with. The school had the best teachers, the best facilities, the best resources and the best families attending so that they could succeed.

All of those things were wonderful, but Alice looked forward to the people the most. She could already see old friends meeting up around her as they were dropped off by their parents, wandering back to their dorms or just standing around and chatting. She didn’t know what to say to any of them or how to approach them, but she was going to meet so many people here. She could hardly wait.

“Alice,” her mother said, bringing her attention back to the car. Her mother and father were there to see her off, though both looked worried.

Alice went back to them, trying to keep her smile more contained. They were worried, she knew, and she was going to do her best to make sure that they had nothing to worry about. She gave her mother an awkward hug, pulling back a moment later with a smile. “Thank you,” she said. “I’ll be on my best behaviour, I promise.”

That was enough for her mother, who smiled back. “Have a good semester,” she said, kissing Alice on the top of her head and smoothing out her blond hair behind the black headband she used to keep most of it out of her face. “And study hard. We don’t want to get any phone calls from the school about you.”

Her father was less content. He didn’t think Alice was ready yet, she knew. He thought she should still be home schooled for a little while longer, kept away from people who might think she was odd. But she’d done so well at being normal that she was certain he would have nothing to worry about.

“No one will call about me,” she said. “I promise.”

“They better not.”

She smiled back at him and hugged him as well. He pulled away first, nodding down at her, then turning to her mother. “We’re going to be late if we stay much longer. You’ll find your way?”

“Yes,” she said, letting her smile widen. She loved her parents, but in a way she was anxious for them to leave. When they left, she’d be able to go out and explore. With the entire campus so close behind her, she could hardly wait.

“Have a good semester,” her father told her, getting back into the car. “We’ll see you at Christmas.”

“We love you, dear,” her mother added as she followed him in.

“I love you, too,” Alice told her just as the door closed. She stood on the curb with her suitcase and waved as her parents drove away. She waited until they were out of sight before turning back to the school.

Lucena Academy. At last.

She resisted the urge to run through the garden, instead walking through the gate and down the path with her single suitcase in tow, taking in the flowers and shrubbery on either side. The air filled with the sounds of people, so many people that were wandering all around her. She wanted to talk to them all, but didn’t know what to say. Hello might be fine, but they looked busy, probably on their way to find their dorms or catching up with old friends.

Instead, she pinched the inside of her wrist, just to be sure that this was all real.

“Pardon me.”

It was going to be great actually having friends. She never had any back home, except maybe her tutor. At least, Ms. Miller had always been kind to her. Lori taught her not to mistake kindness for friendship, so she was never quite sure if she could count the woman among her friends. Ms. Miller was quite a bit older than Alice as well, so Alice doubted that she enjoyed their time together as much as Alice did.

“Excuse me, miss.”

She spotted the church on campus on the far side of the garden. Perhaps she should start going on Sundays. At home, Alice had always been too busy seeing her doctors on Sunday to attend church with her family. Not that she really knew that it was a good idea. She didn’t really know much about what she was supposed to do there. It was far too many years ago that she’d actually been to one.

Before the doctors.

She felt a hand on her shoulder and stopped walking. “Excuse me,” he said again.

Alice turned and had to look up. The other person was a boy much older than she was, wearing the seniors’ uniform. His black hair was cut short and he smiled, looking her carefully over with his brown eyes.

“Hello,” Alice said with a smile, not completely certain what she was supposed to do in this situation. “My name is Alice. And you are?”

He smiled. “Evan,” he told her. “I saw your parents drop you off. You’re a first year, aren’t you? Grade seven?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Your parents didn’t want to see you in?”

“They’re busy,” Alice told him. “They needed to get back to work.”

While Alice’s smile did not falter, Evan’s did for a moment. He recovered quickly, though Alice wasn’t sure why he looked so disappointed in that moment.

“Let me help you in,” he said, gently taking the handle of her suitcase and leading the way to the dorms. “Have you taken the tour already?”

“Yes,” she said. “But my sister told me a lot about the school already. I can’t wait to go looking around.”

“Your sister?”

“Lori,” Alice told him, a little sad. “She’s not back this year. My parents let her go to Europe without telling me. But that’s all right. It didn’t concern me, so I shouldn’t worry about it. And I’m sure she’ll call once she thinks I’m more settled in.”

“I’m sure she will,” Evan said.

Alice let out a breath and tried to focus again on the happier things. She had finally been allowed to leave the house. She was going to an actual school and she was going to have a roommate and maybe that roommate would become her friend. She might actually manage to get more than one friend while she was here. She could go to a real school and actually be with other people her own age and maybe even never see another doctor again.

“These are the dormitories for middle school,” Evan told her as they reached the large, U-shaped building. There were a lot of other kids here and Alice noticed that a lot of them were with their parents or older siblings. She was suddenly grateful that Evan was there, so she wasn’t the only one there without someone older helping her.

“Let’s get you checked in.” He led her to a table in the back of the large foyer. She was almost certain when there weren’t people around that this would actually be used for something, but right now there were other kids everywhere with their parents and without, some of them sobbing and some of them looking deliriously happy and some looking almost bored.

“Name?” the girl behind the desk asked. She was about Evan’s age, brown hair with glasses. She looked up and looked from Alice to Evan, her eyes settling on him. “Hey Evan. She doesn’t look related.”

“Just giving her a hand.”

“You know the rules.”

“Of course,” he said, Alice catching a hint of deviousness in his grin.

“My name is Alice Liddell,” Alice said.

The girl looked down the list and found her name on it, fetching her key from a box beside her. “Here you go. It looks like your roommate’s already checked in. An Adrianna... “

She paused, looking back at Evan with irritation. Evan did his best to ensure his face did not change, but Alice could tell from the satisfied look in his eyes that everything was going according to plan, whatever that plan was.

“I’ll show you up,” Evan said, picking up Alice’s suitcase and leading her to the stairs.

She followed behind him as he quickly skirted around the corner and down the hall, avoiding a knot of girls Alice’s age talking to an older girl also in the seniors uniform. She tried to keep up as Evan lead the way down to the hall, past several doors that had been left open and girls inside either alone or nervously getting to know one another.

“Do you think my roommate will be nice?” Alice asked, slowing down as she realized what was about to happen. Introducing herself to a senior was one thing. She’d probably never see him again. She didn’t think he’d even still be here helping her. But her roommate, she would be sharing a room with her for a whole year, possibly all through middle school. Alice needed to make sure that whoever she ended up with didn’t hate her.

“I’m sure she’s a very nice girl,” Evan said, stopping just before the door before the end of the hall. He gestured to allow Alice to go ahead of him into the room.

Alice took a deep breath and walked in, knowing she was probably as ready as she was going to be. She scanned the dorm, finding two beds, two desks and two dressers propped up against opposite walls and a window on the far side next to a washroom that had been left wide open.

On one side, a girl with long black hair had her back turned as she went through her open suitcase and was getting her clothes out. She didn’t even seem to notice that anyone else was there, humming to herself.

Though she was too nervous to say anything, Evan was not. “Addie!” he said, following behind Alice. “What a surprise. Are you in this room?”

The other girl stood up a little straighter at the sound of his voice and turned around, pulling the ear buds from her headphones out and smiling back at Evan, then down at Alice.

“This is Alice,” Evan said to her, stepping around Alice to stand between the two of them. “Alice, this is my sister, Adrianna. It looks like the two of you are going to be roommates this year.”

Alice, though she was almost certain Evan had planned this, was willing to overlook the setup. “Hello,” she said, offering a hand to Adrianna.

Adrianna took it and shook. “Hi,” she said.

“It’s nice to meet you.”

Alice heard a soft thump behind her and turned to see what it was. Evan was sitting on the other bed next to her suitcase. “Don’t mind me,” he said, looking around the room. “You two should talk. Get to know each other. Settle in.”

“Thank you for helping me in,” Alice said. It felt awkward having Adrianna’s older brother watching over them, like when she had to prove to her father and the doctors that she wouldn’t slip up again. She had gotten quite good at passing those tests, but she wasn’t sure what she had to do to pass this one yet.

“No problem,” he said. “My pleasure, really. I just-”

“Ahem.”

They all turned to the door where a woman in her mid twenties stood, leaning against the doorframe and glaring at Evan. She was dressed in jeans and a long shirt, her curly red hair tied back with a few strands falling over her green rimmed glasses.

“Hello Miss Amanda,” Evan said, smiling brightly and getting to his feet.

“Mister Case,” she said, not ready to take any of his attempts at charm. “I believe you know the rule about boys in the girls’ dorms.”

“I do,” he said, smiling and meeting her eyes. “Door open at all times and only to visit family, correct? And, seeing as this here is my younger sister and the door is open, I don’t believe I’m breaking any rules.”

Miss Amanda looked from Evan to Alice sceptically, then over to Adrianna. She looked down to a clipboard that she had in her hands and nodded, a wry smile turning into a genuine one as she lowered the clipboard back down. “Alice and Adrianna, I take it?” she asked.

The girls nodded.

Miss Amanda smiled at both of them. “My name is Miss Amanda. I’m one of the advisors for your floor and one of five advisors for the girl’s dorms. We’ll have a chance to sit and talk over the next week, but for now, know that you can come to me if you need anything, okay?”

Adrianna smiled and said, “Okay.” Alice just nodded.

“I’ll leave the two of you to unpack. In half an hour we’re all meeting downstairs and are going to head to the assembly.”

“Thank you, Miss Amanda,” Alice said.

Miss Amanda smiled back. “You’re very welcome,” she said before she went to the door and leaned against the frame, her gaze on Evan.

“I think I should let the two of you get to know each other,” Evan said, getting up from the bed and joining Miss Amanda at the door. “I’ll check on you again later.”

“Thanks,” Adrianna said as Evan and Miss Amanda left.

Alice and Adrianna went to their respective sides of the rooms, Alice opening up her suitcase and laying her clothes out on her bed. Adrianna fidgeted with a few of the things she brought, putting them away into her dresser or closet.

“Your brother seems nice,” Alice offered. “He saw me when my parents dropped me off and showed me in.”

“Evan’s really nice,” Adrianna said. “He’s usually really busy with stuff, though, so I usually ask Joe first if I need something.”

“Joe?”

“My other brother. Well, one of my other brothers.”

“How many brothers do you have?” Alice asked, taking a seat on her clothes to look at Adrianna while they talked.

Adrianna sat down and thought about it. “There’s seven of them, but only six are here. Ryan graduated. Then there’s Evan. Then Joe and Travis. Then Mike, Mark and Matt.”

“You have three brothers with names that all start with M?”

Adrianna shrugged. “They don’t really. They all just decided to go by their middle names because they thought it was funny and haven’t stopped yet. Joe and Travis keep saying they will one day, but they don’t think so. What about you? Do you have any brothers?”

Alice shook her head. “Just a sister. Lori’s not coming this semester, though. My parents are letting her go to school in London for a while.”

“That’s so cool!”

Alice smiled and looked away. “Yeah.”

“I wonder if any of my brothers know her. We should ask when you meet them.”

“Meet them?” Alice asked, feeling her heart drop.

Adrianna nodded. “Don’t worry, they’re all really nice. Except sometimes Mike, Mark and Matt. But usually they’re really nice.”

Alice didn’t feel any better and went back to unpacking. Adrianna kept talking about her brothers.  Mike Mark and Matt were in trouble a lot for pulling pranks. Travis was on a few of the sports teams and his twin, Joe, was in a band during the summer as a singer. Evan was on the student council and wanted to get into politics.

Though Alice nodded and tried to ask questions and seem like she was paying attention, she could feel her stomach typing up in knots. She wanted Adrianna to like her, but now there was so much more to worry about. What if one of her brothers didn’t like her? Would they tell Adrianna not to be friends with her? She didn’t know what she was even supposed to do when she met a potential friend’s brother.

She wished Lori was here. Lori would know what to do. Unfortunately, she didn’t even know how to get in touch with her big sister.

Adrianna was about to start talking about Ryan when they both realized the time. They went downstairs to meet the other new girls, most of whom looked a little nervous and uncertain about what was going on as they followed the five advisors for the dorms to the theatre.

The assembly itself was nothing that interesting. Alice and Adrianna chatted quietly, Alice asking Adrianna about what she liked to do. Really, she hoped Adrianna  wouldn’t keep talking about the other people that Alice was certain she was going to have to impress before the end of the year.

On stage, they recounted the proud academic excellence of the school and assured the new students that they would prosper here. There wasn’t much more to it, much of the rest reminding everyone of the ground rules of the school and a brief introduction to how the system worked.

As a boarding school, there were the students which would be there all the time and day students who went home after classes. Those who lived on campus had dorm advisors who would take care of their needs, including any personal issues they may have to deal with. The advisors were fully equipped to deal with anything they might want and they would organize outings so they wouldn’t get too restless on campus.

Alice and Adrianna were only barely paying attention until the student council took the stage. She saw Evan on stage as treasurer of the student council and the council was getting ready for several events that would happen this year. They all seemed quite enthusiastic about it all and, though Alice almost expected it, he made no mention or warning to anyone to not trouble his little sister. Instead, he kept looking over at another section of the auditorium where three brown haired boys were sitting.

They were dismissed soon afterwards. Though Alice and Adrianna got up and left together, the crowds of students scrambled around them, moving in waves and Alice found herself following a crowd that left her in a hallway she didn’t recognize. She lingered at the side of the hall as the rest of the students dispersed, all of them looking like they knew where they were going, but Alice didn’t recognize any of them.

She took a deep breath and kept calm. She could just retrace her steps. She turned back and tried to figure out where she had come from, finding a set of stairs. She didn’t remember passing a set of stairs on the way here, but she wondered what was up there. There was a deep blue carpet leading up to a higher floor. It looked like it had windows.

Curiosity won out over worries about being lost and she went upstairs to see a hallway that lead to a locked door. The windows that lined the wall showed the rooftop where it looked like someone had started a garden years ago and abandoned it.

“Finding yourself lost again in a strange new world?” a voice said, sounding strangely familiar, something from a long time ago. “But then, what is lost? If you find your way in the end, were you ever lost in the first place, or merely taking a detour?”

She looked around for where the voice was coming from. What she eventually found was a face that slunk around the corner, followed by the rest of their body. It was a boy a few years older than she was, possibly several years, with purple hair that seemed to go everywhere, wild and equally purple eyes and a mouth that was a little too wide for his face grinning from ear to ear. It was the mouth with the voice that made her remember where she’d heard it before.

Alice pinched the inside of her wrist, but he didn’t go away.

“I remember you,” Alice said, feet backing away a step. “You were a cat the last time I saw you.”

“Was I?” he asked, puzzling over it. He looked down at himself. “I do appear not to be a cat right now. Appearances are meant to be deceiving, though. I still feel very much like I am a cat and merely borrowing the form of a school boy for now. Or perhaps it’s the boy borrowing my mind.”

“You still speak in riddles.”

“If I did not, would I still be myself? I am quite pleased with being myself, you see, and would rather prefer not to be someone else. Other people are terribly dreary.” He thought for a moment, then smiled wide at Alice. “Though I admit,” he said, slinking around behind her, “I do prefer being a cat.”

When he appeared on her other side, he was what she remembered him as. The large purple cat from Wonderland smiled back at her, showing all of his teeth.

Alice flinched at the sight of him, the ghost of a pain running through her arm. The Cheshire Cat had found her again and was sitting here before her. She promised that she would not talk about Wonderland and would not try to say Wonderland was real, but what was she supposed to do when Wonderland found her?

“I need to go,” Alice said, her heart pounding in her ears. She turned and went back to the stairs as quickly as she could without running.

“I see,” he said, slinking back around her feet to stop her from going further, his tail snaking along her leg. “Little Alice is lost and would like to find her way back, but you’re an awfully long way from home. Sent away for speaking too much of a place which may not even exist. Tsk tsk.”

Alice tried to step away from him and remove her feet, but he continued to purr and wind himself up around her body.

“I wonder if they made you forget. You remember me, but do you remember the rest? And if you’ve forgotten, did any of it really happen? Was it real? I wonder. What have they done to you since you left us? To you, did Wonderland ever exist?”

“It does exist, you stupid cat!” she snapped at him. Her hands went back to her mouth immediately, her eyes darting around to make sure no one heard her.

“Oh, so you do remember,” he said with a bit of a sad drawl. “But the Wonderland of now is not the  Wonderland of fun and games it used to be. All things change in time, young Alice, but Wonderland has not changed for the better. It is no longer a pleasant place and I did well to take my leave when I did. Though I am considering returning.”

“That’s good,” Alice said, trying to untangle herself from the cat, who was now winding himself up under her arms. She needed to get away from Wonderland. She wasn’t supposed to even be thinking about Wonderland anymore. “You belong there.”

“Belong,” the cat laughed. “Perhaps. Perhaps it is where many maddening things belong. You are mad too, young Alice, and don’t you forget that. Perhaps you belong in Wonderland with me.”

The Cheshire Cat slunk off of her and onto the railing, watching her as she backed away from him and started to head down the stairs. “If you wish to return,” he said, “if only for moment, there is a way. It will be my half birthday present to you, if you wish to accept such a gift.”

Alice stopped on the stairs, her breath catching in her throat. “I don’t think I’ll be going back again,” Alice said, not looking back at him. “I think I endured enough from my last visit to last an entire lifetime.”

“If you wish, young Alice,” he said, his voice silky as it seemed to slip past her ear. “But your gift has not yet arrived. There is a month yet until you can even decide whether or not you will accept.”

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