Continuing Tales

I Love My Love

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by justadram

Part 10 of 22

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I Love My Love

Pilsdash Day

Mally had been right, and if she was here now she would be still: the house was frumious. There was no Time for cleaning, but he could coach a Breeze inside. He labored to stand, stretching awkwardly and moving towards one of the two front windows. Having thrown the first window open, he moved to the second window. It was stuck. Now he remembered why it was closed to begin with.

"Sticky Stucky Paint," he cursed aloud, rattling the window sash. That's what he got for using paint with 'Sticky Stucky' right in the name.

It came loose with a burst of effort that he dredged up from somewhere inside the heel of his right shoe. Thankfully, it was a sturdy heel capable of that kind of oomph. He pushed the window all the way open. The more Breeze he could get in the workroom, the less tired he might feel. He had no wish to fall asleep again. The last half dozen times he had, it had resulted in fitful examples of sleep, full of nightmarish visions. He stuck his head out the window, closing his eyes to breathe in deeply just to take full advantage of its wakeful properties.

His eyes opened and he quickly ducked his head back in, grabbing the window and pulling it shut quickly. His pulse began to race and the voices began to loudly taunt him. He giggled in an attempt to drown them out. He had thought that closing the window would put an end to the vision, but as he blinked his eyes and looked through the panes of glass, he could still see Her approaching. He reached for the window with shaking hands and shoved it open once more. Open or closed it was the same.

Alice still. Alice always.

He turned to run for the door and slipped on a tumble of fabric beneath his feet, dropping to one knee. Righting himself, he dashed for the door and yanked it open, running out and nearly falling down the doorsteps.

"Hatter!" His Alice called.

His Alice had never looked so Real.

Skidding on the dewy grass, he struggled to gain purchase. Alice's smile was so bright; Alice's hair so blonde; Alice's hands so soft. He looked down. He knew they were soft, because His Alice was touching him: her hands were in his.

"Alice," he whispered.

"I'm back," she said with a broad smile.

That's what His Alice always said, when she appeared to him like this.

His Alice stood on her tiptoes and pressed a kiss to his cheek. He closed his eyes, savoring the feel of her lips on his cheek. This was new. He had never been so bold as to imagine His Alice doing such a thing. Although he had a Memory of Alice kissing him very much like this prior to leaving again, he had begun to think that he had imagined it altogether and did not dare imagine it another time. He opened his eyes again, worrying that his vision had gone too far and that His Alice would be gone as punishment. But, she was still there, holding onto his shoulders and looking up expectantly.

It was not Real, but the vision brought him immeasurable, chest bursting Joy. He could not help but celebrate the Unreal. Yes, it always turned out to be the dress form, but never mind that for now, he thought.

"Alice!" he said, lifting her by the waist and spinning her around. "You're back!" he laughed, dancing her around the grass so that her feet swung like the clacker of a bell and did not touch the ground.

Twirling as they moved through the grass, he sang:

"A dis, a dis, a green grass,
A dis, a dis, a dis,
Come all you pretty fair maids
And dance along with us."[1]

His Alice's hands clutched around his neck; the feel and sound of her laugh against his brow; her waist beneath his hands; the weight of her in his arms. It all felt so solidly Real—nothing like the dress form—and it was all so tempting, terribly so, terribly deliciously tempting. Seized by Temptation, the Hatter allowed His Alice to slip down his chest until she was nose to nose with him. And then he kissed her.

At the touch of her lips to his, the imagined vision melted away, leaving only the Real.

He dropped Alice to her feet and took two quick steps backward. This was the Alice; not His Alice. Real Alice, Proper Real Alice, he realized with a shock, and he had just taken agreat liberty with her. He covered his face with his hands, not wanting Alice to see the color that he knew must be there in his irises as he recalled the warmth of her lips against his. If he was entirely honest, he would admit that he had wanted to feel them and to taste them for some time. Maybe he had done it purposefully: maybe he had kissed her, knowing in his heart that this was Real and not His Alice. Bad, naughty Hatter.

"Forgive…forgive…" he stuttered with his face cradled in his hands.

She would leave. She would be gravely insulted and leave. Leave him, again. She would have every justification.

He felt Alice's hand grasp his upper arm, tugging his hands from his face as her fingers pressed pleasantly into his flesh through his coat. Frowning, he reproached himself for allowing himself to salaciously savor her touch.

"Hatter," she said firmly, mistakenly thinking that he had slipped into madness.

What she did not know, what he did not want her to know was that he had been seized by a different sort of passion. Her hand skimmed down his arm and wrapped itself once again around his hand, her graceful fingers interlacing with his. It was imperative that he strive to rid himself of these treacherous Thoughts of what he would very much like to do with Real Alice.

"Are you Real?" he asked tremulously.

"Yes, Tarrant," she said reassuringly.

"Because, I have imagined you when you were Not so many times, Alice, dearest," he whispered.

"It is me, I promise you."

Alice and her promises: they occasionally took some time to be completed, but they always were eventually. That was why he could always count on her, plan on her, pin his Hopes on her.

"The hat!" he exclaimed, opening his eyes, as he remembered the most important thing. "I made you a hat!" he shouted, tugging her by her hand towards the house.

"Hatter! Take care," she laughed, tripping behind him.

"Oh!" he stopped, spinning around to see that she was encumbered by her skirts.

They were limiting her muchness again. His gaze travelled up her skirts to take in the rest of her. She was no longer wearing the dress he had made for her. She was buttoned up and nipped in just as she had been the last time she had come to Underland. But her hair was down and wavy, the way he liked it. His eyes threatened to settle on her lips once more. Naughty eyes—always wont to look where they would and not where they should.

"Come, Alice, hurry along!" he urged her, trying not to let his gaze linger too long. He tugged her hand lightly and wagged his brows at her. "It's a most Beautiful hat, Alice," he lisped.

His heart was hammering loudly in his chest. Alice might be able to hear it, he imagined. The thought of giving Alice her hat was nearly overwhelming his thinly balanced Sanity. Would she like it, he worried, as he led her through the door and skittered nimbly across the mess that only barely qualified as a floor? He reluctantly let go of her hand only so that he could take up the diminutive Alice Blue silk top hat. He held it aloft, nodding wide-eyed and expectantly. A long silver grey satin ribbon trailed off the hat that was only one fourth the size of his.

"For me? Just as you promised." She bit her lower lip, beaming. "It's perfect," she said, reaching out to take the hat from him. She placed it square upon her head.

"If I may?" he asked, lifting trembling hands to the brim of the tiny hat. She nodded, and he tipped the hat so that it sat at a jaunty angle atop her blonde curls. "Now it's perfect," he said, stepping back to gain a better perspective.

"Thank you, Tarrant."

He had to close his eyes again. Damnable eyes, he cursed, clenching his fists. She looked so charming.

"Tarrant," Alice whispered.

He could not open his eyes. Not when she was whispering his name. That was a part of a vision and a sound he had dared not dream. Yet, there were circumstances when he would very much like to hear her murmuring to him like…

"Tarrant, you do not look well."

He shrugged, attempting to achieve a nonchalant manner and dismiss his wayward thoughts.

"Your hands," she said, seizing them once more. "They are in ruins."

He opened his eyes to see his stained, sliced, and calloused hands pillowed in hers. The contrast painfully demonstrated why he was not good enough for her. She must see it too; she would leave again soon. He giggled, trying to silence the voices.

"Do you have a basin of water?" she asked.

He failed to respond, but Alice seemed undeterred by his silence. She let his hands slip and wandered to the back of his house.

"You need to wash your hands regularly. You need to wash your clothes as well—change out of the ones in which you have worked. And keep these windows open for cross ventilation," she lectured good-naturedly, as she struggled with a window.

Alice sometimes struck him as a school mistress—a very pretty school mistress, who could not help being just a little bossy.

"There," she said triumphantly, as the window slid open. "A basin?" she repeated.

Hatter wandered over to where he kept a basin meant for washing. It had not been used in several days, however; an oversight that had left his hands terribly stained. There was a mountain of hats to show for it, but he was not entirely happy with any of them. Not a fair trade—hats for health—but he had erred on the side of his trade for some time now.

"Is there soap?" she asked, coming up behind him.

"Yes," he lisped, reaching for a bar of soap.

Alice grabbed the wash cloth that lay nearby and took the white bar of soap from him. "Let me help," she said firmly, as she dipped the cloth in the water and worked on the bar of soap, creating suds. "Come now, take off your coat and roll up your sleeves," she commanded.

He paused for a moment, wondering whether he should give in to her desire to take care of him and his desire to be taken care of or protest such female management in preservation of his Masculine Dignity. He had not had much to begin with, he conceded, as he slid his jacket off and began to work upon his sleeves.

"If you take better care with washing and ventilation," she said, taking his hands in hers and removing his thimbles and unwrapping several of his bandaged fingers before dipping them in the basin, "it will help with the symptoms of the madness."

She ran the sudsy cloth over his bare hands and he was forced to squeeze his eyes tightly closed yet again. To have a woman care for him in this manner, he could not recall such a thing taking place before, and he did not think this was due to a lapse in Memory. This gesture showed far more than kisses and touches—while all very nice—could. Her hands were warm and the water was cool. Looking down, he watched their hands mix in the basin together more intimately than he had ever had the courage to imagine with His Alice.

Alice cared.

"Ye seem tae knaw a guid deal aboot Hatters, Alice, dear."

He chanced a sideways glance at her, as her shoulder brushed his. She was focused with great industry on her task, perhaps not noticing the shade of his eyes. That was his hope, at least.

"I had reason to inquire," she answered simply, meeting his gaze. "Your eyes are a beautiful blue, Tarrant," she murmured, her hands stilling against his.

He pulled his hands out of the water basin a little briskly, splashing some water and reaching for a spare piece of linen lying close by so that he could dry his hands. That would not do. It simply would not do to have Alice seeing his very impure feelings coming to the surface, when she was so very Innocent and so very Present.

"You look as if you have not been taking care of yourself," Alice said with a shake of her head, which very nearly dislodged her hat.

He ought to find some attractive decorative hatpins for her, he mused, as he stared at her hat.

"How long have I been gone?" she asked.

She may have noticed that his clothes hung a bit loose. Her absence had been both a physical and mental cause of anguish.

He swallowed, pleading silently with himself not to speak in the brogue. "A few months," he responded with false composure, tossing aside the now dampened piece of cloth.

"I am flummoxed by how Time works between Underland and Otherland. I was only gone a fortnight."

"Ah warned ye," he said with a nod, looking down so as to hide under the brim of his hat. The thought of Alice being gone, of Alice leaving, made a different emotion rise to the surface, and he did not want to frighten her with its physical manifestation.

"I'm very sorry, Tarrant. I know…I know I left with things uncertain between us."

Us? Was there an Us? Had he met this Us or did she really and truly mean Them?

"But, I have come back to you," she said, tilting her head anxiously. "Hatter, are you going to say anything? Are you very mad?"

"Mad? Yes, terribly mad, I'm afraid. It's an unfortunate problem with being a hatter. It's the mercury, you know. Nasty stuff, mercury, but necessary, I'm afraid. We use it in our trade, and hatters therefore have a tendency towards…"

"Tarrant," she interrupted him.

"I'm sorry. I'm fine. Thank you."

"Are you angry with me?" she asked with more grammatical exactness.

"You? No, never, Alice," he assured her. He wanted to reach out to her to reassure her, but he did not trust himself. He might do something improper. He might forget that this was Real Alice and not His Alice. "Whit for did ye come back?" he asked, inwardly cursing his accent's perfidy.

"You gave me one very good reason—that is why."

He pulled at his bowtie, so as to have something to do with his jumpy hands. Otherwise they might reach out for Alice of their own accord.

"Do you still?" she asked.

Did he still? Did he still? Did he still? He silently repeated her question so many times to himself that the words lost their meaning altogether.

"Do you still…love me?" she asked a little tremulously.

Suddenly Hatter felt like a Royal Fool as opposed to a right respectable Royal Hatter. One was not supposed to force ladies to take all of the initiative, even independent and strong-willed ladies such as Alice Kingsleigh, who were more than capable of doing so. Alice would think him a Royal Jester if he did not show some muchness very soon. The lass wanted to know if he was True and Faithful: she did not know that Hightopps always were.

He removed his hat and pressed it to his chest, solemnly speaking, "Aye, a luve ye, Alice. Ayeweys."

The corners of her mouth quirked as she playfully clutched his lapels, "Then I am afraid you must take better care of yourself or there will be nothing left of you for me to love in return."

The Hatter tramped through the grass, singing to himself:

"Wherever I'm going, and all the day long,

At home and abroad, or alone in a Throng,

I find that my Passion's so lively and strong,

That your Name when I'm silent still runs in my Song."[2]

It had been many long months since he had felt such ease and joy. While one meal and one good scrub of the hands could not undo the wasting effects of the intervening months, he felt himself once more coming to life. This bubbling happiness was just about to spill over out of the top of his hat. Alice had seemed to intimate that she might, perhaps, could love him if he took care.

At Alice's urging he was headed to the Hare House for tea. She would have joined him, but she was feeling a bit tired, and while Alice was as lovely as always, Tarrant did notice that she had circles under her eyes that were not the result of mercury. Therefore, he had left her sleeping in his bed, so that she might feel more like herself by the time he returned.

He drew near the Hare House and pulled out his pocket watch to make sure that he was not late. "Perfectly on Time," he announced as he approached the table.

"Hatter!" Mally squealed, climbing atop a teapot so as to see him better.

Thackery went nearly cross-eyed, trying to see down his nose towards the Hatter and finally clapped his hands at his success. "Ah imagined ye 'ere!" he cried out in triumph.

"No, I am not imagined. I am here because Alice sent me."

Mally visibly deflated. "Still gallymoggers," she sighed, climbing down off the teapot.

"This is not another one of my visions," the Hatter assured her, ignoring Thackery's chattering teeth. "Alice came back," he insisted, flipping his coat tails behind him as he took his customary seat at the head of the table.

Thackery looked about the table, searching for something before chucking a teaspoon over the Hatter's head.

"Alice is not here," Hatter explained, grabbing a teapot and pouring himself some tea. "But she is in Underland: Alice is abed." It took some effort to maintain his lisp and not slip into a brogue upon his final pronouncement.

"Oh, is she now," a voice cooed interestedly as a fine mist gathered alongside Mally—evidence of the Cheshire Cat materializing. "Whose bed would that be, hmm?"

The Hatter reached for a sugar spoon. "Mine," he said with a swallow.

"Now things are getting interesting. I wish very much that I had popped by earlier," Chessur purred, floating on his side.

"Slithy keeker," Hatter gnashed before turning his attentions to the stirring of the sugar in his tea, instead of the anger that threatened to well up inside of him.[3]

"How old is the Alice now? Ancient?" Mally asked peevishly.

"Old enough, I wager, if she's in his bed," Chessur chuckled.

Hatter stood up, nearly upsetting the table at which he sat. "Watch yer gab, cattie."[4]

"Nievel!" Thackery shouted, tossing a teacup at the Cat, who promptly disappeared and reappeared unharmed.[5]

"I will stop coming to tea if I am continually insulted and threatened," Chessur haughtily responded.

"Promise?" Hatter asked, before shaking his head to clear it of the angry voices and taking his seat once more. "Alice is fatigued," he finally explained.

Mally harrumphed at this news, but Hatter disregarded her.

"Worn out, hmm?" Chessur drawled, still enjoying his Impudent Insinuations and forgetting his feigned affront from a moment earlier. "Well now, I'm surprised you would leave her alone, when she's just returned," he offered, taking a partially cracked teacup in one paw.

He had not wanted to, but Alice had insisted. It was difficult to dissuade Alice of Something, as she was a very Determined Creature.

"Alice is the Champion of Underland. She is perfectly Capable of being alone," he asserted. Alice may have used those exact words with him. "And she wanted me to enjoy teatime with my friends," he finished, raising a teacup to the company.

"Perhaps she sent you away, because she did not want you panting outside her door, while she tried to sleep," Mally said with a frown.

Hatter's brows knit together. Was Mally right? Did Alice merely want him away? Did she find him repugnant? She would have good reason to do so. No, she had come back to him. She would not want him gone. The voices were not in agreement, but he did not care to debate with them. He was weary of them, for they had been his sole companions these past weeks.

"You're quite ridiculous, you know," Chessur announced, assessing the Hatter and finding himself in agreement with the Dormouse.

Yes, he was well aware of his Ridiculousness; he did not need his friends to remind him of it. He forced a laugh to relieve some of his unease.

"How long will she stay this time?" Mally asked, feigning innocence.

He had not asked. He had not had the courage to ask. One could never tell whether one would like to hear the answer.

"She always leaves," Mally said with a shrug.

Mally was unfortunately correct, although she was not properly acknowledging Alice's Importance. Alice always had things to do: Not just in Underland as the Champion, but in Otherland as well. Responsibilities—horrid things, he thought spitefully.

"She ayeweys comes back," Hatter gritted out before sipping from his teacup. "Besides, I thought you all would be happy to see me at tea," he finally managed, having swallowed a great quantity of tea to straighten his mind.

Mally's nose twitched and Thackery pulled on both ears. The Cheshire Cat merely closed one eye to better observe him with the lone open one.

"Course we're happy, Hatter," Mally said softly. "But, have you ever considered that it falls on your friends to help you every time the Alice leaves?"

"That wilna be happenin' this time," he said, setting his empty cup down.

"You're sure about that, Hatter?" Chessur asked archly.

"A'm sure." He was not, but he was too happy to consider Otherwise seriously. "Now, I do believe," Hatter began again, having regained mastery of his emotions, "that it is Thackery's unbirthday today."

Mally agreed in spite of herself, "It has been ages since we had a jolly unbirthday party."

"It is yours as well," Hatter said with a smile. "And yours," he added, nodding towards the grinning Chessur.

"Three hunder saxty-fower!" Thackery shouted, beaming crookedly.

Hatter considered for a moment: "Yes, that would be true, but we leap this year. Add one, please."[6]


[1] "Green Grass" was a popular singing game from the 1820s to the 1920s. 'A dis, a dis' might derive from the Scots word adist meaning 'on this side' or it might invoke the god, Dis, from whom the Druids were descended, according to the Gauls. Additionally, the green of this song may not be a color, but the old Scottish verb grene or green meaning 'to long for.'

"A dis, a dis, a green grass,
A dis, a dis, a dis;
Come all ye pretty fair maids,
And dance along with us.
For we are going a-roving,
A-roving o'er the land;
We'll take this pretty fair maid,
We'll take her by the hand."

[2] This tune was sung in The Brave Irishman, or Captain O'Blunder, a comedy that Thomas Sheridan (1719-1788) wrote while he was an undergraduate at Trinity College. The final verse is:

"On that happy Day when I make you my Bride,

With a swinging long Sword, how I'll strut and I'll stride!

In a Coach and six Horses with my Honey I'll ride,

As before you I walk to the Church by your side."

[3] slithy – combination of 'slimy' and 'lithe'; keeker – a peeping Tom

[4] gab — mouth, manner of speech

[5] nievel – to punch, to pummel

[6] Alice in Wonderland was published in 1865 and Alice was age seven. Therefore, while (I believe) the movie was set in 1865, I have placed Alice in 1877 at the time of her nineteenth birthday. Three years have passed between Frabjous Day and her return to Underland, so it would be 1880, which was a leap year. In a leap year, the Mad Hatter and his friends are able to celebrate 365 unbirthdays instead of the usual 364.

I Love My Love

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by justadram

Part 10 of 22

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