The house Madness had for me was quite nice. In fact it reminded me of the kind of houses in the storybooks I used to read as a kid. As soon as I stepped through the doorway it was as if a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders. There was a large dining table with several chairs, a kitchen with several dishes – mainly teacups and kettles – and leftovers scattered about, plenty of comfy looking furniture. I felt quite at home already.
“I hope you don’t mind you have some housemates. I think you will get on quite nicely though,” Madness winked.
My room was upstairs. It was simple. A bed, a mirror, a small table and chairs, a chest at the foot of the bed, and a wardrobe filled with several suits and amazingly some of my favorite hats that I had constructed over the years.
“How did you get these?” I asked, carefully examining a derby hat I had once made for the Duke of Yorkshire. I had deeply regretted parting with it.
“I think it would be best if you didn’t question things so much, my dear Simon. This land we are in is full of wonder, which means it will often leave you wondering, which can be extraordinarily annoying. So, the quicker you learn to stop wondering the more wandering you can do. Understand?”
“Not quite, but I’m sure I will.”
“That’s right, my boy, now you’re catching on.” Madness smiled and reclined on my bed. “So is everything to your liking so far?”
“Yes it is thanks very much. It’s like a dream.”
“Yes, a dream indeed.” He let out a deep sigh. “There is still one key feature of this house I must show you. Come along, friend.”
He took me by the shoulder and we went out the backdoor of the house into a fantastic garden. Flowers of every color, big hanging weeping willows, a massive table already set up for a tea party, and the entire garden was edged by a shrubbery as tall as the trees with lanterns strung from one side to the other. We followed the little stone path to the table where my two housemates and another guest were waiting. The table was filled with tiny sandwiches, cakes, scones, muffins, cookies, any type of food you could dream of as well as a good ten kettles of tea. It was set up for probably a good twenty people.
“Ah hello Madness,” called a musical voice. “I’m not sure we have quite enough room for you and all these guests, but I suppose we will have to make do. Tea parties are meant for three you know.”
“I thank you and accept your kind invitation, my dear March.” Madness gave a polite smile. “Might I introduce, Simon the Hatter. As of today, he will be living in this humble abode. Simon I would like you to meet March Hare and Dormouse, your housemates, and this is my good friend Time.
“It is a pleasure to meet you all, thank you for letting me stay here.” I took off my hat, gave a small bow, and took in the people before me. March Hare, as it happens, was an actual hare it seemed, or half. She was gorgeous and human, save the two brown rabbit ears protruding from the top of her head. Porcelain skin, pale blonde hair, and a musical voice; she seemed very familiar.
“The pleasure is all ours, Mr. Hatter.” March Hare gave a brilliant smile. “We are greatly pleased that we will have a regular third at our tea parties, isn’t that right, Dory?” She nudged the hunched over person beside of her, who immediately jerked up in surprise.
“Yes, yes, quite indeed,” Dormouse muttered before slumping back down. I did catch enough of a glimpse to see that Dormouse was indeed a dormouse indicating from the two rounded mouse ears on the top of her head. She too had porcelain skin, but the color of her hair and ears were exactly reversed with March Hare’s. Her voice was lazy and raspy, but very young.
The other man at the table chucked deeply. He was in a black and white suite and a fedora. His hair was long and blueish black, his skin as pale as milk. “Please, Simon, take a seat. So what do you think of our home so far?” Time asked.
“I like it very much,” I replied situating myself and pouring myself a cup of tea.
“Good, good. Madness has told me a lot about you and I thought you might.” He grinned and took a sip of his tea. “I hope you don’t mind, but in these parts I made an arrangement with your housemates that it always be teatime if that is alright with you.”
Although a million questions raged through my head, remembering Madness’s advice I pushed them aside. “Of course, tea time is my favorite time actually. I always wanted it to be tea time all of the time.”
“We did too! That is exactly why we made this arrangement! I knew you would do well here,” squeaked March Hare.
“No you didn’t.” Dormouse put in, raising her head and setting it back down directly.
We all laughed and proceeded with the tea party for an immeasurable amount of time. It was weird because it felt like days had passed, but it also felt like it had been no time at all. I was never once tired or had to go to the bathroom, and of course never hungry, but neither was I lacking appetite. The tea never ran out, the cakes and sweets replenished themselves, and there was always something to talk about.
Finally, Madness and Time stood up from the table.
“Alright friends, it is time for me to go. I’ll come back and visit soon.” Madness stated with his signature grin.
“Me too, I look forward to our next party together.” Time added.
“Alright then, we will try to have room, but I’m not entirely sure we will.” March Hare said smugly.
“No room,” Dormouse mumbled without getting up.
“Thank you for all your help, really,” I said, standing to shake both Time and Madness’s hands.
“Of course, I told you I would take care of you, my friend. Enjoy your tea.”
And with a bow and a grin he and time vanished.
As for me, my housemates and I carried on our tea party happily, forever. The occasional guest would pop in, but they were rare and never stayed for long. Madness did come to visit, as did Time, and some other interesting characters. But tea parties were best meant for three people, especially those that last forever.