From her position behind the doors leading to the ballroom, Alice could hear that the ball in her honour was in full swing. She glanced at her father, took a deep breath and nodded to the footmen standing on either side of the door.
All of a sudden, the doors were flung open and one of the footmen stepped onto the landing before he announced, “Our Champion, Alice, and her father, Captain of the Guard, Charles.”
As he retreated, Alice stepped onto the landing with her father. The room was absolutely silent. Alice gazed at the crowd of people below her and smiled when she saw Tarrant watching her.
Throwing caution and propriety to the wind, Alice practically ran down the stairs, flinging herself into Tarrant’s arms.
Tarrant was unprepared for such an action and stepped back slightly in order to brace in preparation for Alice to throw herself into his arms. She hugged him tightly and Tarrant returned the embrace with a smile before he picked her up and spun her in the air.
Alice laughed in delight at the Hatter’s carefree, affectionate gesture before she asked to be placed on the ground once more. The second her feet touched the ground, Alice’s and Tarrant’s lips collided. It wasn’t until Charles cleared his throat that the couple remembered that they were not alone.
Once she realised this, Alice blushed and Tarrant merely laughed before he spoke.
“My dear, you look absolutely stunning. You don’t look very Alice-y though.” Tarrant declared with such a serious expression on his face that Alice couldn’t help but laugh.
She raised her eyebrows in silent question, prompting Tarrant to continue, “Your hair. Quite un- Alice-y”
With that, Tarrant proceeded to take out the pins holding Alice’s intricate hairstyle together until her curls were free and fell around her shoulders.
Tarrant grinned in triumph and exclaimed, “Much better!”
Mirana had been watching the interaction and smiled gleefully. She had not expected Alice to be so forward in her display of affection which had played out before the eyes of some of her court and her friends.
She felt someone come to stand beside her and turned to find Charles standing there. Charles smiled at her as the music began to play once again when the request was made of the orchestra.
Charles held out his hand to Mirana, silently asking her to dance.
Mirana blushed before placing one perfect, dainty hand into his own. He led her onto the dance floor and began to waltz across the floor, as if there were no one else in the world in that moment.
The rest of the guests on the dance floor stopped when their friend and queen took to the floor, including Alice and Tarrant.
They had been about to dance when Alice was startled by the sight of her father taking to the floor with Mirana, Queen of Underland.
“I had no idea...” Alice murmured, smiling at the affection the pair clearly had for each other.
Tarrant quietly replied, “Neither did I. Neither one of them gave anything away.”
Mirana smiled as she was whisked around the ballroom, her vision blurring into a flurry of colours as she was spun faster and faster
“Charles, everyone will see.” Mirana said anxiously, hoping to avoid the attention that she knew would come from dancing with Charles; however she was resigned that everyone was already staring at them as they waltzed around the ballroom.
“Mirana, people will talk regardless of what you do. Let them. Relax and enjoy the evening.” Charles responded calmly as he continued to lead her around the room with ease.
Mirana nodded and lost herself in Charles’ embrace and the lilting melody of the orchestra.
At last, the dance came to an end. Mirana curtsied and then Charles escorted a blushing Mirana back to her throne, which had been moved into the ballroom for the evening.
Alice smiled as she watched the interaction between her father and friend.
Tarrant watched Alice with amusement. He enjoyed simply watching her be, for he had been deprived of this joy for far too long.
Waiting patiently for Alice to notice him once more, as she had become absorbed with contemplating the odd relationship between her father and Mirana, Tarrant thought seriously about confessing his love properly to Alice. Of course they had kissed on a few occasions; however Tarrant had not yet been able to summon the needed muchness to tell Alice his feelings for her.
After what seemed like an eternity to the patiently waiting Hatter, Alice finally turned to face him and said, “Would you like to dance with me?”
Tarrant nodded but then summoning his muchness he responded, “Would you honour me with your presence in the gardens?”
Confused by his sudden change in demeanour, she accepted as her curiosity once again getting the better of them.
The evening was cool and yet slightly warm at the same time, making it perfect weather for an evening stroll.
Alice and Tarrant walked in the garden for several minutes in silence, the only sound coming from the flowers greeting the couple.
When the couple reached the waterfall that had enchanted Alice when she had first arrived in Underland, Tarrant broke the silence.
“Alice, I hope you are enjoying yourself this evening.” Tarrant inquired rather lamely due to a failure to fully summon all of his muchness.
Alice responded, “Of course. I get to spend it with my close friends and family. I am so happy to be able to live in Underland; it is where I truly belong.”
“Yes, yes. Alice I love you.” Tarrant blurted out, seemingly against his will, however he was glad that Alice finally knew of his feelings for her.
“Really?” Alice asked slightly breathlessly due to the fact that she had not been prepared for Tarrant to say such a thing even though she knew of his regard for her.
“Yes, really. How could I not?” Tarrant asked as he gently played with Alice’s hair.
Alice smiled and embraced Tarrant before saying, “I love you too, Hatter.”
The peaceful scene was interrupted by a rustling sound in the bushes, which startled the young couple and forced them apart. They looked at each other and then turned to face the intruder.