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Caeli in Land

By Shelley Miller All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Fantasy

Blurb

Caeli is a young girl who longed to escape her dull life with her bossy, restricting mother and siblings. But one day, she discovers the path to Wonderland, only to find that it is nothing as it should be. The White Princess has taken over in the absence of a Queen and is determined to bring Logic, Sense, and Propriety to the once wonderfully insane land. Caeli must join the few Wonderlanders still fighting the ways of order and reason, and bring the madness back to Wonderland.

A Very Dull Beginning

The slow, screeching, wild melody on the violin echoed through the stately house by the woods. To everyone else, it was noise. To Caeli, it was music.

The ten year old glanced down at the black and white notes of the music she'd been given to practice. How boring it looked. Nothing but black dots and lines on stark white paper. Caeli gave up trying to follow along to the notes ten minutes ago and decided her time was better spent making something up on her own. Ignoring which strings were which and letting her mind flow, Caeli weaved the bow back and forth until she found  a sound that she liked and kept at it.

The door to her bedroom opened and there stood her sister, Maisy, looking very bad tempered.

"What on earth is that racket!?" she snapped at her little sister.

"It's not a racket," Caeli informed her. "Rackets are for tennis. This is a violin, remember?"

Maisy scowled. "You know what I mean. I don't know what that shrieking is, but it sounds nothing like Bach. Mom's going to be angry that you're wasting time and not practicing like you're supposed to."

Caeli stuck out her bottom lip in a little pout. "But I like my music better than...."

"I'm not going to get into this with you," said Maisy. "Dinner's almost ready and Mom will be home any second. So stop making so much noise and get cleaned up. Do something about your hair!"

Maisy closed the door to Caeli's room while Caeli herself sighed and put her violin away. She was not going to do anything about her hair, though. She liked her wavy, messy blonde fluff exactly the way it was. Caeli flopped onto her bed and took a raggedy cat doll into her arms, hugging it close.

"You think Maisy is making something good for dinner?" she asked the cat, holding it at arms length so she could talk to it. She stared into its pitch black glass eyes, not exactly expecting an answer. "I doubt it. She puts spinach in everything. She never remembers I don't like spinach."

The old cat just stared back, unblinking, its mouth sewn into a little frown. Still, Caeli smiled at it and hugged it again. Her cat was always such a good listener. She set it back onto her pillows and hurried out of her room, lest Maisy get mad at her again.

Caeli's house was a nice, expensive house in the nice, expensive part of town surrounded by woods. Her family had a cleaning lady, Yolanda, who made sure everything was super duper spiffy all the time. Caeli sometimes thought it was a bit too spiffy. The plain white walls and plain blue carpet just weren't very exciting, especially in contrast to Caeli's room. Her room had her handmade drawings taped haphazardly on the walls, toys and dolls stuffed onto shelves, and just enough clutter to make the place feel properly lived in. To make things a bit more interesting on the way to the dining room, Caeli decided to hop the way down the stairs and through the hall. She kept hopping until she saw the living room.

Above the fireplace was a triangular box with an American flag inside it. Sitting next to it was a picture of a smiling man in camouflage clothes surrounded by other smiling, dirty men in who probably had triangular boxes with flags in them at their own houses. Caeli didn't like the box. Not at all.

The front door opened and Caeli's mother entered, dressed in her gray lady's suit, and talking irritably on her cell phone. Caeli ducked out of sight and let her mother enter the dining room first. It was best not to bother Mommy when she was talking on her cell phone. She was an executive of a very busy company, which kept her away from home and often at work, and when she was at home, she talked about work on her cell phone. 

Caeli entered the dining room just as her mother was sitting down at the head of the long table, as though she were still conducting her business meetings here as well as at work. Caeli's brother, Nikolas, was there too. Caeli sat down at her chair just as Maisy arrived with the food.

"Dinner is served," said Maisy, smiling as she handed everyone their plates. "Crispy peanut tofu and cauliflower stir fry with a side of vegan fried rice."

Yucky peanut yuck and yucky stir yuck with a side of yucky fried yuck, Caeli thought sadly as she stared at her plate. Everything Maisy made used words like "tofu" and "vegan" in it because Maisy was a vegetarian and insisted that everyone in the house be vegetarians right along with her since she made the food.

"This looks excellent, dear," said her mother, nodding approvingly at the meal. "Speaking of, have you heard back from La Cordon Bleu?"

"I only sent my application in two days ago," Maisy reminded her mother as she sat down with her own plate of yuck. "It'll take a bit more time."

"I see," said mother. "Nikolas, did you hear back on that test you took on Wednesday?"

"The calculus test or the microbiology test? Either way, I got an A."

"Splendid," said mother, taking a bit of peanut tofu. "Caeli, have you been practicing your violin?"

"No!" Nikolas and Maisy answered before Caeli could say anything. "She just saws away at that thing making noise. She doesn't even try to follow along with the music," Maisy explained.

"That's because I'm making my own music," she explained.

Caeli's mother sighed. "Not again," she sighed. "Caeli, haven't I told you that you need to practice if you're ever going to be able to preform at your recital."

"But I don't even like recitals," Caeli insisted. "They're scary and boring and the other kids are mean and...."

"Everything is boring to you," said Nikolas, speaking so quickly that he didn't catch the last bit she'd said. "You can't just keep using "I'm bored" as your excuse not to do anything."

Her mother frowned at her. "Caeli," she said, in her warning voice. "You'll never get into a decent college if you don't master your craft. Look at your sister, off to one of the finest cooking institutions. And your brother is an honor student on his way to becoming valedictorian. You need to stop focusing on silly things if you're going to achieve anything yourself."

Caeli wanted to say something in her defense but lost her chance when her mother's phone rang again. She stood up at once and answered it, leaving to take her business call in private. Maisy and Nikolas weren't the least bit bothered by this and carried on eating their tofu and boasting of their accomplishments while Caeli kicked her feet under the table, her short legs not reaching the ground yet, and didn't say another word.


That night, Caeli lay in bed and looked over at the books lining the shelves by her bed. How she wished her could make friends with scarecrows and lions like Dorothy. How she wished she could fly like Wendy. How she wished she could meet fawns and magic lions like Lucy? All the children in all her books seemed to be having fantastic adventures. Why couldn't the real world have more nice adventures like that? Caeli closed her eyes and grabbed a book at random.

Alice in Wonderland.
Caeli groaned. Of all her books, this was the one she probably liked the least. True, she loved the idea of Wonderland, of crazy people who do nothing except have tea all day, of animals dressed as people, of smiling Cheshire cats, and queens who wanted people's heads for no reason. Wonderland sounded like a great deal of fun, Caeli thought.
The problem with the book was Alice. Caeli didn't like Alice. She was so fussy and so rude, always trying to tell the inhabitants of Wonderland to be logical and reasonable when logic and reason weren't supposed to exist there. What was the point of getting to see a fantastical world when you didn't appreciate that world for what it was? Why couldn't Alice just embrace the madness in all its glory? That's what Caeli would have done.
Caeli sighed and put the book back, suddenly not in the mood to read herself a bedtime story. She'd been reading her own bedtime stories for awhile now. She was a very good reader at ten and was the only one in her family who liked these kinds of books.
The only one left, anyway....
Caeli sighed and hugged her cat doll close to her. "I wish my world could be as fun as those in books," she muttered to her cat. "But all I've got is this world. A boring world...and a boring family who never likes anything fun."
But in a boring world, her boring family fit in perfectly. And that, she realized, probably made her the most boring of them all.


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