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Alice's Garden

By asana All Rights Reserved ©

Other / Fantasy

Blurb

Alice is not mad.

Chapter 1

“Tell us the story of the white rabbit.” 

They demand, eyes sparkling. That is all they ever ask. The little one still believes her, Alice thinks as she stares down into bright blue eyes, but the other two only ask to see their parents sigh and exchange meaningful glances. They all think Alice has gone mad, that the death of her husband snapped the already fragile mind of their grandmother. They take the garden as evidence of her madness; a whirlwind of color and crazed shapes packed somehow into that quaint house’s backyard. But Alice is not mad.

With pale hands, withered as the dying stems of flowers, Alice dons her pale blue gown and ties ivory apron strings in a neat bow. The dress is not the same as the one she wore on that sweltering summer’s day nearly seventy years ago, of course, but the color makes her feel young. She looses the tight bun from its place at the base of her cracked porcelain neck and lets silver-stained hair slide coolly down her back. The wardrobe’s mirror is as cloudy as Alice’s eyes, but perhaps this is for the best. Although she can feel the arthritis in her blue-veined fingers and the painful hunch of her bony shoulders, the figure in the mirror is young. A girl of seven, perhaps, with unstained golden hair and a churlish smile. The real Alice smiles back and returns downstairs.

The house is empty now; still Alice tiptoes to the back door. She opens it silently, peeking around the doorframe with the bright eyes of a curious child. Afternoon sunlight streams in eagerly, illuminating Alice’s face and making a rectangle of the wood floor shine like polished bronze. As she opens the door fully the ochre faces of sunflowers push their way inside, green stems and hand-sized blossoms filling the doorway and turning Alice into a shimmering jade image of herself. With surprisingly steady hands, the diminutive woman parts the tall stems like curtains covering a window and steps in and down.

The first few steps are in warm emerald semidarkness. Soft sweet-scented petals brush her, whispering like old friends as she passes. The ground beneath her black shoes is speckled green and gold, with a few spots of bright orange or fuchsia here and there where small flowers have found enough space and light to grow. As she walks, the brown and yellow faces of sunflowers give way to the ridged leaves and expressive scarlet faces of the climbing roses that cling to and drape over a wooden trellis. Alice creeps through the arch, the curled leaves catching at her silver hair and spreading it out in her wake like shining cobwebs.

On the other side of the arch the garden turns from wild to cultivated. Gold sunlight shines gently down on a trickling marble fountain and a grey pebbled path lined on both sides with flowers in every conceivable color and shape. Crocuses peek in lilac and yellow from behind tall flamingo pink lilies who grin mischievously. Mums bloom in rosy dawn pink, bold violet, gold, and bright orange. Chrysanthemums spread spidery petals in colors as warm and bright as hearth fires. Violets peer curiously from their beds. As she watches, a cool breeze sweeps through and sets the flowers dancing. Orange and white Gerber daisies let their petals droop and twirl like ladies’ skirts while the violets merrily jig. Calla lilies, white as china dolls, sway with a gentle dignity. Meanwhile the plum and amber ruffled skirts of the drama queen lily swish with scandalous abandon as the poppies, too sluggish to join the dance properly, bob their crimson heads lazily to a tune that only they can hear. Even the butterflies join, waltzing through the sunlit sky with milky wings whirling like petticoats.

Alice watches all of this silently, smiling to herself as she remembers other flowers from a long time ago. They would certainly be too stuffy to join this dance. As the minuet comes to an end, Alice trips lightly down the path, which winds around the fountain and doubles back into an area obscured by tall hedges laden with white roses. Alice gently runs her fingers over the silky petals, imagining that her touch leaves streaks of glistening red paint. The pebbles crunch softly beneath her shoes, the only noise in the garden besides the muffled trickling of the fountain and soft birdsong. The hedges loom over her on both sides, taller than her by half and so thick that even if she submerges her arm to the shoulder she cannot feel the air on the other side. A white-painted lattice extends over the path, covered in climbing bud roses, each smaller than Alice’s little fingernail and pale as the moon. The ground is flecked with diamonds of sunlight, giving it the appearance of a stained glass window at her feet.

Out of the corner of her eye Alice sees a flash of color. She twists around to meet the stare of the grinning conjuring cat iris. Its talcum face stares at up at her; sunset orange nose, yellow whiskers, and lavender jowls nodding in the breeze. A chill goes up the old woman’s spine. She does not remember planting this flower in the red queen’s garden, but, she supposes, that cat had always had a mind of his own. A noise startles her and she turns yet again. From the hedge near her left a soft rustling can be heard. She crouches, all thoughts of her bad back forgotten, and peers wide-eyed into the dark cavern of the hedge. Behind the dark forked branches, laden with thorns as long and large as thimbles, amidst the deep green shadows and rough edged leaves a pair of eyes meets hers. She starts back as they blink slowly, and her bottom hits the rough ground with a thud. Too transfixed to right herself, she watches a twitching nose emerge from the shadows into a diamond of amber sunlight. It is swiftly followed by an intelligent face of snow white fur and two long velvet ears. The white rabbit stares up at Alice gravely, glittering beetle black eyes and pale face the only monochrome in Alice’s carefully constructed Wonderland. “Are you coming, or not?” he seems to say, ears the only still stalks in the sea of dancing blossoms and leaves.

Without hesitation the old woman in the little girl’s dress follows the white rabbit into the brush. As her blue gown and silver hair vanish into the shadows cast by the leaves the wind picks up yet again. The flowers dance spastically, their stems clattering so loudly that they seem to be murmuring farewell.

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