Her name was Alyssa, and when she was nine, her mother built her Wonderland. After being raised on a healthy diet of Charles Dickens, Enid Blyton and J.M. Barrie, it seemed like the natural course of action. She created it out of paper, each scene indispensably, indisputably perfect in its imperfection.
And she did it because Alyssa was terrified of the idea of falling through a rabbit hole, into a place that allows magic only when you are confused. Mothers do the most impractical, exhausting things to show how much they love their children. It seemed a pity that it was this very effort that kept Alyssa up all night, staring at the paper people like they were coming to get her.
(If Alyssa’s mother knew, she would have spent all her time trying to explain to the little girl that it wasn’t just paper people she should be afraid of.)
God appeared to have a sense of humour when little Alice became Alyssa’s best friend. She lives across the street, her hair always wild when she would run over in the same little blue dress and tell Alyssa the strangest stories.
Having understood that paper people were no longer meant to be feared, Alyssa listened with wide eyes to her paper-story-loving friend, becoming a part of a landscape that housed fairies and pixies and odd little men with funny hats and talking animals. It accepted her into its folds gradually and in a tree house made by Alice’s father, they tried to understand why ravens are actually nothing like writing desks and how hares would actually hate tea, but perhaps love coffee.
(This was before Alice’s mother left and her eyes broke, and they grew to understand that people grew apart better with pain than distance.)
James liked to drink coffee and wear funny hats and gave people rabbits as gifts. And he had never read anything about Wonderland. So of course, Alyssa had to fall in love with him. She counted the droplets of water on his eyelashes when it rained and wondered about how someone who has promised himself to her so effortlessly could possibly be seventy two point eight percent water; all this, because water was so easy to drain away.
She called him the Mad Hatter. He never quite understood the reason behind the name.
(That’s the thing with being in wonderland. It never really likes to acknowledge its own existence.)