It was Alice's birthday, and instead of going to school, like she was supposed to, she had decided to duck out of her mathematics class (for she hated arithmetic) to go adventuring.
It was a sunny spring day. The wind blew green leaves through the air and shimmering veils of yellow pollen fell to the ground in front of Alice as she made her way towards the Green.
The Wonder Academy was an old building, built in traditional roman style architecture. White marble made up four expansive wings of buildings, which surrounded a very large garden that the students called the Green. This garden had gates from each cardinal direction, and was a bit more like a hedge maze than a place of relaxation.
Alice walked down the gravel path up to the southern gate. A giant brass doorknocker in the shape of an S hung just out of reach. She rapped her knuckles three times against the door and waited.
"Who, I said, who, goes there?" cried a voice. A smile popped onto Alice's face.
"It is your friend Alice," she answered, "Do let me in, I'm in a bit of a hurry. If someone sees me--"
"Ah! Why, Alice!" The door fairly flew open, thudding into the bushes behind it. A brown-haired boy was standing in the entrance, his woolen trousers dusty and his dress shirt splattered with water. "Do come in."
"Thank you, Harrison," she said, curtsying, and closing the door politely behind her.
Harrison was one of the only two boys on Wonder Academy's campus. He was the son of one of the deceased professors and the headmaster had no heart to turn him out, as he was only fifteen. He lived in varying parts of the school, but could most often be found making mischief in the Green.
"Today," he announced, sweeping his arm towards the path that continued on, "We are having a very unusual celebration."
He tugged on her arm and led her off towards the center.
Tightly planted trees and bushes blocked the view of the festivities, and Alice knew she'd get lost if not for Harrison, so she skipped along behind him, taking the sharp turns in the path every so often. Occasionally they ran into birds, animals, or ornate fountains and benches left inside the maze. It was rare that someone actually made it all the way to the center--even most of the professors didn't know the way in. It was because of this that Harrison got away with his parties and games.
Finally she stumbled around the corner and saw a blanket thrown out on a grassy hill next to the pond. Another boy, Howard, was sitting there.
Howard was the dunce of the boys' academy. He was one of the most brilliant people Alice had ever met, but he had too much ambition to apply himself in school. His rich family neglected him, and so most of his time he spent with Harrison making foolish plans or having adventures.
"Alice!" Howard sat up, his obnoxiously bright orange pants grass-stained. His bowler hat, which still had its price tag on it, was dusty. "Welcome to our birthday party!"
"Well, who's birthday is it?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Yours, of course!" Harrison sat down next to Howard. "Please, join us, Alice."
They set some water to boil on a small fire that was already burning next to Alice. Tea cups and chipped saucers were littered all over the ground and several pots of already brewed tea were sitting on the blanket, staining the fabric.
A pot of water was sitting next to the fire, so Alice set it on to boil.
“How did you know it was my birthday?” she asked, playing with the sugar.
“Well, it isn’t our birthdays, and it is yours, so it must be your birthday!” Howard said, nodding his head and looking wise.
“I mean, how did you know the date of my birthday?”
“Oh, well, that was easy. The Mouse told us so.”
“Mouse?” Alice raised an eyebrow. “What mouse?”
“He lives in the sugar pot you’re playing with. Don’t move it around too much or he’ll be sick.”
Alice opened the dainty lid and saw a sleeping mouse inside. It appeared to be snoring.
“How ever did it get in there?”
“Don’t know. He just showed up one day. He tells us all kinds of interesting things.”
“He talks to you?”
“Well, no, but Harrison does his voice.”
“Stars and thimbles, in the sky, I think I want some cherry pie,” Harrison said in a high falsetto. He filled up a cup of tea with milk and tossed it into the lake.
The tea kettle began to shriek.
"Oh, Alice, you've burnt it!" Howard jerked the pot off the fire, tut tutting and making a fuss. "The taste of burnt water is atrocious."
"However do you burn water?"
"It just happens. I can't explain nature."
Alice chuckled at the strange behavior of her two friends. They shared a few cups of tea before she had to leave to attend her writing class, which she considered a birthday treat.
"Before you go, Alice dear...a very merry birthday to you!" Harrison and Howard called, as she walked out of the center of the maze, trying to get out.