I sit on my bed with my legs curled around my body as I replay the Flairayn’s message and their blessing over and over again in my head. I can still feel their gossamer touch as they blessed my birthmark, proclaiming me the next Queen of Wonderland. Does this mean that my parents’ wild dreams are right for me?
Flairayns are creatures of good, they wouldn’t lie about this, would they?
I slide off my bed, forcing myself not to glance in the mirror at my bruised appearance and newly ruined housecoat, dyed turquoise from the waters of the Crystal Pool, as I walk across the black and white tile floor to the large club-shaped window and step outside onto the black balcony, watching the stars. A warm breeze dances past, and I lean forward and rest on the railing.
A small rock arcs over the railing and clatters to the floor behind me. I turn and glance at the rock as another one arcs over my head and clatters next to the first.
“Megan?” Charlie’s voice drifts up from below my balcony.
I lean further out over the railing and see him standing beneath a tree a few yards away. “What do you want?”
He grins. “A few of us thought that we’d go ahead and get our suite tattoos to get ready for the Queen’s ball tomorrow night.”
“And this applies to me how?” I ask as other shadows begin to turn into the other kids from the other suite families.
“We’re making it into a party, come on. You’ll like it,” Charlie calls up.
I look down at my friends and wonder how I’ll leave the house without letting my parents know.
“I’ll catch you,” Charlie says, as if he’s reading my mind.
“You want me to jump?”
I sigh. “Let me go put on something more…appropriate.”
I quickly turn around and walk back in my room to my closet, searching for something easy to move in. I settle on a black, loose-fitting shirt and matching pants. Still in my large closet, I untie my housecoat and let the heavy fabric fall to the floor in a whispered hush, wincing in pain where it grazes over fresh cuts. Quickly, I slip the new clothes over my head and grab a pair of boots from the shelf behind me before running out to the balcony.
“Ready, Megan?” Charlie asks.
“Yes,” I say quickly before I can think again. With one arm on the railing, I leap over the edge of the balcony and fall through the air, my hair and loose fabric whipping upward, until I land with a light thud into Charlie’s arms.
He sets me back on the ground. “Come on, we’re going to Rachael’s gazebo.”
“The Diamond mansion?”
He nods as he takes my hand and leads me further into the woods that connects the Club and Diamond estates.
“Whose idea was this?” I ask as I nearly trip over a thick tree root.
“Mine,” he says as he helps pull me back up.
“And you’ve already done yours?” I ask as I see the spade-shaped mark on his cheek, pointing toward his lips.
“Yes,” he says quickly after hesitating for a moment. “I thought it would be a good idea so we could help everyone else with theirs.”
I nod in agreement, wondering if I can trust him with the real reason we’re doing this.
“We’re here,” he says.
I look up and see the giant red and white gazebo with diamond-shaped spaces. From the hilltop, the gazebo is shaped like a giant diamond. Music is playing, coming from the gazebo, where red, black, and white lights are strung all around and shadows of other suite kids are seen.
“It’s Megan and Charlie!” Rachael yells as we come into view, leading our small party. “Megan, this was a great idea! I’m slightly jealous that I don’t get credit for coming up with it,” she says as she hugs me tightly.
“Thanks,” I say as I step back. “I’m glad everyone likes it so much.”
“Well, we all do! Come on, we need you and Charlie to show us how to do it.”
We both follow her to the gazebo where everyone else is waiting. It’s fairly easy to tell which kids come from which side of Wonderland. All of the ones in black, members of the Spade and Club families, are from the west. All the ones in red, members of the Heart and Diamond families, are from the east. With all of us mixed together, we make a full house. Well, almost a full house. Since the Red Queen killed Alice, she had her head assassins kill any child bearing a suite birthmark, meaning she killed all of the would-be kings and queens.
“Megan, can you do mine?” one of my cousins, Tanya asks.
“What with?” I ask, still looking around.
“The black king’s thought,” she says, holding up a red bowl of the black liquid from the plant, black king’s thought, a plant that grows in the Spade and Club gardens.
I take the bowl from her and pull the brush out from the bowl. “Where do you want it?”
“Here,” she says as she lifts up her chin and points to the space where her neck meets her jaw bone.
“Don’t move,” I say, knowing the nayr brush bristles feel like feathers. As I work on hers, I look up and see Charlie working on Rachael’s diamond mark over her collarbone. Why do I suddenly feel jealous as I see the way she keeps looking at him? And why do I feel a small surge of victory when he turns his head and leans back as she leans closer?
“Can you do mine next?” a girl from the Heart family asks.
“Tanya can, she knows how to do it,” I say as I hand the brush to my cousin and walk through the crowd of dancers to Charlie and Rachael.
“Charlie’s good at this,” Rachael says as she sees me walk over, her voice too high and flirty.
“It’s just like painting, Rachael,” I say coolly as I take the brush from Charlie’s hand and set it in the bowl next to him.
“Was there something you wanted?” he asks, an amused smile on his face.
Irritated with Rachael’s flirting and the fact that I care, I shake my head and quickly walk away, my cheeks burning.
“Excuse me, Rachael. I need to make sure she’s okay,” I hear him say as he stands up.
I smile as I think of the unattractive pout that must be on her face, then let it fall as I hear his footsteps behind me.
“Megan, wait up!”
I start walking faster out into the grass.
“Megan!” he calls again as he grabs my shoulder.
I whirl around. “What?”
“You know what. What was that back there?”
“She hangs on every guy, it’s disgusting,” I mumble and turn away.
“That’s not why you walked over there, Megan. What’s going on? You’ve been acting strange since you came to my house earlier today.”
I refuse to look at him.
“What’d the Red Queen do?”
I look down at the silver-red grass.
“What’s the real reason the Queen’s having this ball?”
“Alice Heart,” I finally say softly.
“What does Alice Heart have to do with this?” he asks.
I shake my head and take a step away.
Charlie wraps one arm around my waist, making me step back toward him. “Your mark isn’t a tattoo, is it?”
I slowly shake my head and bite my lip to keep a tear from falling.
“What all happened yesterday?”
I look up at the sky, then back down at him.
“You know you can trust me, Megan. We’ve been friends forever, I won’t say anything about this.”
Breaking the rule that’s kept me alive this long, I lean against him and tell him the entire story.