I was absolutely thrilled that my poor arm, by now abused so much it looked a little mottled and sickly, was going to heal. But even better than that was the rush of confidence, joy and sense of acceptance I had just gained.
I knew there would be hard times, but I felt I could endure them if I had such lovely people and rabbits on my side. I made a note in my head.
To Do List:
1. Learn what's going on.
2. Find Isabella.
3. Save world.
Hmm, that was easy enough... right?
The Mad Hatter disrupted my musings by coming in with a kettle of boiling chamomile tea, a minuscule slice of chocolate cake, and an enormous grin on his shining, tear-stained face. He slapped all but the smile down on a small oak table and the living room and ushered me and the Queen in to partake. I felt lucky. Another tea so soon.
We sat down.
The Hatter handed me the slice of cake. I stared down at it for a moment and a warm smile spread across my lips. In cursive, raspberry-colored icing was scrawled, eat me. I looked up and I swear the Hatter winked.
I wolfed the tiny pastry down in two delicate bites and a pleasant tingling sensation ran down my fingers and throat. I looked at my arm to see if it was what I thought was happening. My poor, tired limb was healing, slowly but surely, with the help of a marvelous Wonderland magic.
The White Queen giggled at me. "This reminds me of a rhyme from my childhood," she said.
Cake and soda
The cure-all panacea
Ask the soldiers
And the flowers painted red
Cake is good for anything
When rightly, brightly fed.'"
"I like it," I said.
The Queen's face clouded as she poured everybody a green enameled cup of tea. "And now we must speak of dark things," she murmured, "to aid you in your quest, New Alice."
I nodded. "Tell me all about Isabella." I did my utmost to sound brave and admirable.
"Certainly. It is your right to know. I'll give you the whole story.
"Now, dear, you've heard the Cheshire's tale, I assume, brief as it was. I know for a fact that he doesn't like to go into depth on the subject. Well, he brought Isabella back to us, and she seemed nice enough at first, charming and quaint and rather blonde, almost a double of the original Alice Liddell.
"However, I saw what no one else saw."
Here the Queen paused to give emphasis to the foreboding sentence, and I leaned forward in my chair.
"You see, all the time she was here, she had a deep mournful look in her eyes. She was not content. I knew then that she must have had a very unhappy childhood indeed, more than the Cheshire Cat dared tell us. I hoped she would not take her sense of rejection and sorrow and transform into an angry, fiery wrath.
"When I learned that Isabella had made the acquaintance of the Red Queen, of whom I was not very fond, I decided to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with her.
"'Dear,' I said, 'why are you so sad?'