It was wintertime in the town of Arsdale. It was a time of cheerful celebrations, riding carriages through the snow, and children’s laughter. The stone roads were covered in a light blanket of snow, which was soon plowed over by horse-drawn carriages and market carts. Couples walked hand-in-hand, their cheeks tinted pink from the cold. Children threw snowballs at each other and caught snowflakes on their tongues. For most, this was a joyful time of year.
It was also a time of sickness, however, and for the mayor’s family, this was the worst time of the year. The mayor only had two daughters named Amelia and Alice. Amelia had fallen ill, leaving the family worried and always busy with buying medicine, running errands, or anything else that could have been done to try and help the oldest daughter.
Although the entire family, including the maids, was constantly worrying, Alice was perhaps the only person who always tried to stay by her sister’s side. During the first few months Amelia had been sick, Alice had no trouble sitting in the same room with her older sibling, playing with wooden blocks, cards, and her favorite stuffed rabbit. After a while, however, Amelia had gotten worse, and every day, Alice tried to enter her sister’s room, but found she was held back by either the maids or sometimes even her own mother. Alice insisted that she was, in fact, a teenage girl and could handle sickness if she caught it. It got her nowhere, though, and she was always sent to her room down the hall afterwards. Another month passed, and eventually, Alice’s toys were removed from Amelia’s room and placed back in Alice’s room. This was the sign that told the younger sister that she could no longer see Amelia until she was healthy again.
Day after day, a doctor would come to the house high up on the hill, and would enter Amelia’s room to check on her health. Alice always hid away in her room until the doctor left, only peeking into the hall a few times when she heard the doctor talking to her parents. Another complication that the sickness had brought up was Alice’s friendship with her parents. She was a quiet child, considered strange by her father. She had once fallen into a coma and was found underneath one of the trees in the yard. Before the incident, she had been a talkative, daydreaming child, not unlike the other children in the town. A week later, when she woke to find herself in her bedroom, she didn’t say a word for two months. Charades was played most of the time to find out what Alice wanted if she couldn’t get it herself. She began to grow much attached to the stuffed white rabbit with the red jacket that usually sat unnoticed in the corner of her room, sitting at the tea party table. Alice and Amelia had always gotten along well, and Amelia was the one to bring her to say her first words after the long silent period.
After Alice had finally spoken, Amelia tried to talk to her about why she was being silent, and what had come over her when she had been knocked unconscious. Alice replied that she hadn’t been “knocked unconscious”, but instead had followed a white rabbit with a pocket watch, screaming that he was always late, down his rabbit hole and had ended up in a place called Wonderland. As her sister tried to tell her that Wonderland wasn’t real, Alice continued on about taking tea with a March Hare, a Mad Hatter, and a dormouse. She ranted on about a cat who always smiled like the crescent moon, a caterpillar who smoked and sat on his mushroom all day, a gryphon that picked her up and let her fly on his back, playing chess with pieces that were alive, card guards that arrested her, and last but not least, going to trial with the Queen of Hearts, and then playing an unusual game of croquet where the balls were hedge pigs and the mallets were flamingos to decide her fate.
Amelia couldn’t make sense of it, so she just smiled at her little sister and nodded a bit, then sent her on her way. A few days later, however, Alice started not only ranting about Wonderland to her sister, but to her friends and parents as well. She couldn’t understand it when they thought her strange and got rather upset, yelling at whoever told her that the magical place wasn’t real.
Amelia could only watch as Alice slowly destroyed her social life and friendships, as well as the town’s view on the mayor’s second child. Alice stuck to her story, however, and never budged when someone denied it. After a little while, Alice just didn’t care how people viewed her and her story. She just couldn’t understand that it was all a dream, so said her parents. As Mr. Elms tried to patch up the damage that Alice had done, people looked upon him as a little peculiar himself. Rumors sprang up like dandelions in summer, and when one stopped, two more replaced it. In Alice’s eyes, nothing was wrong at all. In everyone else’s eyes, the little brown-haired child was indeed ill.
Alice had never really connected with her family, which was why she loved her cat Dinah so much. Dinah was a rather small cat; the runt of the litter. Alice had tied a bow around her neck so that she would be able to tell which cat Dinah was if she should run away. Dinah didn’t like going outside much, however, and always followed Alice around the house. Once, Alice had even made a crown out of daisies for her precious cat.
The Elms family sought something that could repair everything again, but couldn’t find anyone or anything that would. So, they focused more on Amelia, especially when she was ill. Amelia became a favorite of her and Alice’s parents, and Alice felt neglected. Whenever she would tell her sister this, Amelia would laugh to lighten the mood and reason with her that nothing of the sort was happening. Alice would smile back and go on her way.
Now that Amelia was sick, Alice had no comfort in her home. Her parents didn’t talk to her at the dinner table and pretended she wasn’t there when they went out in public if she didn’t stay home.
Alice was hurt, but pretended it didn’t affect her. This wall around her, protecting her from the outside world, would soon break and shatter, however, and Alice would once again turn into that scared child that had fallen down the rabbit hole only a few months ago.