“Almost—“ “OW!” “There!” My mother said with pride as she finished lacing up my corset so it was unbelievably tight. “I can’t breathe in this thing.” I grumbled, letting go of the bed frame, which I’d been holding onto to prevent me from moving whilst my mother suffocated me with ‘clothing’. “But you look absolutely gorgeous.” She praised with a smile, “Now get your dress on so I can take those rollers out of your hair.” I sighed, grabbing the white, lacy abomination from my bed and reluctantly pulling it on. “Okay, sit down.” She said immediately after my head had made it through the mess of fabric, ushering me to the vanity. She started pulling the rollers out of my hair, leaving ringlettes in their place. As she styled it and pinned a silver clip into the back, which stood out radiantly against the ebony black of my hair, she let her hands rest on my shoulders with a smile, looking into the mirror in front of us both. “You look beautiful, Shae. Now, can you manage a smile?” I smiled slightly, letting it fall again after. Sighing, my mother unclasped the necklace around her neck, putting it on mine. I let my fingers run over the delicate silver, “But, Mother…” I protested, turning to look up at her. “It was your Grandmothers. She got it from your Grandfather when they got engaged and she gave it to me when I got engaged. Now, it’s yours.” My mouth hung open slightly, “But, Mother, I—“ “No more, buts. Let’s not keep your father and brothers waiting.” Sighing, I reluctantly nodded and stood up, shifting uncomfortably in the itchy fabric with every step. “Come on, the carriage is waiting.” Papa ushered, leading us all outside and into the sleek horse drawn carriage waiting outside to take us to the Van Allen estate for the party they were hosting in honour of me meeting my ‘husband-to-be’, Anthony Van Allen. All I know of him is that he’s the youngest of the Van Allen children, having five older siblings; Clara, Geoffrey, Henry, Niomi and Laura. All the other five are already married and Geoffrey and Henry still live on the estate with their wives. “Shae!” My train of thought was broken, snapping me back to reality. Blinking a few times to steady my thoughts and vision before looking over at where Papa had called me from. “Come on, we don’t want to keep the Van Allen’s waiting for us.” I nodded slightly, climbing out of the carriage and following my family into the extravagant marble courtyard out the back of the Van Allen’s oversized house. “Finally,” Mrs. Van Allen greeted, stopping me in my tracks. “We thought you’d never arrive.” “We are sorry, Helen. We had some complications on the way here, I’m sure you understand with young children.” Papa said casually, earning a small nod from Helen. The stiff woman turned to me next, “You must be Shae.” I nodded, curtsying slightly. “That would be me.” I said softly, feeling rather intimidated by the number of diamonds and pearls she had dangling from her neck. “Anthony is waiting to dance with you in the courtyard. Go.” I glanced up at my parents, who only silently ushered me off before I made my way down the stairs towards the courtyard where everyone else was already dancing and a band was situated off to the side to play the music. “You must be Shae.” A voice said from behind me, causing me to jump as I turned, stumbling backwards into the violinist. “Sorry! I’m so sorry!” I insisted as I pulled myself to my feet and quickly moved away from the man who now had an extremely harsh scowl on his face, only to bump directly into a rather muscular chest. Slowly craning my neck to look up at him, I nodded slightly. “Uh… Yeah… That would be me.” The tall man chuckled, his hands finding their place on my waist to balance me. “I’m Anthony, it’s nice to finally feet you after all my parents have said about you.” I eyed the boy carefully, his features looked extremely chiselled, his eyes were much too dark to be inviting and his light hair made his skin look as if he had a glowing tan. “Yeah… Me uh — Oh!” I exclaimed, getting dragged onto the dance floor as the songs changed. Anthony led expertly, a slight smirk tugging at his lips as I stumbled back and forth against his lead. “You haven’t had much dance experience, have you?” He whispered in my ear, I could practically hear the smirk in his voice. “That obvious?” I muttered in return, earning a sharp growl from the man. “Don’t ever use that tone with me.” I nodded, slightly in fear of him and slightly in fear of my parents if they ever found out I disobeyed. “At least you know how to listen. My parents said you’d just be another preacher’s daughter with manners. The last one was.” He said with a scoff, eyes rolling as he pulled his lips away from my ear. The rest of the dance was awkward and silent, between me being too afraid to say anything and him being too stuck up to say anything that wasn’t an insult, things did not go well. Regardless, my parents still expected me to marry him, probably because he was the richest man left in town. As the music ended, I curtsied as he lent over in a small bow. “I must have a small word with the conductor, excuse me.” He said formally, walking gracefully and with purpose towards the band. I finally let out the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding, taking the opportunity to go out into the vineyards on the estate for a bit of fresh air. “Psst.” Someone called, causing me to jump as I looked around. “Hello?” I called, not seeing anyone around; in fact, I was so far away by now I could barely hear the music. “Psst.” I heard again, whipping my head around to see a familiar snow white rabbit dressed in a red waist coat, holding a golden pocket watch which he tapped on a few times before shoving it into his pocket and hopping into the rows of grapes. I immediately took off after him, stumbling through the dirt as he kept going expertly through the maze like rows of vines. I came to a stop when he led me to a large tree, the roots expanding in every direction. “Hello?” I called, “Mr. Rabbit?” Wandering around the tree, I nearly stumbled into a rather large hole, taking a couple steps back to kneel down at the side of it, one arm on either side so I could look inside. “Mr. Rabbit?” I called, leaning further to try and see inside. Suddenly, the dirt under my hands collapsed, sending my spiralling down into the dark tunnel. Screaming loudly as I tumbled through the seemingly endless hole, I grasped desperately at anything I could find, eventually finding a solid shape I grabbed for it and in the process hit a switch on the object, turning on the light and all the others that were floating through the space. My eyes widened as I fell past chairs, lamps, pianos and tables, trying to grasp at any of them to stop me from falling. Each one only slipped from my grasp before I finally fell onto a marble floor with a groan of pain. Sitting up slowly, I looked around the entirely marble room and then down at myself. My hair had almost entirely fallen out of the style my mother had done earlier and the silver clip was lost on the fall, my fair skin and dress stained with mud. Focusing my attention back to the room, the only furniture was a pine table in the center of the room with a small glass on it, full of a clear liquid and a label hanging off the side. The walls were covered in doors of all shapes, sizes and colours. Standing up I moved to the closest door and jiggled the handle. Locked. Moving to the next one I pushed the door to try and get it to budge. Locked as well. Trying every door there was, I eventually made my way to the table before seeing the golden key on the top of the table. Grabbing hastily for it, I tried it in every lock with no success. Finally spotting the door no bigger than a loaf of bread, I knelt down to try the key in that lock, pushing the door open with ease. “Great, the one door I can’t fit through.” I grumbled, glancing back at the glass on the table. I slowly made my way over, lifting the glass up to read the label. “Drink me.” I read, lifting the glass to sniff the liquid inside. “Smells alright…” I said, my lower lip getting tugged between my teeth. “Well, at this point I don’t think I have anything to lose. Here goes nothing…” I said to no one in particular, taking a sip of the liquid. Coughing immediately, I set the glass back down; watching in awe as the room suddenly grew, or… was I shrinking?! Looking around as my sudden change in size ended, I ran back to the door, key still in the lock, and pushed it open, stepping out into the dry, dusty world.