Alice and Jefferson knew that the joy of their time in Wonderland would eventually come to an end. They hadn’t spoken about it beyond their conversation that day on the hill. Though Jefferson took to kissing her almost as regularly as he touched her. And sometimes they would spend the entire trip in each other’s arms, laughing and stealing kisses whenever they could spare the moment.
Though Alice hadn’t brought it up, Jefferson knew that someday he would have to make a choice. He would either have to find a way to bring her home to the Enchanted Forest, or find a way to live in her world, or even just find a way for the both of them to live in Wonderland together. He just knew that eventually, her mother would find someone to marry her off to, and he never wanted to lose her.
Wonderland had a way of reflecting Alice’s moods, Jefferson noticed. On days when she would storm through her looking-glass after a fight with her mother, the sky would storm in anger and a hot wind would blow in from the Red Queen’s garden. On days when she was happy, the sun would shine, and birds would sing songs. He wasn’t certain if it was really Wonderland that was perceptive of her, or if he just imagined it that way. There was never any knowing with Wonderland. It was a strange and unusual place that seemed as alive as all of its inhabitants.
He still knew how Alice was feeling the moment he stepped through his portal and met with rain. He’d never seen rain in Wonderland. The dark purple clouds above dripped a water that was thick and smelled sweeter than any rain he’d ever seen before. He lifted the collar of his coat against the drizzle and hurried down the road to find the mushrooms that had become their regular meeting place. Alice was tucked under the cap of the largest red mushroom, using it as an umbrella to keep her out of the rain. She was leaning against the stem, with her arms wrapped tightly around her knees.
He hurried under the safety of the mushroom and dropped to her side.
“What’s the matter?” he asked, before saying hello or even kissing her like he usually did when they met.
“What makes you think something is the matter?” she asked. He smiled and gestured to the rain.
“What’s that got to do with me? Does it not rain where you’re from?” He laughed and shook his head before leaning on his elbow on the cloak she laid out.
“Oh, my dear Just Alice,” he said with a sigh. She seemed to warm to his words. She released her tight grip on her knees and stretched out her legs, careful to keep them from getting wet. Then she rested her head against him. He pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “How long has it been since we met?” he asked, rubbing his hand over the bare skin on her arm.
“I don’t know,” she admitted. “Time moves differently in Wonderland.”
“How long has it been for you? In your realm?”
“Several months.” He blinked, a bit startled.
“Only several months?” She looked up at him.
“How long has it been for you?”
“A year at least.” She sat up to face him.
“Yes, really.” She looked away, blinking a few times as she carefully calculated the time.
“I suppose that’s about right. Give or take a few weeks.” He smiled and reached up to brush his fingers over her cheek.
“I know you well enough to know when you’re upset.” She sighed and reached forward to put her hands on his vest.
“I’m not upset,” she lied. “I just—don’t want to work today. I’m tired of working. I just want this day. For the two of us. To stay here under this mushroom and not leave until it’s time to go.”
“We can stay here as long as you want, Alice.” He meant it. Truly. He would stay forever if she asked. She pressed her palm flat against his cheek.
“You do know how I feel for you?” she questioned.
“Remind me.” She smiled and shook her head.
“You know I love you.”
“I do now,” he replied with a smile. She sent it back, but there was still something wrong, and he wanted her to tell him.
“Don’t be silly. You’ve known all along.”
“Perhaps. But it is nice to hear you say it once in a while.”
“In your realm—in the Enchanted Forest—what do people do when they’re in love?” He wasn’t sure what she meant.
“They usually say it—that’s a good place to start. Kissing is always enjoyable.” He paused as she looked back at him expectantly. Her dark eyes shining with that look of curiosity that he had come to know so well.
“And?” she asked.
“Marriage,” he choked out.
Of course, he’d thought about that. But he figured that was a question better left for another time. When they finally figured out how to be together in the same realm. She ran her thumb over his skin. He was nervous now, and he thought she could probably tell. If he knew her well enough to know when she was upset, she undoubtedly knew him well enough to know he was nervous.
“Is that all?” she asked. His eyes went wide.
“I’m afraid I don’t—know what you mean,” he admitted.
She moved forward and slid onto his lap, knocking the wind out of him as she pressed her lips against his.
“You don’t desire me?” she asked. His heart was beating quickly in his chest. She had loosened her hair before he arrived so that it fell around them. He had his hands on her waist, but he could feel the buttons at the back of her dress. He could see her chest rise and fall quickly. She was nervous too.
“O-of course I do,” he stuttered. “But…”
“Is that—uncommon in your land?”
“It’s not uncommon. It’s common. Very common, in fact.”
“Is it a—marriage only kind of thing? Are you afraid of soiling your reputation?” He had to laugh. If only she knew just how many times he’d soiled his reputation.
“It’s not like that where I come from,” he told her. “Love is—love. So long as it’s true—we don’t have the same kind of—restrictions. Or perceptions of—purity.”
“You love me?”
“And you desire me?” He paused. Unable to speak now that he knew what she was getting at. It wasn’t something they had talked about before. He figured a girl of her background likely wanted to save herself for marriage since that’s what she’d been taught all her life. But he wanted her. Badly. And now that she was sitting on him, it was all he could think about.
“Yes,” he admitted.
“Have you not thought about it?” she asked.
“Have you?” She laughed.
“I’ve thought about you—constantly.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I’m saying it now. Have you thought about me? In that way?” He decided to be truthful again. His mind was hazy, and his body ached for her. She was so warm with her legs wrapped around him, but he could feel her dress getting in the way. Ruffles and lace, petticoats and cages, ribbons and buttons, and all other nonsense that kept them apart.
“I’ve thought about you every day,” he admitted. “Since the day we met. Truly met. I thought about how your dresses always have too many buttons, and I’d give anything to rip them apart and release you from your binding corsets. I’ve thought about touching you and tasting you and knowing you in every way that two people can know each other. It keeps me up at night. Sometimes I find it difficult to work near you.”
“Why haven’t you said anything?”
“You’re a lady. I wanted you to want me first.”
“I want you now.”
He didn’t need to hear anything else. Thoughts of her strange mood had been pushed aside. He pulled her against his lips and kissed her until his lips were sore and his clothes had become uncomfortably tight. Then she sat up and turned her back from him, and he got to pull apart each and every button. He did it slowly, kissing her neck every time he got one loose.
“Why do you wear so many buttons?” he whispered into the crook of her neck as he slipped his finger through another button.
“My mother thinks it discourages men from wanting to disrobe me,” she told him. And he laughed. It had done quite the opposite. If she’d had a reasonable amount of buttons he would have hardly noticed.
“Didn’t work,” he told her. She smiled and pulled her hair aside so that he could kiss her skin and get the rest of the buttons free.
And once he finished with them, he got rid of the corset and cages and all of the constricting and binding things her mother had forced her to wear. And when all their clothes were gone, and there was nothing between them but air, he filled that space too. He laid her down on the cloak and ran his fingers over all of the lines and marks her clothes had left on her skin until they had faded beneath his lips. She tasted as sweet as he imagined. And she felt even better.
He made love to her under a tall mushroom while the trickle of rain slowed until the sun began to shine again. He decided that he would find a way for them to be together. He would marry her if she would have him. He would find a way to bring her to the Enchanted Forest. And if that didn’t work, he’d travel to her realm to steal her away from her family and obligations and that pretty cage. He’d find proper work just to be a suitable husband. He would do any of that if that’s what she wanted.
But when he walked her back to her portal later that afternoon, her clouded mood had returned. After they made love, the sun began to shine again and everything had seemed clear and calm all day. They wrapped themselves in her soft blue cloak and stayed under the mushroom, naked and free and deeply in love.
When she told him it was time for her to go, the sky grew dark again. He’d helped her dress in all her constricting clothes and reluctantly reset every button, kissing the back of her neck as he worked on them. It began to drizzle again as they walked hand-in-hand to the waiting looking-glass. Once they reached it, she unclasped the cloak from her shoulders and tucked it into his arms. She kissed him goodbye, long and hard in the sweet tasting rain, and when she slipped through the glass, he knew she never intended to return.
Sorry for leaving you guys on a cliffhanger and then checking out for a while. Just kind of dealing with some things that suck. Also, I need to rewrite the ending because I have some new ideas that I need to lead into and I just haven't had the time to do that. And I've been trying to edit previous chapters and have just been really busy. But I'll get back to updating frequently asap.