9. Chapter Nine
Grace hummed to herself as she got ready for bed. Jefferson could hear her from down the hall. He’d left the door of his hat room cracked so he could hear her, and she’d left her door open so he could tuck her in when she was ready. Even from where he sat in the room full of hats, the sound of her song drifted down the hall to him.
Alice would have been proud of her. Alice would have adored her. He usually never thought much of what like would have been like if Alice had crossed over with him. Or how their lives would have turned out if they hadn’t taken that fateful and final trip into Wonderland. But now she seemed to be pushing her way into every part of his life again. Just like she did all those years ago when a fellow portal jumper and thief stole his heart.
They would have hurt for money, surely, but Alice had never cared for it. Jefferson was the one who wanted to spoil her with jewels and gold and fine things. But Alice would have been happy without it. She would have helped forage for mushrooms. She would have been a good mother to Grace, and taught her how to be a proper lady for when the time called for it. And taught her how to misbehave just for the joy of it. She would have told stories and sang her to sleep. He could imagine exactly what she would have looked like in their little cottage in the woods with a little Grace tucked into a sling at her front. That was the way it was supposed to be. It was his mistake, not Alice’s choice that led to her end.
If Alice had lived, perhaps the two of them would have lived together, watching Grace from afar. If Regina hadn’t tricked him into losing his head in Wonderland, maybe all three of them would have ended up in Storybrooke together. They could have been happy. Even under a curse.
He just knew that he would be sitting there listening to Alice hum along with Grace down the hall. He could imagine the exact song she would sing too. And he pictured her lifting Grace’s hands and dancing around her bedroom together. He would have heard them giggling and laughing.
But all he heard was Grace. And the house felt silent and empty. It was such a large house for a single man and his daughter. It was a home for a family. He and Alice and Grace and any other children they might have had if Wonderland hadn’t taken her from them. It was exactly the kind of place he had dreamed for her. The kind of home she deserved. He’d wanted so badly to build her a house like the one she’d lived in as a child. Somewhere where she could be herself and be free, but live with all the comforts she had known. Exquisite gowns and sparkling jewels. He wanted her to have it all.
When Grace finally went to bed, after he’d tucked her in and told her a story about a little hare with a crooked ear who drank too much tea, he returned to his room with the hats. He located the drawer where he’d hastily shoved away the embroidered blue cloak and pulled it back out. Even through the years, the faded bloodstains were garish and left a permanent mark on the once beautiful fabric. He wasn’t sure why Regina had sent it over with their curse like the teacup that had linked their fates. Perhaps it was a reminder of all that he had lost. It was the cloak he had carried his daughter home in, covered in her mother’s blood.
Once, when he was younger and Grace was still in her cradle in the Enchanted Forest, he had wanted to make something out of the cloak for her. It held many painful memories. He’d met Alice while she wore it, and he’d lost her while she wore it. He’d wrapped Grace’s tiny body inside of it when he brought her home. But it was her link to her mother. A physical reminder that she existed, beyond the features Grace saw in the mirror every day. He had wanted her to feel safe and warm inside the cloak that had once kept her mother safe and warm.
But the stains wouldn’t come out. He had scrubbed for days as hard as he could until the blue began to fade and his fingers were raw and red, but the dark reddish brown color of her blood lingered on the fabric. He couldn’t create anything for Grace in that. Not a warm blanket, or a doll, or a dress. It was forever marked by the death of her mother.
He thought back to that night when he’d used the cloak to find Alice through his portal. How it had led him right to her. Perhaps it could still be useful in this realm. It had taken him to her once. Maybe it could do that again.
He carried the cloak to the table at the center of the room and reached for a pair of sharp silver scissors. Then he cut into the fabric in the pattern that he knew by heart. He was going to make a hat. And maybe this one would finally take him where he wanted to go.