Finding Alice

“Every time I close my eyes
It’s like a dark paradise
No one compares to you
But there’s no you,
Except in my dreams tonight.”
-Lana Del Rey

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17. Chapter Seventeen

Emma’s little yellow Beetle came to a stop out front of the cemetery. Jefferson’s heart ached as he climbed out of his car and met her on the curb. She finished her greasy meal on the ride and thankfully only had the paper cup in her hands. He could smell the cinnamon where he stood.

“You think she’s here?” he asked her, before saying anything else. She let out a sigh and slapped her hand to her side.

“I have a hunch,” she told him.

He decided to humor her. He motioned toward the gate, and she stepped forward. He was silent as he followed her through the rows of graves. She looked around, but he didn’t know what she was looking for since he hadn’t actually given her Alice’s name. But she must have seen something in the cup that led her to believe the roses were there.

Finally, she caught sight of something familiar and hurried through the trimmed green grass, carefully avoiding the headstones of the people he wasn’t even sure existed in Storybrooke. She stopped before a grave. The stone itself had been lost behind an overgrown bush of tangled roses that grew from the head of the grave.

“I’m not sure,” she said, motioning toward the headstone. “I thought I caught sight of Regina’s mausoleum in the cup. That’s why I brought you here.” Jefferson looked up where Regina’s mausoleum was hidden in the shadows of trees.

“Roses don’t grow wild,” he said as he stepped forward and knelt before them. “They have to be tended to. Maintained.” He pulled a knife out of his back pocket and flicked it open. “They’re the wrong color,” he told her, cutting a large white blossom from its stem and tossing it onto the grass. He did it to the next one, and the next, until he’d pricked his fingers enough to make them bleed, but the name on the stone was now visible through the vines.

“Alice Liddell,” Emma read. “If you’re the hatter. Does that make her—Alice Alice?” There was a rabbit carved into the stone. He reached out and pressed a scratched hand against the carving, but didn’t answer her question.

“It’s not possible,” he said.

“You never said your wife was Alice. I know about Alice. The movie at least. I never got around to reading the book.”

“That wasn’t Alice,” he told her. “Wasn’t me.”

“Good. I’m glad to hear that. Wasn’t she like—ten?”

“She was seven when she fell through the rabbit hole. We met when she was nineteen. I was twenty.”

“Mm. There’s always something they get wrong. Alice though. That’s a bit of surprise. I don’t think Henry’s book said anything about Alice hooking up with the Mad Hatter.” He sent her a glare. Both for calling him “mad” and also suggesting that what he and Alice had was as simple as a “hook up.” He wanted her to stop talking.

“It’s not possible,” he repeated, standing back to look over the grave. Aside from the name and the carving—there was nothing else. Nothing personal. Nothing that said she was a wife and a mother. No date of birth or death.

“Why not?” she asked him as she sipped her hot chocolate.

“She died—if she died—in Wonderland. If there were a body—it would still be in Wonderland.”

“Yeah, but Cora found a way out of Wonderland. Maybe Alice did too. And Regina did trap you here. You were one of the only people who knew.”

He was glad to hear her say it. He had to admit there were times when he’d questioned his own sanity during the curse. It was nice to hear it confirmed. Or at least it was nice to know she no longer thought he was insane. Though he hadn’t given her any reason to believe otherwise. The curse nearly made that real.

“I didn’t know it was here. If she wanted to torture me with it, I would have known. She would have dangled it in front of me like she did with Grace.” She sipped her hot chocolate.

“Well, someone’s been tending to these roses. Like you said. They don’t grow wild. And they’re fully bloomed. Someone loves them.”

“You don’t think it’s Regina?”

“Actually, this time I’m not sure. Regina likes to be seen. She likes credit. I can’t say who it is, though. Just that it’s not—Alice.”

“Alice isn’t here,” he told her. He could tell that she didn’t believe him.

“Maybe the cup can only show you something from the land you’re in. Maybe it can’t show you what’s in Wonderland because we’re not in Wonderland. So it showed you the closest thing this world has to Alice.” He shook his head again.

“No. Other things in this world were close to Alice. Grace, for starters. She shares her blood.”

“I still can’t believe she’s the daughter of Alice. Man, it’s going to take me years to get used to this.” He ignored it.

“Thank you, Sheriff Swan. I think I’ve got it from here.” She put a comforting hand on his shoulder.

“I’m glad I could help. Even if it wasn’t exactly what you were looking for.” He gave her a quick nod and watched her walk through the graves to her yellow Beetle. No, it wasn’t exactly what he was looking for. But it was more than he’d started with.

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