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


31. Chapter Thirty-One

That night, instead of going to bed, Jefferson let Grace stay up as long as she wanted to so she could continue her questions. He told her that she’d been born in Wonderland, though he tried to spare her as many details as possible. He didn’t want her to think anything that happened was her fault. He told her as much about Alice as he could, keeping it in the simplest and most light-hearted terms. He spun her a love story of bliss and true love and promised her that Alice would be happy just to know she was alive and well.

But Grace wasn’t accustomed to staying up past her bedtime, and she didn’t last long. She fell asleep while he was in the middle of telling her the story of her name. When she shut her eyes, they didn’t open again, and he was thankful she’d fallen asleep before he could get to the ending.

Then he stayed there by the fire as she slept on the couch, wishing and hoping everything would work out so they could be together again. Grace once told him that Henry’s family always found a way because “true love” always found a way. He never believed in it in a magical sense, but he wanted to now. Because he didn’t want to lose Grace and he wasn’t sure if he’d ever really lost Alice either. He couldn’t live another moment without her.

The next morning, when Grace went off to school and Jefferson was left alone with his hats, he decided that he had no choice. He just couldn’t leave Grace on her own if he didn’t make it back. So he packed the hat and the heart in his car and tucked as many weapons as he could into his jacket. Then he drove to the Sheriff’s station.

Thankfully, Emma was alone. She sat behind a desk chewing on a pastry and looking over paperwork. She was surprised when he walked in.

“Jefferson, what can I do for you?” she asked, depositing the remainder of her pastry on the desk.

“I need your help,” he explained. “More like a promise. A guarantee.”

“For what exactly?” She eyed the hatbox in his hand suspiciously. He took a deep breath.

“I just need assurance that you’ll look after my daughter—if something happens to me.” She cocked her head to the side.

“Is there a reason you’re asking me that?”

“Because I trust you. And the last person who promised to look after her—trapped me in Wonderland and kept my daughter from me for twenty-eight years.” She nodded.

“Right—Regina. I get it.” She reached for the pastry again.

“The family that cared for her before, I’m sure they’d be willing to take her in again. Just—make sure that she’s happy. I have a sufficient amount of money set aside for her. Just make sure she doesn’t go home to an empty house if I don’t make it back. Make sure she knows I love her.”

“You planning on going somewhere?” She motioned toward the hatbox.

“I’d prefer it if you didn’t tell anyone. They might get ideas. It could cause chaos. It won’t take them where they want to go.”

“You finally got one to work?”

“It can get me to Wonderland. That’s it. And I doubt that’s its actual purpose. It won’t take anyone home.”

“I wasn’t asking if it could. You going through?” He nodded.

“I need answers.”

“Let me come with you.”

“No!” Her eyebrows furrowed and he took a deep breath to calm the momentary panic. He didn’t trust himself not to leave her there just to get Alice back. He didn’t want the temptation so close. Especially not since she had a son to look after. “No, you can’t come. The hat has—rules. I won’t risk it.”

“Right. Well, at least let me hang out on the outside. To make sure nothing comes through that shouldn’t. Or so I can find out if I have to pick up Grace from school.” He bit his lip and nodded.

“That would be fine.” She polished off the pastry and slapped her hands together.

“Where do you want to do this?”

“Somewhere no one would find us.”

“What about here?”

“The prince?”

“David? He took the day off.”

“Then it’s fine.” He opened the hatbox and pulled out the icy blue hat. She studied it from afar, taking in the unusual color pattern and splattering of dark bloodstains.

“Unique,” she remarked.

“You have no idea,” he replied, setting it carefully on the floor. “The cup,” he explained as he stepped back, “the hat required magic to work. I’m not sure if it’ll work again.”

“You’ve already used it?” He didn’t answer. He spun the hat on the floor and stepped back, gently guiding Emma away from the quickly swirling storm of magic.

“There’s one more thing I need you to do for me,” he shouted over the noise. He pulled a box out of his coat and handed it out. The windows were cleared of dirt and the glow of Alice’s heart shimmered from within. She took it reluctantly. “I won’t take it there, just in case it falls into the wrong hands. So if I don’t come back—make sure that goes where it belongs.”

He jumped into the portal without further explanation.

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