Alice's Tea Party

"Hey, Alice, is it true?" a classmate asked when the teacher announced their break period and left.

Alice stopped her scribbling and looked up, blinking at the girl before her. "Is what true?"

"Your mother; was she really insane? Did she really hang herself with the bed sheets in that hospital?"

Her world blurred and her breath left her lungs. She could feel only her heartbeat hammering against her constricted chest. She looked all around the room for Aaron and Abel. Where had they run off to? She squeezed her eyes shut, hoping it was a bad dream.

But when she opened her eyes once more, her classmate still stood before her. And two others were behind her. She stood, ready to flee.

"Come on Alice, tell us the truth. We read all about it on the internet. There was no car crash, right?"

She stared at the floor. No, there had been no car crash. No, her mother hadn't died that way. But it had been a hideous death nonetheless; didn't matter how she died. Her father could've told her Mother passed away in her sleep and it still would've produced those tears in her tea cup that day when she was six.

It was difficult enough trying to get over the death without people throwing it in her face every chance they got. But that was why she had Aaron and Abel. Except for this time. This time, they were nowhere to be seen.

"Hey! Get your head out of the clouds. I'm talking to you."

More classmates had formed somewhat of a circle around her, peering over others to get a look at what they thought might've been a show. She didn't even know their names; all strangers to her. Most of them had their arms crossed over their chests and their mouths were twisted into shows of anger or opened in curiosity. From Alice's stand-point, they all looked the same. She thought she remembered Aaron saying he was going to get food and Abel might've said he was going to the bathroom.

"Maybe it was a cover-up, Beth. Maybe it wasn't suicide after all. Her dad probably killed her," another girl said.

She remembered reading in living room just yesterday, and hearing her father come in, she rose to go say hi, but hearing him on his phone, stood there in the living room instead. He spoke softly, as though he didn't want to wake up someone, and said, "No, you shouldn't meet her. … Because I don't want her to think I've replaced her mother. … Yes, it happened a long while ago. But Alice was old enough to know her mother, and it was devastating. I've told you this before. … No, I'm not ashamed of you. I'm ashamed... of myself."

She stood for only a minute more before slowly sinking back down to the couch. "I make him ashamed," she thought.

"Dad..." she wanted to say, "You can have her meet me. I understand you aren't being unfaithful to Mom. You should be happy. Be happy! Don't hold back for my sake."

But her tongue betrayed her when he walked in flustered. His eyes were nervous and wild. He knew, she realized, that she must have heard her. She looked around sheepishly and said simply, "Hey dad, how was your day?" as though she'd heard nothing.

"Ugh. No wonder Aaron and Abel hang out with her. Boys always love a good spook," another said. They all laughed.

She remembered the day when her father came to her and told her that she couldn't visit Mommy anymore. She looked up at him questioningly. The sky had been so bright she had to squint against it. Her father had elaborated softly, telling her that Mommy went to heaven and couldn't see her anymore but would watch over her always. And the sky seemed to turn grey and cold though she could feel the sting of the sun's rays on her back as she leaned over her little table in the green lawn and shuddered. That day, her teacup was filled with tears. Her stuff animals and dolls did nothing but stare at her, but Aaron and Abel draped their small arms around her frame and hugged her silently; letting her cry as hard as she needed.

"You don't know anything!" Alice finally said. It was these memories that left her standing here, in the middle of the class, with fists at her side and tears rolling down her cheeks.

"Alice!" she heard Aaron's voice yell.

"What are you guys doing?!" Abel yelled right after.

"You don't know..." Alice continued. Aaron and Abel stood still, looking at her just like everyone else did. "What business is it of yours what happened to my mother? Or whether Aaron and Abel hang out with me? Yes, my mother committed suicide. Does it make you happy to know that? To hear it from me? You don't know how painful it was to see your mother day in and day out telling you everything would be fine—that she'd come home soon—only to have her forget you by leaving forever. And what's worst is that everybody acts like you."

She looked at the girl named Beth and pointed.

"What did—," she started.

"No," Alice said. "I don't care. Just leave me alone!"

She briskly struggled through the small classroom crowd and left. She went down the stairs and exited the first door. It was bright and sunny outside. The tears she'd cried in the classroom were beginning to get dry and sticky on her cheeks and she wiped them away as she sniffed; her nose also affected by the crying. She sighed deeply. She really didn't want to walk back to that classroom even though her teacher would probably call her dad.

The sun felt so nice against her face, arms and shins that she held out her arms to it and shut her eyes, imagining the rays as something tangible; her mother, though she didn't want to say that.

The door burst open just as she'd thought about it and Aaron and Abel came spilling from it. She laughed at the way they flustered. Abel, was the first to recover himself.

"Are you okay?" Abel asked.

Alice nodded. "I'm embarrassed though."

"Well, don't worry. They hardly knew what to think about your outburst. I doubt they'll bother you again." Aaron coughed. "I wish we'd been there though."

She nodded; wished so too.

Abel went over to her and draped an arm over her shoulders, making her bend over a little since they were the same height. "Come on. Let's get back before Mr. Conley does!"

Laughing, they raced each other back.