Adela Clearwell knew that she was insane. This fact had been clear to her from the tender age of nine, when she'd finally grasped the concept properly.

At first, she was not terribly alarmed by this realisation. In fact, having lived a sheltered life in a perfectly avarage town, surrounded by overbearing, but well-meaning family members, she'd never truly experienced anything remotely akin to interesting her whole life. And, much like all people who did not have tragedy befall them, she naturally thought that misfortune was like a badge of honor, something impressive and desireable.

By age eleven, she'd gotten wiser about this sort of thing and decided to conceal her self-diagnosed insanity. She realised, perhaps, that it was a shameful thing and that, as she grew up, things that most adults considered amusing fabrications coming from a child would be construed as insane ravings coming from anyone older.

By age fourteen, she realised she was being silly for concealing her condition, because there would surely be medicine to help her and, given time, her mental illness could exacerbate to the point treatment would be ineffective. She still kept quiet about it, though, out of a deep, visceral fear of doctors that could only exist after being nurtured from early childhood and worsened by a genuine concern. At times, she'd been tempted to confess to her mother or her older sister that she was not well, even opened her mouth and almost let the words out, only to realise she wasn't sure which words she should choose or how to sound convincing enough. Even worse, she knew her parents would be very upset that she kept this from them for so long and, reluctantly, she'd resigned to her fate. She could only hope that she would not degenerate into a blubbering lunatic as years passed.

At age eighteen, Adela was convinced she could handle herself well enough. The hallucinations she'd been experiencing her entire life did not increase in frequency or in amplitude. She did not feel as if she would be a burden (or a threat) to society anytime soon. Stress or strong emotions did not influence these halucinations and she was satisfied to know that things would not change, even though their current condition was not ideal. Her life was manageable. Life was... okay.

Adela worked at "Mirabilia", her sister Aimee's clothes shop and had been working there for the past four years, of which she'd only been paid two (her career in retail had started at age fourteen, when she'd helped fold shirts in exchange for a quiet place to hang out with her friends, in the back room of the store. That was, coincidentally, the year her parents had become painfully aware Adela was an adolescent and had gotten it into their heads that she simply HAD to have been dating a boy behind their backs, just as Aimee did at that age. Adela was doing no such thing.) Aimee insisted that paying a fourteen-year-old to fold shirts counted as child labor, but simply having a family member help out was perfectly legal. Adela still felt exploited, but did not raise a fuss. Arguing with Aimee could be much like hitting one's head against a brick wall, except the wall was more likely to give in.

A normal day for the Clearwells' youngest child usually started with Adela trying to sneak out of the house so she could have breakfast at Liddy's, the pastry shop across the road from Mirabilia. Martha Clearwell, the girls' mother, was thus engaged in a competition to wake up earlier and make breakfast, knowing full well Adela could not bear the guilt of eating out when her mother had gone through the effort of cooking for her.

After a filling breakfast, there would be at least seven work hours and afterwards, her time was her own. This daunted Adela, because she simply did not know what to do with herself. Late afternoons and evenings were horrible black holes of activity in her life, where nothing she did amounted to much and nothing she needed to do could be done. This was a feeling only worsened by the fact that she'd decided to take a year off before college. Needless to say, when first explaining her intentions to her parents, they'd both been stunned into silence for the rest of the evening. Only the next morning (early, early in the morning, at that) did Martha Clearwell march up to her daughter's room, wake her up and ask pointedly, "Are you serious?" Only after Adela had sleepily answered that yes, she was dead serious, had Martha released her arm, looked at her amazed and finally uttered, "I guess it's fine, then. If that's what you want..."

In this year, Adela felt she needed to do something for herself. Something she'd feel proud of, something that would make up for the fact that she was sponging off her parents (because, though she was now being paid, it was hardly a notable sum).

Either way, it was barely late summer when Adela's life took a turn for the bizarre. Or, at least, for the delightfully whimsical.