Alex picked up his mug to take a sip of coffee, only to find that there was hardly a drop left. He frowned, feeling too lazy to get up and make another cup, and set it back down on the bedside table. His entire morning had consisted of looking over the file of Alison ("Allie" to her friends) Little. When he'd first seen her picture, he instantly spotted a few minor differences between her and Alice. (Alex had tried to convince himself they were minor, but he just couldn't ignore them!)
The Little girl had short brown waves for hair, very much unlike Alice's long, honey-blonde curls. Allie's eyes were also two different colours – a rare occurrence, Alex knew, and he had to give her points for having at least one blue eye that resembled Alice's. The shape of the face and the girl's complexion matched Alice's, though: Pale and heart-shaped, with big eyes, high cheekbones and full lips. Alex wouldn't be surprised if Allie's parents were a model and an actor.
A knock on his door startled him. He was just about to let out a frustrated breath when Ren walked in with a bag with the Subway logo all over it. Inside were two foot-long subs.
"How's the reading?" he asked, seating himself at the end of the bed. Alex grabbed the first page and held it out to Ren, trading it for his sub.
"Well," he said, shrugging, "she seems like a modern-day Alice. I mean, she's smart and has this thing with rabbits, and she wears hats every day."
"Connection to the Mad Hatter," Ren noted. He blinked, most likely at the picture provided. "Contacts – there's a shine in her eyes from contacts. I'd say her vision isn't entirely twenty-twenty."
Alex didn't dare question Ren's keen eye, merely nodded and started to eat his sub. He could taste chicken teriyaki and tasty cheese, the gooey flavour melting on his tongue. The younger teen set the plastic bag down and picked up another page, eyes darting back and forth. Alex raised a blonde brow, intrigued by how absorbed in reading the file Ren had become. It wasn't unusual, really; Ren had always been more interested in something written on paper than people around him. He even went so far as to ignore basic needs in order to finish a book. (It was a relief that Ren was a speed-reader, or else Alex would be making weekly trips to the local hospital.)
So he sat there and nibbled at his food, watching as Ren piled the pages he'd read, one after another. It wasn't until he hit the seventeenth page that his brown eyes narrowed in confusion. "Hold on," he said softly. "Urey missed something."
"What?" Alex blinked in surprise. "The All-Knowing Urey missed something?"
Ren nodded, handed him the page. Sure enough, along with an unknown blood type, Allie's history between her birth and age four were missing. "Odd," he muttered. "It's not on another page, either?"
Another nod from Ren, but this one was uncertain. He checked the other pages in a few short minutes, then sighed and pulled his sub out of the bag. "Nothing."
This was a bit of a shock: There was a reason Ren was relied on to get every little detail from a scene or story. His photographic memory and keen eye always managed to assist the Messengers in great ways. But if Ren couldn't find a certain detail about Allie in these papers – four years of details, no less – then it was Urey who fumbled; but this was Urey Jordan! No one was better at collecting information on a person than Urey!
"Have you noticed the address, though?" Ren asked. He'd already finished the first half of his sub, which meant he'd probably skipped breakfast in order to finish reading that book he'd started last night. "They're right down the road from us."
"That's where Ruby Street is?" Alex went to grab his mug, only to remember that it was empty. Ren gave him a horrified stare, to which he replied, "I can't know every street in Waypoint!"
With a groan, Ren rolled his eyes and returned to the first page. He continued, "The family's been here for more or less a week. Moved out of England and into the house with the apple tree in the backyard."
"That place? Damn; I would've loved to live there instead of here. I'm up every night because of that." He nodded his head in the direction of the bare wall at the far end of his room, near his wardrobe. It wasn't exactly a bare wall – if you didn't count the fact that nothing was pinned up to it and there was no trace of any kind of decoration – but more the Rabbit Hole that resided in the room. It was quite large, also very sensitive. (Alex found that out when he'd thrown his first alarm clock at the wall in a fatigued frustration. His mother never let him live it down when the Mad Cobbler threw it back and hit Alex in the leg with it.) While he wasn't really one to decorate his walls with posters or photos, he did feel a little let down that his wall space was restricted.
Deciding to give Ren time to think and reread the papers, Alex climbed off of his bed and made his way out of the room. He rubbed his eyes tiredly and let out a sigh. Two bloody days to convince Allie to come to Wonderland, then three more to prepare for an all-out war. This was just too much...
I need coffee, he thought. Coffee makes everything better.
The Little family had not been expecting any visitors after their first week in Waypoint, nor had they been expecting two teenagers from down the road to be welcoming them. The two of them looked like polar opposites when put next to each other, Allie thought. One of them was quite tall and had this athletic build that was vaguely evident along his arms, as well as blonde hair that curled inwardly, and had this expression that clearly stated disinterest or some kind of desire to be elsewhere; meanwhile, his friend was quite dark-haired and charming, just a little shorter and thinner, and also held quite a bit of politeness in his tone. The only similarity Allie noticed was how good-looking they were, and she was sure her mother had noticed this as well.
"Hi," she said slowly. "Can I help you?"
The one closer to her – the shorter one who appeared to be of Asian descent – replied with a smile, "We're your new neighbours. I'm Ren, and this is Alex." He nodded to his blonde friend, who gave an unenthusiastic, "Hey."
"I'm...Allie," she replied. Behind her were her parents, unreadable expressions painting their faces as they gave the boys once-overs. Allie began to feel a little nervous; what if her father gave one of the speeches about how Allie was a delicate flower that neither was to pluck? What if her mother started to fawn over them and ask teasingly embarrassing questions? They were easy on the eyes, she had to admit, but she could never tell when it came to Lois Little's flirtatious actions.
Finally, after a strained silence, Frank stepped forward and held out his hand to Alex. "Pleasure to meet you, boys," he said. He appeared quite calm and collected – the opposite to what Allie was expecting. (Then again, she was expecting him to shut the door in their faces and lock it thrice.) "I'm Frank Little. This is my wife, Lois."
As Alex shook his hand, Frank glanced at Ren. "Did your parents come with you? I'm sure they'd love to come in for a cup of tea."
Ren gave him a nervous laugh, scratching the back of his neck. He glanced at Alex, who gave him a shrug. "Well," Ren said. "Kind of hard when our guardian is in the hospital..."
Lois was shocked. "What?" she gasped. Alex immediately took over.
"I think it's best we cover this now, Mr. Little," he said, his tone quite serious. "Ren and I are kind of...would you call it foster or godbrothers?"
"I don't think 'godbrothers' is a word."
"We're foster brothers, then. Ren parents and my mum died in a car accident a few years back. Dad's been taking care of us, but he got hit by a car earlier this year. It's taking longer than we'd like to for him to recover."
The husband and wife looked at each other uncertainly for a moment, unsure of how to proceed with this information. Allie was unsure as well – did she give condolences or something? Did she just not say anything at all?
Unable to stop herself, she blurted out, "That was pretty upfront of you."
Alex shrugged, not bothered by the question. "I'm always upfront. We Moores never dawdle when it comes to breaking news."
"You must be a hit with the ladies, then."
Simultaneously, Ren broke into a loud laughter, stating how true her sarcasm was to his friend, while Lois nudged her daughter with her elbow and growled, "Alison!" When Allie looked to her father, however, all she saw was a ghost of a smile gracing his features.
He wiped the smile off of his face and gave the boys serious stares. "Your family seems to have bad luck with cars, Alex," he noted, directing the statement to the blonde. Another shrug came come Alex.
"It's why I haven't applied for a licence yet."
More silence settled upon them after that statement, and Allie was unsure of how to keep the conversation going. She didn't want them to leave so soon – they were the only thing close enough to getting out of the house for her. Every time the Little family moved house, they holed up for a month or so before going out to explore the new town. Apparently it was to help relax them after the stress of moving.
Just as she was sure Frank was going to dismiss them, Alex said with interest, "That's a Northern-English accent you have, Mr. Little. Did you move here from England?"
Frank only offered a nod before clearing his throat, signalling the conversation was over. Allie resisted the urge to groan out loud and to run for the nearest library, but kept it inside as the boys said their goodbyes and began to walk off. She watched as they immediately launched into a conversation about Alex doing boxing (they were still close enough for her to hear), and then sighed once the front door was closed in front of her.
She really wanted to go outside and ask them to show her around – they were honestly the only neighbours she'd seen that looked to be her age. Of course, her parents would never left her leave the house until the month was over; that was about as obvious as the fact that the sun is hot.
Allie moved to go up the stairs and into her bedroom as her parents began to walk for the lounge room, her father muttering, "Why they would visit now is beyond me."
She heard her mother reply, "Frank, you heard them. Alex's father is in hospital – they probably didn't even know we moved here until one of their neighbours told them."
Allie closed the door behind her and sighed, marching over to her bed and flopping onto it face-down. She ran through a mental list of things to do to make the month go faster, but she just couldn't handle so much anime and manga within four weeks. Sure, she had enough Naruto and Bleach DVDs to keep her busy, but she would eventually get tired of it and want to do something else. All she could think of was climbing the apple tree in the backyard – it was big enough for her to make a tree house to hide away in – but couldn't see her mother allowing her to do it in the near future.
Ideas vanishing quicker than she'd like, Allie reached for the top hat on one of the bedposts and put it on her head, closing her eyes as she did so. Maybe she could sleep the month away? It would be like hibernating, only in warm weather and in much less time than a bear would do so in.
This was it. This was her official welcome to Waypoint: A bored experience with only two people she knew of that were her age – both of whom would be suspected by her parents to want to deflower the girl.
Allie rolled onto her back and let out a breath, wondering if she'd closed her curtains or not before she slowly fell into a dreamless sleep.
It was three in the morning. Allie had woken up at three in the morning, and it was an understatement to say that she was unable to fall back to sleep. Needless to say she enjoyed being up during the night – no one else was up to disturb her, and she could read as much as she wanted – but she couldn't help feeling a little lonely on this particular night. (Or morning, if she wanted to be technical.)
She'd turned on her lamp and pulled out her laptop, her top hat still on her head despite all the tossing and turning she did in her sleep. Allie frowned to herself, realising she was still dressed in the previous day's clothes, and rolled off of her bed whilst her laptop booted up. She changed into her pyjamas, smiling a little at the sight of her Cookie Monster boxers, and then placed her top hat lightly on top of her head.
"Time to do some reading," she muttered, making her way back to her bed. She passed her window on the way, noticing that she actually hadn't closed the curtains, and gazed out into her backyard for a few seconds. It was fairly large – the apple tree hardly even took up any space – and the grass was a lush green colour, short and well-kept. There was a garden at the back that took up one fifth of the backyard. She hadn't checked what kind of flowers were in the garden, but she knew there were at least more than five kinds scattered about.
Her eyes trailed back to the apple tree, a feeling of uneasiness in her stomach. Something was weird about that tree; something she just couldn't put her finger on. It was probably the uneasiness that came with a new house, and the fact that she'd never had an apple tree in her backyard before.
She reached for one of the curtains, taking her eyes off of the apple tree for just a moment, and as she slid the curtain closed she spotted something she hadn't been expecting to see outside.
Standing by the tree were two – no, three figures. She could've sworn they were all people, two tall and one short, but she didn't know if she was imagining this or not. She needed to make sure she was seeing right. But what if they attacked her? What if, when she got outside, she was taken by them?
Hiding behind the curtain a little bit, she settled to continue watching the forms and see if they did anything else. Sure enough, they did; although she questioned her sanity shortly after.
The first one, closest to the tree, appeared to knock on the trunk quite forcefully. A flash of dim light enveloped them, and then there were two figures left. Allie stared with wide eyes. The second figure did the same, the exact same thing happening to them, and then the third copied.
She stared out the window, jaw dropped and eyes bulging. This was... This was just weird!
I'm dreaming, she thought. I'm still asleep.
But was she? Allie shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. Maybe it would help to confirm what she'd seen. Allie smiled to herself, closing the curtains fully. That could be what she would do tomorrow – a way to stop herself from getting bored! She'd go outside and knock on the three, and if she wound up in some alternate dimension or something then she'd be able to entertain herself for the next four weeks. She knew she was most likely to find that nothing would happen, but at least she'd be throwing herself a bone.
She crept back onto her bed, the fact that she was restless once again an understatement. She crawled under her covers and closed the lid of her laptop, leaving it in a hibernated state. There was her plan for tomorrow: Try and see if what she'd seen was just a hallucination.
All she had to do was get some sleep.
Allie took off the top hat and placed it on her stomach, letting out a restless breath. Getting some sleep would be harder than she'd thought.