"Orange?" They sat with their feet dangling in the water, the river softly easing between their toes.

"Yes."

"Will you always be here?" She picked up a leaf, and watched as it faded through the water.

"Maybe."

"Maybe?"

"I'll be here as long as you want me to be here."

"I want you to be here forever."

There was no reply.

"Orange?" She turned her head to look at the trees behind him.

"Yes."

"If I was in trouble, would you save me?"

"That depends."

"On what?"

"What you need saving from."

That afternoon, flailing about in the water, she learnt what Orange could save her from. What were you thinking, just jumping in? He can only save me from my mind.

.

How can a heart not lament

when the angel says

Be still,

whilst cutting the soul from an innocent.

Is that the time when one cries out

to the morning star

and harrows the tears that remain ,

imprisoned in its heart.

And when the angel says

have mercy upon the choices made,

Do you then weep for them,

instead of the merciless choices played.

.

"You're very pretty," he said to her, just before the clock ticked over.

"Thank you."

"You're too pretty to be here."

"But I am here."

"You could live a better life you know. I could help you if you wanted."

That's what the exotic woman are told before they leave their families and unsuspectedly get pushed into this life.

"No thanks."

.

I was watching the birds today, out past the window. They were far off, a flock of them together. They were flying, seemingly going nowhere, just twisting and turning. Each time they turned a certain way, their bodies would catch in the sun, and they would erupt in a dazzle of shine, like a star exploding. Then they would turn again, and return to their normal bodies. They continued to twirl amongst the sky, almost like they were putting on a show, just for me. All of them together, a flock of birds going somewhere, but the purpose unknown. They wouldn't have known I was watching them, I doubt they would have cared if they did. So they wouldn't have known the smile that came across my face, as I watched their dance, and known that I was dancing mine.

.

Whilst the bus driver that drove her morning school bus changed often there was on occasion the ones that she recognised. There was the man with the white beard and no hair, that always looked straight ahead. Another one would nod a little as she dipped her pass into the machine. Then there was the young man with black hair. Whenever she stepped past the doors onto the bus he would smile, a big beaming smile. "Morning," he would nod.

"Morning." And she would return the smile. The bus was crowded when she got on, but it was only a few minutes before they reached the boys school and half the people got off. Sometimes, in those few minutes he would chat to her, making comments on the traffic, or the crowds, and sometimes there would be nothing but the radio between them.

But always, at every moment, every time, he would smile. That big beaming smile. Just thinking about him and she would return the smile he had.

Whenever she had to catch a bus she would wonder if she would be lucky enough to have him as the driver, just so she could see his smile. She wondered at times, how he could remain happy, always driving buses around, and what it was that made him smile. Whatever it was she was thankful for it, because whilst he never knew, his smile was always the brightest thing in her day, and for a long time after.

.

She looked back amongst her photos, of ponytails and two thumbs. Where did that go? She wasn't sure. Perhaps it was that a princess was too refined for ponytails. She wandered through the streets, in her longest skirt and loosest shirt. Her mind flipped back through her memories, a montage of pictures.

"Opps sorry." She moved around a man.

"Hey." He grabbed her arm and she stiffened, wary of his touch. "Have we meet?"

She wouldn't remember his face if they had. "No."

"Are you sure, you seem familiar."

"Must have been someone else."

"Must have been then. What's your name?"

She paused, unsure of what to say. "Tarnell." It had been awhile since she'd heard it.

"Well Tarnell, now that we have meet, can I buy you a coffee?"

He seemed nice, he looked nice, he sounded nice. They all did though. "Sure."

They sat in a small shop, sipping at the hot drinks in their hands.

"So what is it you do?"

She wondered whether it was a trick question. "I work with a lot of different people. Nothing interesting really."

"It must be interesting if you're still there."

She questioned again if he knew. "It's just temporary, for a little while."

"What is it you want to do then?"

Be a princess. "I'm not sure."

They were onto their second cups.

"What do you do?" She asked.

"I'm in accounting, boring stuff but the pays a ripper."

"I'm sure it is. Retirement at thirty would be nice."

He laughed a little. "Not when you have to pay off the lifelong mortgage of a house. What does a person even need seven bedrooms for anyway."

She returned his laugh, a genuine laugh she hadn't felt in a while.

"What about your home?"

She downed the last of her cup. "I've got to be going."

She never saw the man again.

.

"If you could have a tea party with anyone, who would come?"

The Mad Hatter was there as was the Hare. The dormouse was constantly slipping between the cups, looking into one, falling into another.

"Are you looking for something Mr Dormouse."

He slid down the rail of another cup. "My biscuit of course. I put it into my cup of tea and it just disappeared." He settled with a cup, running around its rim.

"Do you know the time Hatter?"

"The time? The time! I should very well know the time. There is sun, there is trees, yes I know the time."

"What is the time then?"

"It is time for the Red Lady!" Screeched the Hare, and sure enough, out of the woods proceeded the lady clad in red and checkers, followed by her long train of followers.

"Oh the Red Lady." She reached her hands around her neck, wishing she had a scarf to hide it.

The Red Lady hobbled across. "What is this, a tea party?"

"It be exactly so your majestly," gestured the Hatter, bowing extravagantly.

"Good." She plonked herself down. "Then pour me a cup of coffee."

The Hatter was in arms. "Coffee, we have no coffee, only tea."

"No coffee. What is this then?"

"A tea party. If we had coffee it would a coffee party, yet there is no coffee, only tea."

"And treacle," put in the Dormouse, clearing having chosen the wrong cup.

"No coffee. Someone's head shall have to come off."

At this people fluttered, everyone did scutter.

"Where is the executioner?!"

The Red Lady noticed the small girl she had overlooked. "What a nose you have."

"Thank you, I've had it my whole life."

"How charming. I want it, I shall cut it off."

"My nose?" She grasped it protectively.

"Off with her nose!"

The executioner appeared at the corner of her eye. "You can't cut off my nose." He was advancing, a great black mass, the silver edge balancing in his hand.

"I'll have your nose girl."

He was right above her, standing over her with the sharp of metal. It was crashing down, flying through the air, swiping at his aim. Where was the Hatter, the Cat, God?