"It isn't at all like the book. There are -" the young girl explained, making wide gestures.
Alice took both her small chubby hands into hers and shushed her, throwing nervous looks over her shoulder.
"Enough !" she hissed.
"I can't dismiss it, Mother ! I can't ! I saw that extraordinary world -" the girl said, boucing up and down lightly like only children do.
Her smile was so geniune and her eyes had a dreamy quality to them. She hadn't take much after Alice. She had her paternal grandmother's looks and looked like her father when she was smiling. Even if Reginald's eyes were far more calculating, untrusting. By all accounts, he wasn't an easy man.
Her mother held her by her shoulders, frightened blue eyes meeting scowling brown ones. Her grip was firm and her lips formed a thin, worried line.
Alice was thirty-two. She was no longer deluded about this world and what he does to people like her, like her daughter. Like them.
She knew she had been lucky. She wouldn't take risks with her eldest. She knew she would sound frantic when she would open her mouth, but she couldn't let her daughter sprout tales about Wonderland at wandering ears. Her husband would have a fit if he heard about it. He would blame his wife for it, assuredly.
"Edith, my sweet child, you'll have to ! They would lock you up ! Please, for the love of me, say not a word on the subject ! Wonderland was invented by Mr Dodgson and I when I was a child. It's the only truth there can be."
Alice Hargreaves was a bad liar. She didn't practice enough to be any good at deceit. However, her child had to believe her. Edith was a lively, obstinated girl. She was well liked by her schoolmates. She was a people person, which Alice had never really been, except with Wonderlanders maybe.
At least it had refrained her from talking about Wonderland to too many strangers. But she knew how people were. She remembered Reginald asking her not too nicely to stop with her childish behaviour and say farewell to her imaginary friends.
"Fine. I'll stay quiet then."
Alice nodded, more peacefully. She sat on the rug near her daughter. They snuggled.
"Don't you want to know how it was like ?" the child asked, excitation in her voice.
Alice thought of the dormouse asleep on her pinafore. She thought of her arguments with the blue Caterpillar. She thought of the March Hare's pouring her tea in a dirty teacup. She thought of the goodbye embrace she shared with the Hatter. She thought of the last time she saw the Cheshire cat's smile.
She shook her head negatively. It still hurt. She didn't want to tarnish her memories with someone else's, she didn't want to hear her daughter's judgement on her friends. She wanted everything to stay as idealised as she had made it.
What they couldn't know was that Alice's Wonderland and Edith's Wonderland had little in common. Sure, they were magical, nonsensical worlds, which had no rules and no laws. They shared some individuals, but not all of them, and Alice's White Rabbit was fairly different from Edith's White Rabbit.
Alice was thinking of her old friends. She wished they were happy. She wished they missed her a little but not too much. She wished they treated her daughter well. She wished they remembered. She wished…
"No." she stated clearly as she turned her head so her daughter couldn't see her wipe her eyes.
Ignorance was bliss, they said. It was safer that way. She couldn't afford to be tempted to return. She wouldn't come back. She knew that, and she had a family to think of now. What would happen to her kids if she left them ?
She felt her sleeve was being tugged. She looked down.
"Yes, child ?" she said, stroking her daughter's dark hair.
"Why didn't you stay there ?"
There. Wonderland. She could see that her daughter loved it too. There were like stars in her eyes when she talked about it, awestruck.
She thought that she had inflicted a curse on her family. Edith would end up heartbroken, like she had been. She had never been the same after her last trip and she didn't wish that for her daughter.
"I had a life here." she said with a tight smile.
And when I had to make a choice, you were in my belly stayed unsaid.
Alice loved her family. She liked Reginald well enough, even if she had given her heart to a Hatter in a world her husband did not believe in. She loved her daughter and sons.
They helped her mourn the loss of her Wonderland friends and of the fantastic world itself.
However, the joyous, unguarded soul that Alice had been before her choice had died in Wonderland.
"Some day you'll have to make a choice. It will be a terrible choice, love." she said to her daughter once she had fallen asleep.
The little girl grew up. She married her childhood friend, Johnatan Perkins. They loved each other very much. Alice had been glad for it. Johnatan was a bright and imaginative man. Edith shared Wonderland with him. They elected to keep quiet about it but she used to sketch people and scenes they had seen together. All the characters on her sketches wore masks, keeping the secret of a hidden world, where logic and nonsense were synonyms.
Johnatan and Edith loved Wonderland. They only stopped going when her only child, Lucy, was born. They thought she was too young to bring her there at first.
They had not returned to Wonderland yet when Alice died of a fever a few days after the child's fourth birthday. Edith also knew better than bringing the subject when she was here, it distressed her mother greatly.
At Alice's burial, Edith could have swear she had caught a glimpse of a figure, a man bowing his strange hat at the grave after everyone had departed. It had looked like he was holding a little rodent in his arms. The figure had disappeared before she could see it properly or intercept them. Her mind must have tricked her. She had found her mother's personal diary while ordering her affairs and the subjective atmosphere of the graveyard, her emotions, the dim light and the shadows would have misled her.