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HEARTHSIDE STORIES: A Very Wonderland Holiday, by Aislinn Honeycutt


'Twas the night before… Wonderland doesn't have any set kind of religious holiday in place. Festivals got carried from town to town, from family to family, until everything just sort of… melded together. Drinking, dancing, and gifts… that's what everyone in Wonderland celebrates. So this really doesn't work, does it?

Let's start over.

'Twas a cold and snowy night in Wonderland. The world outside the pearlescent walls of the Palace of Hearts was quiet and still. Fires burned in hearths and lights danced against the soft ice filling the streets. Children were nestled under covers. Lover's embraced each other. Dreamer's watched the snow fall from the stars and thought of the magic in their winter Wonderland.

A fire crackles in the hearth of the Queen's bedroom. She watched the prange and yellow flames rdflected in hee crystal windows over looking the expanise gardens of her home.

"Love," Rorie kissed her neck, hands cupping her shoulders as he laid his cheek against the top of her head. Sometimes hed lace crown felt so heavy against her mind; it was nice to have her king there to ease her tensions.

Alice shifted and buried her face against Rorie's warm chest. The beating of his heart below her lashes tempted her lips to press a soft kiss on his shirt. A gift for the fluttering bird locked away in his ribcage.

The king wound his arms around Alice's small frame. Cradling her in his warm embrace.

"What's on your mind, love?" He whispered into her blonde hair.

A shiver ran through her as he spoke.

"Nothing, love." She assured. "Only thinking of this past year and how many things have changed so suddenly."

"And so drastically you've found yourself a second husband." He teased as Alice broke from his embrace. A smirk pulled at her lips as she crossed the room to the foot of her bed.

She opened a chest there and pushed aside the quilts and garments, looking for something buried beneath the fabrics.

"Wouldn't you be my third husband, dear?" Alice teased.

Rorie chuckled and flopped into a plush wingback chair near the fireplace. "Oh, if we're speaking chronologically then I suppose our impending wedding will be your fourth, now wouldn't it? Tsk, tsk, Miss Lidell. I don't believe that is the sort of behavior good and decent women from your time take part in."

She shot him a pointed look over her shoulder. He was grinning like the cheeky bastards that he was. "Well, Mister Erwin, as you are clearly forgetting, my second husband was presumed dead and my third husband happened to be my second husband in disguise for a few handful of decades."

He chuckled again. "There's no reason to be nasty, my pearl."

She took a seat in the chair across from him after tossing a package wrapped in white paper and lace in his lap.

"What's this?"

"A gift." Alice stated, taking up a cup of tea from the nearby side table. "For the holidays."

Rorie screwed his face up in confusion. "You know I don't understand religion and holidays."

Alice rolled her eyes and motioned to the package. "Just open it, Rorie." She sipped her tea. The king did as he was told.

Working the lace gently from the box and carefully wrapping it around his wrist before hd continued. It may have been centuries since he was the Mad Hatter, but Rorie Erwin could never pass up fabric that he found beautiful. "Oh? What's this?"

He sighed as he lifted the lid from the box. Beneath paper and a pressed sprig of baby's breath, lay two gloves positioned delicately in the box. They were hand knit and… atrocious, Rorie had to admit. But he could feel the love burning from them as he touched the wool. Alice had made these and stitched them together and had gifted them to him.

He raised his head and found her blushing behind her tea cup and his heart swam.

"I never was good at knitting." Alice mumbled as she bit her lip. "But I know how much your hands ached in the cold and I thought… since we lost everything, I would make you a new pair."

"Oh, Alice," Rorie breathed out.

She was known for her love and kindness and yet no one had seen her as he had, as he has. A timid girl, strong and brave enough to face a new world and make it her home even when it tried to cast her out.

The gloves slipped onto his hands. Tight at first but loosening with every flex of his fingers. He left his chair and towered over Alice, hands holding the back of her chair as he leaned forward and kissed her lips. Deep and heated and so full of love and admiration.

He broke their kiss and strode to the other side of the room where a small desk sat. When he spent nights in her chambers and couldn't sleep, he would sketch and scribble along parchment on the desk. Now he rummaged through the drawers until he found his prize. A parcel of his own, wrapped in brown paper and tied loosely with a blue ribbon. His craftsmanship was to be envied, but his wrapping jobs left much to be desired for.

Rorie knelt before Alice in her chair and presented her with the parcel. She placed her tea down on the table once again and lowered the wrapped object to her lap. She raised her brow towards the king. "I thought you didn't understand holidays or religion."

"I don't need holidays or religion to bring you gifts and show you, my love."

She blushed a deeper shade and turned her attention back to the package. She unwrapped it as gently as possible through her quivering fingers and excitement. Alice gasped, hands flying to cover her mouth as tears welled in her eyes.

Rorie rested his chin against her knee and gazed dreamily at the gift she uncovered. "Not everything was lost," he mused as she held his work in her hands.

The first gift he ever gave her, all those years ago. A headband made of blue and green fabrics matching the sea and its glass. Shells adorned the embroidered fabric and pearls lined the majesty of the accessory. Over the years, the fabric had faded from sunlight and dust but the pearls were still as bright as the day he adfixed them to his creation.

She cried as she held the gift. And he took it from her hands, rising to place it on her head and tying the long ribbons into a bow beneath her hair. He held a lock of her golden hair as he lowered himself back to his kneeling stance. The strands slipped from his fingers and curled against her shoulder.

"I told you then, love." He smiled as she cupped his face. "Mermaids say pearls mean forever."

She smiled at him and brought their lips together again.

The End.

This short is based on the world of Wandering In Wonderland by Aislinn Honeycutt. Wandering In Wonderland released with The Parliament Press on June 4th, 2019, and is available now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the Parliament Press website! Off and away to Wonderland... Add it to your TBR here on Goodreads!


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