Another long, lonely day had passed the Hatter by. Another day he had waited for Alice Kingsley to return. Even though Alice had succeeded in the slaying of the Jabberwocky, the Hatter still felt ill at ease. He hadn't wanted her to return to London, but it had been her decision. And she had promised to return to Underland someday soon. But for the Hatter, "soon" just wasn't soon enough.
"It seems such a long time since our dear Alice left us," the Hatter said as he sat down to tea. His trademark grin had faded, for he felt he had nothing to smile about now that his dear Alice was, once again, gone. "She promised to return, to be sure, but I must admit that I am not quite convinced of that."
The door mouse, Mallymkun, sighed as she took a drink from her tiny teacup. "You're worrying to much," she said, trying to cheer the Hatter up. "Of course Alice will come back. You'll see, Hatter. Alice will come back to us."
The Hatter forced a grin, staring at his reflection that sat within the cup of tea before him. If only he could be sure. He remembered the very first time Alice had arrived in Underland. She had been no older than six at the time, and a delight to have to tea. She had been so in awe at the world around her, and had been less than enthusiastic when the time had come for her to return home. Of course, she had promised the Hatter that she would, indeed, return.
And so the Hatter had sat in Underland, waiting and wondering when dear little Alice would return to him. He had killed Time waiting for her, and had lost track of the many days that had passed him by. He had missed her so very much, and thought only of when, if ever, he might see her again. But, true to her word, Alice did return. Thirteen years later, to be exact. Although the Hatter would never voice his concerns, he feared that Alice would forget him, as she had the first time.
"She won't remember me," he said without thinking. "She didn't remember me the last time... Or any of us, for that matter."
A loud crack sounded as the March Hare slammed a teacup on the table. "The Hatter's right!" he shouted, jumping onto the table in a frenzy. "Alice'll forget all 'bout us again! And what could be worse than that, ya ask? She may never come back!"
"Don't talk like that!" Mallymkun cut in, running across the table to climb on the Hatter's shoulder. "Alice will come back, Hatter," she said soothingly. "You'll see. She'll come back to us, and she'll remember everything this time."
"You shouldn't say things you aren't sure of, Mally," the Cheshire Cat said, appearing across the table from the Hatter. "No one can ever be sure if dear Alice will return. Not even our beloved White Queen." The Cheshire Cat dipped a paw into a cold cup of tea, swirling the contents around. "I hate to say it, but it was only by luck that McTwisp found the right Alice this last time, and it'll be luck if the dear girl ever returns again, let alone remembers us."
One of the Hatter's green eyes twitched. "Luck," he repeated sadly. "Yes, that must have been it. Alice never would have come back to Underland willingly. But how could she? She fell down a hole by accident the first time, too. And the poor dear didn't even think of her first visit as a memory, but a silly dream, no doubt. The result will be the same, if she ever returns again. We'll all be forced to endure the same sad story as this last time. We'll all be forgotten."
"Do you really think so?" a voice said from behind the Hatter's chair.
The Hatter gave a genuine grin as he turned, inwardly scolding himself for having said and believed such terrible things about Alice. "You're late for tea," he said, lifting a ticking gold watch from his pocket. "It's never proper to be late for tea, you know. But, seeing how you're the guest of honor, I can't hold it against you."
Alice smiled and took a seat beside the Hatter, her blue eyes lighting up her face. "I told you I would never forget."