When Maddie was nine years old, she and Mr. March Hare had a tea party to celebrate her unbirthday. And his unbirthday. And the doormouse’s unbirthday. It was just the three of them, deep in Tulgey Wood, and then all of a sudden a voice said, “Excuse me.”
Maddie looked across the wide table to see a boy, probably her age, standing across from her. He was wearing blue, and looked dreadfully confused.
“Can either of you point me in the direction of the rabbit?” the boy asked, and Maddie scratched the top of her hat.
“That depends,” she said. “Which direction did the rabbit go? If he or she went left, I’d be glad to point left.” The boy shook his head. The doormouse snored.
“No,” he said. “I mean, did either of you see which way he went?”
“Which way who went?” Mr. March Hare asked.
“The rabbit!” the boy said.
“Which rabbit?” Maddie asked. “That rabbit?”
She pointed at Mr. March Hare.
“I’m a hare!” Mr. March Hare protested, and Maddie held up her hands.
“I’m so hare-ry sorry!” she said, and Mr. March Hare laughed. Maddie laughed, too. She turned to the boy.
“Do you want to have tea with us?” she asked.
“What about the rabbit?” the boy asked, instead of saying yes or no. How rude!
“He’s a hare,” Maddie explained. The boy stomped his foot in frustration and tore at his hair.
“Nothing here makes any sense,” he moaned.
Legacy Day has to be explained to Maddie, her third week of freshman year. She’s sitting on her bed in her dorm, her feet hanging off the side and swinging. Raven’s on her own bed, her legs drawn up and her face pale--well, pal er.
“I can’t believe you’ve never heard of it,” Raven says. Maddie shrugs.
“I haven’t heard of a lot of things in Ever After,” she says. “But Tulgey Wood is fantastic this time of year.”
“What’s Tulgey Wood?” Raven says, and Maddie claps.
“See? You don’t know about my home, either,” she says. “Everyone knows about Tulgey Wood back home.”
“Okay,” Raven says, then she takes a deep breath. “Legacy Day is when you sign the Storybook of Legends and cement your place as the next...well, in your case the next Mad Hatter.”
“Sounds hat-tastic!” Maddie says. Raven sighs.
“I guess,” she says. “But...I don’t know if I want to be the evil queen, like my mom.”
“Do you have to be?” Maddie asks. Raven nods miserably. “Oh. Hm. Wait...signing this book cements your place?”
“Yeah, like….it guarantees a future. So you’ll sign it, and then someday you’ll meet your Alice and help her, or whatever.”
“Alice is a child,” she says. “How can she sign it her sophomore year of high school if she’s already fulfilled her destiny?”
“I don’t know,” Raven says. “Are you sure she has to be a child?”
“Abs-o-toutly,” she says. Raven shrugs.
“I don’t know, then,” she says again. Maddie thinks back to her first meeting with Alistair.
See, the thing about Alices is that they can’t be Alices if they know what to expect. Alices are usually kids of lesser Prince Charmings and minor nobility or ugly stepsisters or people whose children’s destinies don’t matter. Alistair’s mother was from the Juniper Tree, and his father was a Christopher Robin. Alistair’s older brother was supposed to continue with Pooh, and would until he had his own children, but Alistair had been led into Wonderland early, and his destiny is complete already, and so is Maddie’s and Bunny’s and Kitty’s and Lizzie’s. It had just worked out that they were all the same age when it happened.
Maddie thinks about telling Raven all of this, and doesn’t, because Raven hates her destiny and signing the book next year will do nothing to or for Maddie.
It won’t do anything for Alistair or Bunny, either, she thinks sourly. Everyone thinks Wonderland will have to be fixed soon for Maddie, Lizzy, and Kitty to be put back down there for their destinies, but Maddie knows it won’t. The Mad Hatter’s whole story will end with her, and she’ll never see Bunny or Alistair again.
Maddie watched Alistair crawl out of a rabbit hole. She was mome-rath hunting with Kitty and when she’d heard a noise she first saw Bunny get out of the tree trunk, then Alistair.
He saw her looking and covered his face.
“I’ve come back to explore properly,” he said, his hands still over his face. “Please don’t be weird.”
“Alistair,” Bunny chided, still in her rabbit form and sitting next to Maddie’s feet. “I told you--everyone’s weird here.”
“I guess,” Alistair said, and he left his hands down. Maddie smiled at him.
“Me and my dad are having a tea party later, if you want to come,” she said, bouncing on her toes at the prospect of someone else at their party. The more the merrier!
“Maybe,” Alistair said, and in the trees above his head Maddie saw a familiar smile.
“Ooh, a party,” Kitty said, her eyes blinking into existence. “Can I come?”
“Anyone can come!” Maddie cried, and abruptly, the rest of Kitty was there, curled up on the tree.
“I like tea parties,” Bunny said, and Maddie bent down to pick her up. Bunny’s dad could be human-shaped at will, but Bunny was still working on it.
“Then let’s go!” Maddie said, and she marched forward. Kitty squeezed her eyes shut and vanished, appearing right next to Maddie. She handed her mome-rath bag to Alistair.
“Come on,” Kitty said, and she took his hand and dragged him behind Maddie.
On the second day of Maddie’s sophomore year, she’s curled up in her own bed, trying to sleep but thinking about Bunny, and how Bunny would hold her hand and drag her along and how they’d play tag in Lizzie’s hedges and how Bunny always had the EAT ME cookies in her pockets, just in case.
Maddie curls up tighter, and then her covers get drawn back and she turns.
Kitty slides into bed next to Maddie, drawing the covers back over the pair of them, and Maddie opens her arms to hold Kitty tight.
Over the summers, Kitty and Lizzie stay with Maddie and her dad. Both of them help out at the Tea Shoppe and all three girls pile into Maddie’s room. There’s a double bed and a twin bed, and they rotate through who shares and who sleeps alone. On the bad nights, the double bed is big enough for all three of them.
“I miss my mom,” Kitty whispers into the dark.
“I do, too,” Lizzie says.
“I miss Bunny and Alistair,” Maddie says. She’s never had a mom. Her dad isn’t into moms, anyway.
“When we were little, Bunny and I used to play dolls in the corners of the castle, whilst her father and my mother were in meetings,” Lizzie says.
“Alistair and I played tag every day for a year,” Kitty says, then she sniffs. “He never even minded when I cheated.”
“Never the Alice and rabbit tea party refused, a writing desk never reused,” Maddie says, accidently slipping into Riddlish, and she wipes at her eyes. She thinks of them, back home, and Maddie and her friends, stuck up in Ever After. She curls up tighter on herself, and Lizzie’s hand finds hers in the darkness.
Alistair almost kissed Maddie two months before Raven’s mom tried to take over Wonderland. They had been climbing the trees at Tulgey, looking for the borogroves, and Maddie had reached for Alistair’s hand, pulled him up to the branch she was on.
Their faces were close together, and Maddie saw him look at her mouth, then at her eyes, and she couldn’t help but mirror the gesture.
But then Alistair inhaled a whiff of smoke and started coughing, and Maddie laughed and looked across the way. There was a grove, balanced up high in the trees, parallel to their branch. Ceri Pillar was laying across it, practicing her smoke rings.
“I’m sorry, did I interrupt something?” she asked, without looking at them.
“You’re fine,” Alistair said, blowing the smoke away with his hands. “Ah, uh, a moment once is twice as nice, always happen again, maybe some tea later for me?”
Maddie almost kissed him, then, because she knew he’d been practicing his Riddlish and he was so sweet, but then he started coughing again and she laughed and laughed, and Ceri blew smoke rings at their head for the rest of the afternoon.
Raven startles, blinks, and Maddie tilts her head in confusion.
“Sorry,” she says. “I didn’t know that you and Lizzie were….like that.”
“What?” Maddie asks, and she turns to look at Lizzie. Lizzie shrugs, lifting up the hand that’s not in Maddie’s to emphasize the gesture. Maddie squeezes her hand.
“I’ll see you later,” she says. Lizzie nods.
“Have fun,” she says, to Raven and Maddie, and she drops their hands, leaving and waving.
“What were you talking about?” Maddie asks Raven.
“Are you and Lizzie, uh, courting?” Raven asks, her voice lowering with the last word. Maddie considers it.
“No,” she says. “I don’t think so.”
Courting seems like too little a word, for the bond Maddie has with Lizzie and Kitty. Courting is like, when your relationship isn’t established. It’s a word for when something will be something, not when something already is something.
Raven sighs, in relief, maybe.
“Okay,” she says. “Well, I don’t know how it is in Wonderland, but here in Ever After we don’t show….platonic affection...by holding hands.”
“Oh,” Maddie says.
“And even if you and Lizzie were courting, in Ever After if it’s between two girls, we keep it, well, quiet.”
“How come?” Maddie asks, and Raven starts walking, Maddie following her.
“Because that’s not what destinies say,” Raven says. “Like, none of the fairytales are between two girls or two boys, and even if they were...I don’t know. They don’t like things that aren’t traditional here, you know that.”
“I guess,” Maddie says. “That just seems so limiting.”
“Everything’s limiting here,” Raven says, her mouth smiling a little bit, her face a little bit sad.
Knowing where the Well of Wonder is, even if it’s just by Lizzie’s map, is some small comfort. On the anniversary of the day they were kicked out, they make a holiday of it, Maddie’s dad and the White Queen and Maddie and Lizzie and Kitty. They visit and picnic and speak only in Riddlish, just to remember.
When it’s not the anniversary, though, sometimes Kitty and Lizzie and Maddie go together, walk down to the Well and sit all around it, watching the water and waiting for something--anything--to happen.
The day before Raven’s mom tried to take over, Maddie and Kitty and Alistair and Bunny went to Lizzie’s house to break her out.
They had to climb over the walls to get out, and when Maddie and Kitty were perched up on the top, Chase Redford ran up with the guards, yelling and screaming, and Maddie said, “Oh, boo hoo. Let us have a little fun!”
Kitty stuck her tongue out at them, and grabbed Maddie’s hand and vanished.
Vanishing with Kitty was the most intimate thing Maddie had ever--still has ever--done. They vanished together and Maddie felt their cells mingling, their hands burning where they touched, their essences intertwining. It only lasted a few seconds before they reappeared up on a tree branch, Maddie out of breath and Kitty with a grin plastered on her face.
“Wowee!” Maddie said, and Kitty said, “That was different.”
They rejoined their friends and ran together, Alistair leaping up onto a rock and declaring, “We are going to find the vorpal sword!”
“Oh, Alistair, it’s been missing for generations!” Bunny cried, and Alistair said, “Until today!”
Maddie clapped her hands in excitement.
“Ooh!” she said. “Adventure! Let’s all have a spot of tea!”
She took off her hat and turned it around, taking out teacups from the inside and passing them to her friends. She took the teapot out last and began pouring, and they started walking.
“Where would we even begin to find the vorpal blade?” Lizzie asked. “Only the last Beamish Boy knows where it is, and he’s been dead.”
“Well,” Alistair said, and he sipped his tea contemplatively. “I think because we have the numbers. You know. The more the merrier.”
“The vorpal blade went snicker-snack,” Maddie said. “So maybe if we listen for the snicker-snack.”
“I bet it’s still with the Jabberwocky,” Kitty said mournfully. “And we’ll get eaten.”
“I think Maddie’s on to something here,” Alistair said, and Bunny nodded.
“Yes!” she said. “We’ll just go to the outreaches and listen for it!”
They didn’t find the vorpal blade, that day, but that night they all stretched out under the stars, curled against each other, and Maddie thinks it’s the best day she can remember. The next day, though--that’s the worst.
Maddie doesn’t cry all that much, because she has a lot to be grateful for, and she much prefers being happy, anyway. But when she finds Kitty and Lizzie kissing in her dorm room, hours before Legacy Day, and Raven and Apple are so stressed and it doesn’t even matter to Maddie at all, she starts crying because she misses Alistair, and Bunny, and her home.
“Maddie?” Kitty says, breaking from the kiss and turning to face her, her pigtails flying.
“Maddie!” Lizzie says, and she’s next to Maddie, arms around her, before Maddie can process.
“The gingerbread, the Alice, and the children, all lined up for a book,” Maddie whispers. “But what happens when the authors find out, they’ve already had a look?”
“The book doesn’t matter, not in the end, it only matters that you’re my friend,” Lizzie says, drawing Maddie close. Maddie sniffs into her hands, pressed against her eyes. Kitty presses against her other side, squeezing her, and Maddie exhales.
“Psst,” Maddie asks, tapping Ginger on the shoulder. A few hours have passed and Legacy Day is about to start. Maddie’s all dressed up and she has questions.
“Oh, hey Maddie,” Ginger says, turning and smiling weakly. One hand is on her stomach and her dress is sweet-tastic.
“You look fairy sweet,” Maddie says, and Ginger says, “Oh, thanks.”
She looks ill, and Maddie remembers Raven dry-heaving in the bathroom, and Maddie hates Legacy Day.
“I have a question,” Maddie says. “Aren’t Helga and Gus supposed to be kids for their story?”
“Yeah,” Ginger says. “And they are, but I’m not. Gus and Helga met their legacy years ago with my mom, and I’m going to have to maintain my destiny with their kids.”
“Oh,” Maddie says. “Do they have to sign tonight?”
“It’s not like we talk,” she says.
“Huh,” Maddie says. “Well, thank you.”
“No problem,” Ginger says, and she reaches out a steadying hand for Cerise, who holds her hand tight. Maddie excuses herself, and goes to find Lizzie or Kitty or Raven.
On the worst day of Maddie’s life, she screamed for Alistair and she screamed for Bunny and Lizzie screamed for her mom and Kitty screamed out gasping, gulping sobs and Maddie’s dad took her and dragged her away. He was crying too. Maddie’s hand was locked in Kitty’s and Kitty’s other hand was wrapped around Lizzie’s and they escaped the chaos (awful chaos, not the good kind) and Maddie saw the man she’d later know as Milton Grimm, locking the portals and they passed through and then everything was still.
And they had nothing.
(They had each other)
“Maddie,” Apple says, her voice sing-songy, and Maddie twists from where she’s laying across Kitty’s lap to look up at her.
“Yess?” she asks, stretching out the word.
“I have an itty-bitty problem,” Apple says, sitting on the bench next to Kitty. They’re out in the courtyards and it’s early morning, so they’re mostly alone.
“What is it?” Maddie asks.
“Well,” Apple says, and she twists her hair around her finger, suddenly seeming nervous. “You saw that, uh, kiss, right? When I got poisoned?”
“Which one?” Kitty asks.
“A good point!” Maddie says. “The fail, or the not-so-fairy-fail?”
“The second one,” Apple says. “The one with, um, Darling.”
“Ah, yes,” Maddie says. “I did see that one. What about it?”
“Well,” Apple says, and she blushes. “I really like her. But, um, I didn’t even know until recently that girls were even an option. But you and Kitty are obviously….” Apple waves her hand around and Maddie stretches to look at Kitty, who shrugs.
“Sure,” Maddie says. She’s heard Alistair call them soulmates, which seems appropriate but Maddie doesn’t want to say that.
“Anyway,” Apple says. “You are the only girls I know that are dating other girls, so I was wondering if you had any advice or anything. I guess.”
“Oh!” Maddie says. She doesn’t really think anything of her dating girls. That’s just what she does.
“Apple,” Kitty says. “People watch us differently than they watch you. They think we’re….insane. And you’re their future queen. Nobody cares what we do. Your dating life will be hextremely different than ours ever would be.”
Apple sags. “I know,” she says, sighing. She puts her face in her hands.
“My advice,” Maddie says, finally thinking of something. “Is to convince Blondie to leave your romantic life out of the news. You can do whatever you want and people outside school won’t care if Blondie doesn’t cover it.”
“Ooh,” Apple says. “That’s smart. Then I can just tell my mom on my own terms and date Darling without having to worry. Thanks, guys!”
She gets up and leaves, almost sprinting.
“Wow,” Kitty says. “She must really like Darling if she wants to trick her mom.”
“I suppose,” Maddie says. It’s weird, how all her people can get by with being weird as long as they’re not making out in public, but Apple’s afraid of holding Darling’s hand.
Ever After is strange.
Kitty spotted them first, from across the Spring Fairest celebration.
“Look,” she started. “If you all can’t take a little joke….” She trailed off, and Maddie looked up from her drink. “Alistair!”
Maddie’s heart stopped and froze and she dropped her food. Alistair was across the courtyard, sun shining on his blonde hair, a white ball of fluff in his arms and Maddie was running after Kitty and Lizzie was behind her, and when Kitty knocked him over Maddie just jumped onto the pile of them.
Alistair Alistair Alistair, Maddie’s mind chanted. Seven hundred and fifty three days since she’d last seen him. He was wearing a new coat, Maddie noticed, and one of his arms went around her, pressing her to him and to Kitty, next to her.
Lizzie helped Alistair stand, and Bunny jumped from his arms, transforming with a poof and immediately setting off Sparrow. Everything happened so fast, after that, but--
seven hundred and fifty three days. And now--forever?
The first time Maddie ever kissed Lizzie, they were at the Tea Shoppe, behind the counter. Maddie was organizing the tea bags and Lizzie was preparing some tea, and everytime she dropped a tea bag into a kettle she would say, “Off with your head!” and the whole kettle would scream in terror.
Maddie was giggling, laughing at Lizzie, and Lizzie would grin and do it again, more dramatic, and then Maddie said, “I love you, Lizzie,” through her laughter.
And then Lizzie kissed her, and then all the tea boiled over, and they had to start all over again.
When Kitty and Maddie first kissed, Maddie was half asleep in her bed, and Kitty slipped in behind her, drawing close.
Maddie turned around and Kitty’s face was right there, and Maddie had kissed Lizzie goodnight an hour ago but it was still so natural to just lean in and do it, so she did.
It was quiet, and soft, and when it ended Kitty nestled against Maddie’s collarbone and they feel asleep to the sound of each other’s breathing.
Bunny and Maddie’s first kiss was when the Wonderlandians are storming off, during Spring Fairest, after Bunny and Alistair brought a riddle book to Ever After High and Milton embarrassed them, publicly. Lizzie was leading them to the roof, and Bunny lagged a little behind. Maddie grabbed her hand, happy as a clam, and said, “It is truly wonderlandiful to see you guys again!”
“I’m so fairy happy to see you, too,” Bunny said, and she kissed Maddie, so fast Maddie would almost miss it, except there was a shy smile, right after it too. And Maddie beamed at her.
Alistair walked Maddie back to her room and rubbed the back of his neck.
“I, uh, guess I have to go,” he said. “I’ll be honest--I have no idea where my dorm is.”
“You’ll find it,” Maddie said, laughing, and then she stood on her tippy-toes and kissed him, because he was back and Bunny was safe in her room, and Alistair held her close and kissed her back.
“Woah,” a voice said, and Maddie went back on her flat feet to turn. Kitty was leaning against their doorway, arms across her chest. “No kisses for me?” she asked, and Alistair and Maddie laughed.
And, of course, obliged her.
“I don’t get it,” Raven says, kicking her legs out. She’s up on Nevermore, and Maddie’s helping her scrub the purple dragon. “I really thought you and Lizzie were dating. But I saw you and Alistair--”
“Oh, Raven,” Maddie says, shaking her head. “Don’t you understand that nothing in Wonderland is like here? The rules are com-plete-ly different!”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t have a mom because my dad didn’t want me to have a mom! And whoever’s together can be together based on whatever they want to be! Like Hunter and Ashlynn. Except it’s me and my friends.”
“Wait, so you and your Wonderland friends--when you say ‘friends’--”
“You and I are friends,” Maddie says. “But me and the others? That’s something else entirely!”
“Okay, Maddie,” Raven says, and she slides off her dragon’s back. “I don’t understand it, but if you say so.”
“I do say so, thank you very much,” Maddie says, and she nods her head at her friend, then she starts throwing soap, just for fun.
“Alright, guys,” Alistair says, when school’s out and it’s summer but Wonderland is open and they can finally-- finally-- go home. The five of them are standing around the Well of Wonder, and Alistair’s got one foot on the edge of the well.
“What is it, Alistair?” Lizzie asks, an eyebrow raised.
“Okay, so I have the absolute best plan for this summer,” Alistair says. “We are gonna find the vorpal sword. For real this time.”
“Hat-tastic!” Maddie says.
“Sounds purrfect,” Kitty says, and she disappears, materializing on top of the well. “What are we waiting for?”
She reaches out her hand to Alistair, and he reaches for Lizzie, who reaches for Bunny, who reaches for Maddie.
“Absolutely nothing!” Maddie says, waving her free hand, and Kitty grins.
“Let’s go, then,” she says, and she jumps, pulling them all behind her.