When Alice was a two, she was in her mother’s arms. Lilian Brandon was carrying the small child around, trying to get her to sleep, but the girl just wouldn’t. Lilian had been carrying around the baby for a good to hours, and felt as though a nap probaly would be best for both of them.
I will watch the person in white and black walk over to the stove, putting her hand on a pan handle. I will see her draw her hand back in pain. She will scream in surprise at the heat. She will scream, and it will hurt my ears.
Alice’s mother walked around the house, through the gardens, back inside, down the stairs, and into the kitchen. Alice looked around, as watchful a child as ever. Her parents said things they expected her not to understand. Alice understood things she expected them not to say.
Alice watched the woman in black and white. This person always wore black and white. Alice’s parents changed the colors of the faric they wore every day, but this adult did not.
Alice saw the woman reach over to the stove. She did not want her ears to hurt. She did not want the servant to hurt either, but her ears mattered more to her as a small child than the hands of someone else.
“Hot!” Alice warned. She hadn’t heard herself say this in the vision, so maybe her ears wouldn’t hurt. The servant turned to look at her, confused for a moment, and then touched the hot pan handle anyway.
It was just like Alice had imagined, the person jerked back in surprise and pain. She screamed, and it hurt Alice’s ears.
“Hot.” Alice said, trying to explain to the servant why she had warned her. The woman did not hear her, too busy running her burning hand under the tap. It smelled funny, and Alice could barely make it out, coming from across the room, but the scent reminded the girl of pork sausage.
Lilian set Alice down on the counter to help the poor woman.
“Hot.” Alice said to herself. She was right. The stove was going to be hot. It never occurred to her that the person wouldn’t listen to her. It made her sad. She had only wanted to help. She didn’t want her ears to hurt. Why hadn’t the adult listen?
Alice didn’t recognize it in the moment, but that was the first vision she would have in her life. It would not be her only vision, nor would it be the first time someone didn’t believe her. Or her visions, for that matter.
When Alice was five, she was sitting with her mother in the Mississippi sunshine. The two of them were having a picnic in the shade of the trees, so covered with Kudzu that they were indistinguisable from one another.
Lilian Brandon had made the lunch herself, a rare treat in Alice’s home. Alice’s father was a jewler who invested in overseas mining, and was on one of his many voyages to places with beatiful names where ugly things happened. Edgar Brandon’s absence was not an infrequent occurance. He was gone quite often, and no one seemed sadder when he was missing.
On the contrary, there are more picnics with Alice and her mother, less time spent indoors doing boring things, and more fun over all.
“Look, mama!” Alice said to her mother, holding up a roly-poly, which promptly curled into a ball upon the child tilting her hand. “Oh, no. He’s shy.”
“My, my, Alice. You certainly do have a way with critters.” Lilian laughed.
“Can I take him home? I’m gonna name him George.” The bug, newly christened George, uncurled himself, and began to walk across Alice’s small palm.
“I don’t think that that would be good for him, sugar. Why don’t you put him back in the grass where he belongs?”
“But I love him! Look at how cute he is! He is cute, isn’t he?” Alice pouted.
“Yes, Alice. George is quite adorable.”
I will get wet. Clouds will darken the sky. I will be wearing the same dress I am now, and it will rain. George will run into his hidey-hole in the ground, and he will get wet, too. We will all get wet together when it rains.
“Mama.” Alice said.
“Yes, Alice?” Her mother replied.
“It’s going to rain soon.” Alice said cheerfully.
“Alice, why would you think such a thing? The sun is shining, silly. It won’t rain, not today. Not until at least tomorrow.”
“It is going to rain, mama!” Alice insisted. “I know it is! I had a dream that it would.”
“Oh, honey. Dreams that you have at night only come true very rarely.”
“No, mama. It wasn’t a dream at night, those usually don’t come true, you’re right. It was a dream that I had just now. Here. In the field.”
“Right now, Alice?” Her mother sounded confused.
“Yes, it’ll rain in a few minutes.” Alice insisted. Both she and her mother looked up. All of the (few) clouds in the sky were white and puffy.
Alice and her mother spent the next few minutes eating the sandwiches, pickles, and crackers. Then, just as Alice had predicted, the sky began to darken, and darken, and darken.
There was a thunder crack, the sky opened up, and it began to pour instantly. Alice and her mother had to pack up the food, and George buried himself in the grass. They ran across the field, Alice holding the blanket that they had been sitting on, Lilian carrying the basket full of food.
Alice and her mother were soaked when they got back to the house. They went upstairs and took off all of their wet clothes. Lilian helped Alice put on some dry clothes, and then went into her room to change.
Alice waited patiently in her room for her mother to come back. she picked up one of her favorite books off the shelf and read it aloud to herself quietly. She read it to herself twive before Lilian came into the room and told her that they were going over to Aunt Alanna’s.
Aunt Alanna was Alice’s mother’s best friend. Alice loved it at Aunt Alanna’s. There was a very large library with lots of library books, the entire place was always warm and smelled of cookies. There was never any fighting or meanness. Everything was calm, clean, well organized, and beautiful. Having Aunt Alanna was like having two mothers instead of one when her father was out of town. Her aunt was always there to hold Alice on her arms, sing her a song, read her a story, or show her her wonderful collection of glass animals from China. But, the thing that Alice liked best about Aunt Alanna’s house was that her cousin Penelope lived there.
When Alice and Lilian walked in, there was a fire blazing in one of the reak fire pits in the living room, which was just off the main hallway. Once they walked into the living room, Aunt Alanna stopped reading her book and greeted them, offering Alice a place on her lap.
Aunt Alanna had cookies brought in and soon all three of them were sitting by the fire, eating cookies and drinking tea. Alice was reading to herself since Penelope was at her friend’s house.
“How has life been treating you?” Alanna asked Lilian, once Alice was safely immersed in her book.
“Same old, same old. Yesterday we had vermin in the kitchen, so I had to talk to the cook about it, and we patched up the mouse hole so they couldn’t get out any more. You know, normal problems like that.”
“And what about when he’s home?” Alanna lowered her voice.
“When he is home, my problems are significantly larger and more plentiful then when he’s away.” Lilian had lowered her voice to match Alanna’s.
“Is he treating you bad?” Alanna whispered. Lilian made a noncommital noise and shrugged.
“On the relative scale of Edgar, no, not particularly.”
“Not good, though, either?”
“He drinks, he’s fine when he comes home from his trips, but the longer he spends in our house the worse he gets. At least he’s never hit me, you know?”
“Oh, sugar, that must be rough.” Across the room, Alice giggled at something in the book she was reading.
“Mama?” She said.
“It is. It’s like there’s some wild animal chained up inside of him.”
“Yes, Alice?” Lilian stopped talking to Alanna and gave her full attention to her daughter.
“I want to read to you.”
“Alright, Alice. May I please finish talking to Aunt Alanna first?”
“Okay, but who’s an animal?”
“You said to Aunt Alanna that some man has a wild animal inside him? Doesn’t that hurt? How come he and the animal aren’t dead yet?”
“Honey, that’s a metaphor. No one actually has an animal inside of themselves as far as I know.”
“Okay. Can I read now?” Lilian sighed. “Sure, Alice.”
A few hours later, the door opened, and Alice rushed out of the family room to greet whomever had come in. it was her cousin Penelope.
“Hi!” Alice said, waving at Penelope shyly.
“Hi, Alice.” Penelope said with a small smile. “Do you know where my mama is?”
“I’m in here, honey.” Alanna called to her. Penelope walked into the family room, gave her mother a brief description of what she had done at her mother’s house. Alice loved to watch Penelope. She was nine years older than Alice and their birthdays were only a week apart. Penelope always saw the best in people and never asked too many questions. She carried herself and acted like a lady, never talking too much, never leaving too little for the guests. Alice wished she were more like Penelope. She wished that she knew how to embroider fancy animals and play dramatic music on the piano.
“Alice?” Penelope’s voice floated through Alice’s thoughts, slowing her train of thought and pulling her back to reality. “Do you want to come upstairs with me and play with my dolls? I could read you a book.” Alice had been having a good time siiting on the window seat, just watching the rain splatter against the glass, but the promise of getting to play ith Penelope’s dolls was a wonderful one, and Alice felt compelled to oblige. She took her cousin’s hand and together the two girls walked up the stairs.
Penelope’s room was lovely. Her bedspread was a quilt that Aunt Alanna had made for herself and there was a small table against one of the walls that held Penelope’s collection of china dolls. They were each beautiful, different, and each of them had a different backstory. Alice and Penelope loved to make up stories with the dolls, sometimes they were dramatic broadway actors, other times they were orphans living on the street, sometimes they were anything in between the two.
Alice and Penelope walked into the room. It was usually sunlit and beautiful, but today, like everything else, it was a sad shade of gray. Penelope turned on a couple of old oil lamps and the room lit up considerably. Penelope walked over to a bookshelf and brought out a book. It was one of Alice’s favorites, about different wild beasts in the serengeti, whoich was a place in Africa, which was apparently a continent even larger than ten Mississippis, far, far, away across the ocean.
“Penelope?”Alice asked, interrupting Penelope just as she was about to get to the part about the lion, which was Alice’s favorite. Penelope stopped reading, surprised.
“What does it mean if someone has a wild animal inside of them? Mama said that my dad had one to your mom.” Penelope considered this for a second, and the expression on her face made it quite clear to Alice that she shouldn’t have heard her mother say that.
“Well, I think it means that he’s a bit…” Penelope paused, considering what to say again. “It means he’s a bit wild. It’s not a good or a bad thing, it’s just neutral, okay?”
“Okay. Why do they spend so much time together when dad isn’t in town, but hardly talk to each other when he is.” At this, Penelope laughed.
“Oh, honey.” She said. “They do stay in touch when your father’s in town, they just tend to do it through letters, rather than going over to each others’ houses.”
“Alright, but why is my dad so mad when they’re together?”
“I don’t know, honey. Sometimes, people get jealous when they have to share the attention of people that they love.”
“Oh. Okay. Can we keep reading?”
When Alice was seven, she was playing with her friend, Bobby. They were outside Alice’s house, in the field by the hill. They were talking about different types of food.
“I went to New Orleans once.” Bobby was telling her. “They have all of this stuff there. Street food, my daddy calls it.”
“Street food?” Asked Alice, making a face. “Ew. Who would want to eat food off of the street?”
“Not street food like food on the street, silly.” Bobby said, annoyed with Alice. “Street food like the kind that you buy from someone that has a cart with food in it on the street. Anyway, I got to try this stuff from Jamaica. They’re called plantains, and apparently they’re like bananas, except they’re not, and they fry them up in coconut oil and they’re really tasty.”
“Coke-nut oil?” Asked Alice. “Why would they fry them in Coke? How do you even do that?”
“Coconut oil, Alice.” Bobby sighed. “They fry them in coconut oil.” At Alice’s confused glance, he explained: “Coconuts are these huge fruits that they grow off in some place called the Caribbean. Apparently, that’s where Jamaica is, too. Anyway, they have these shells that make them real hard to open, just like walnuts. There’s water inside of them that you can drink, and a sort of pulpy thing that you can eat, and if they squish the pulpy stuff, they can make coconut oil. Apparently, you can fry stuff in it the way you do with lard.
“Oh…” Alice trailed off, thinking.
I will hear screaming. There will be a bit of blood on the grass. Bobby will accidentally jump too far backwards. I will watch Bobby falling down the hill, and there will be nothing I can do to stop him.
“Hey, Bobby.” She said, suddenly snapping out of her vision.
“Yeah?” Bobby asked.
“Um, don’t jump too far off that hill, okay?” Alice asked him, pointing to the hill that they had just hiked down.
“Jump too far off the hill?” Bobby asked her. “Now, why would I go and do a thing like that? You’re ridiculous! I would never jump off that hill! Do you think I can’t take care of myself? I’m not a baby, Alice.” He said the last part angrily, and when Bobby got angry, you could bet your bottom dollar that he was gonna do something ill-advised.
“No, no, of course I don’t think you’re a baby, I just thought that you might jump a bit too far and hurt yourself.” Alice backpedaled. “I saw it in a sort of dream. It might not happen today.”
“What do you mean ‘it might not happen today?’ Do you think that I don’t control my own behavior?”
“Of course you do, Bobby, but sometimes, things just happen that we can’t control, you know? Like when my cat died last year, or how your grandpa broke his wrist in October.”
“That’s true…” Bobby mused. “But, hey, look at this, Alice!” He said, running up the hill.
“I can be safe if I’m up on the hill. I won’t jump too far backwards. I promise, see!” He shouted, jumping backwards down the hill. He made it to the bottom without hurting himself, and then he ran back up to the top and started jumping down the hill again.
Alice hadn’t been particularly worried for his safety before, but she was now. Bobby was jumping back further and further each time. It had been a bad idea from the beginning, really, and Alice had tried to warn him, but he wouldn’t listen.
“Bobby, slow down! You’re gonna hurt yourself!” Alice called to him.
“No I’m no- Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh!” Bobby tumbled down the hill, hitting his face on several rocks on the way down. He started to cry. Instantly, Alice ran down the hill after him, careful to keep her balance so she didn’t hurt herself.
“Bobby, are you alright?” Alice asked him once she had made it all the way down.
“No!” Bobby said, frowning. “You deserve to be locked up in a loony bin. Are you a witch or somehing? Why did you curse me?”
“No, Bobby. Witches aren’t real. At least, not the type that can curse you. Why would you think such a thing? I just had a dream that you were going to hurt yourself and tried to warn you so that you wouldn’t. I didn’t curse you. Maybe someone else did.” Bobby huffed, picked himself up off the ground and brushed the dirt off his clothes.
“I don’t care what you think happened. I know you’re a witch and that you cursed me, and I don’t ever want to see you again, not ever, Mary Alice Brandon!”
“No, Bobby, wait!” Alice called. But it was too late. Bobby had already stormed off.
And thus was Mary Alice Brandon’s introduction to what we call a self-fulfilling prophecy.
When Alice was eight, she and her mother were sitting together on the couch, eating crackers and drinking tea. Alice’s father was home from some place called Rhodesia. Alice’s family had gotten a big map of the world so that Alice could see where her father was travelling to. Alice loved to hear all of her father’s stories about the different types of food, people, languages, animals, clothes, songs, and dances he encountered on his journeys. Alice was always happy to hear of far away places. She loved to imagine all of the bright colors.
Alice’s birthday was in a few weeks, and she was very excited. Her birthday wasn’t the only thing Alice was looking forward to.
“Mama, when are you going to have the baby?” Alice asked her mother.
“Soon, Alice. Most likely shortly after your birthday. Why?”
“I was just wondering.” Replied Alice.
“You know that you’re going to have more responsibility as an older sister, right?” Lilian asked her.
“Mmhm.” Said Alice, reaching to get another cookie.
I will hold a small bit of warmth. My mother will be exhausted. I will have a baby sister. My mother will tell me that she chose a pretty name for her.
“The baby’s going to be a girl.”
“That’s wonderful, Alice. I think I want to name her Cynthia, after my great-aunt.” Lilian told her. “Cynthia’s a very pretty name, don’t you think?”
“Yes, mama.” Said Alice, snuggling in contentedly to her mother’s shoulder. “I think it is.”
“Alice… I think that it’s probably best if you don’t tell your father about the vision, okay?”
“Why not?” Alice asked.
“Because he won’t believe you and would think that you were practicing witchcraft or something.”
“Okay.” Said Alice forlornly.
When Alice was ten, she was sitting in the library at her house, examining a geode with a magnification glass. Her father said that it wasn’t worth very much money, but Alice had instantly fallen in love with the beautiful purple color of it. She used the magnifying glass and the natural sunlight to look at it from different angles. It was so pretty, the way that it sparkled in the sun, glittering magenta, violet, burgundy, and lavendar as Alice turned it. As she looked deeper into the stone, her mind began to trail off.
I will hear crying. My sister will fall out of her bed. I will hear crying in my sister’s room. I will see that she has fallen out of her crib. My sister, my baby sister will hurt herself.
Alice was instantly filled with mind-numbing panic. She set down both the geode and the magnifying lens and looked around to see where her parents were, before remembering that her mother was at Aunt Alanna’s and her father was out playing croquet with his friends. Alice sighed softly. Where were her grownups when she needed them?
And so, Alice did the only thing she could: she took a deep, calming breath, and decided to take matters into her own hands. Alice ran upstairs to see what Cynthia was doing. She came there just in time to see Cynthia attempting to climb out of her crib, trying to get to the cracker Lilian had left on the changing table, presumably.
“No, Cynthia!” Alice exclaimed. Cythia stopped reaching and looked at her, almost confused. “Here.” Alice said, lifting Cynthia down and getting the cracker for her. Cynthia took the cracker from her and ate it gratefully. Then Alice picked her up, carrying her downstairs to the library, where they could look at the geodes together and Alice could keep a better eye on Cynthia. It was the first time Alice ever successfully intervened to keep one of her visions from coming true.
When Alice was eleven, her parents had hired her a governess, or rather her father had. Lilian was of the opinion that Alice did not need a governess, since she had her father at home to teach the girl anything she needed to know about geology, geography, and other cultures, her mother, also at home to teach her history, English, and medicine, her aunt and cousin a few minutes’ drive from her house to teach her about finances, homemaking, manners, wood carving, and fiber arts, and a cook who had been teaching Alice the magic of music, fractions, chemistry, biology and herbology since Alice could walk.
Despite Lilian telling her husband this, and Alice saying many times that she did not want a governess, Edgar Brandon remained firm about her needing one. And so, Alice had gotten a governess, and now spent all of her time indoors, studying boring things she was pretty sure she’d never need. Who needs to know the capital of England anyway? It’s not like I’m ever gonna go to Europe. Alice thought to herself.
“Mary Alice!” Her governess snapped. “A young lady should always focus when one is talking to her.”
“What about an old lady?” Alice asked, thinking of how her grandmother always fell asleep when Alice was having a conversation with her.
“What was that?”
“Nothing, Miss Felicity.” Recently, her governess had taken to teaching Alice Latin. It had few practical uses in Alice’s opinion. Alice wasn’t going to invent a time machine to go back to ancient Rome, they spoke Italian in Italy now, and her family wasn’t Catholic. The one good thing about learning Latin, in Alice’s mind, at least, was that a lot of Latin words sounded like English words, and they tended to have similar definitions, too. It was like half the words in English had secret meanings in Latin. Miss Felicity’s name came from the Latin word for happiness. Unlike her namesake, Miss Felicity was not happy, nor did she bring any happiness into Alice’s life.
“Alright. You had better pay attention to your Geography, young lady, because someday, if you wish to seem intellient to attract a husband, it will be important for you to know such things.”
“I don’t want a husband!” Alice exclaimed. “I’m only eleven! Dad didn’t get married until he was 32!”
“Why ever would you not want one, Mary Alice? Who do you expect to take care of you when you grow old?”
“My sister. I took care of her when she was a baby, and she’ll take care of me when I grow old. It seems like a fair trade to me.”
“Then who do you expect to have children with?” Miss Felicity demanded.
“I don’t know.” Replied Alice. She enjoyed these debates. “Maybe I’ll start a secular orphanage with a friend.’’
“And how do you expect to have friends when you can’t behave yourself?”
“I’ll become friends with the other people who also can’t behave themselves.”
“You mean like criminals and mental patients? Do you want to go to a mental hospital, Mary Alice? Do you want to go to jail?” Miss Felicity squawked. Alice had to hold in a giggle. She thought it was hilarious how easy Miss Felicity was to wind up. It would be less rewarding to annoy her if she didn’t look like an oversized peacock everytime Alice did it.
“If it means that I get to finally meet some people like me, then sure.” Alice said, injecting a false cheeryness into her voice.
“Some days, I simply don’t know what to do with you, Mary Alice.” Miss Felicity grumbled. “Let’s continue on with this lesson.”
“Okay.” Said Alice, already spacing out again.
Cousin Penelope will be in her room. Her fiancee, who will be her husband, will walk in. He will walk in and he will hit her. She will try to stop him, and he will hit her all the harder.
“Alice!” Miss Felicity said, very angrily this time. “Why do you keep forgetting where you are? I want you to pay attention!”
“Sorry, Miss Felicity.” Alice said in a rush. “I have to go.”
“Go where? Mary Alice Brandon, you get back here right now, young lady!"
But it was too late, Alice was already gone from the room. She ran down the stairs, panic clouding her mind, out the door and continued to run all the way to her Aunt Alanna’s, where Penelope lived.
She arrived at the door and knocked, taking a moment to catch her breath before her Aunt opened the door.
“My goodness, Alice. What a pleasant surprise.” Then she took in the expression on Alice’s face. “Why, Alice, whatever is the matter?”
“I need to talk to Penelope.” Alice replied breathlessly. “She’s in danger, and I need to talk to her.”
“Penelope’s in danger? Why don’t you come on in, Alice. How do you know this?”
“I saw it.” Alice bit her lip, thinking of what happened when she told Bobby of her vision of what happened to him. She decided it was worth the risk. “I saw it in a dream, and my dreams usually come true.”
“Very well. What did you see, exactly?” Asked Aunt Alanna. At that very moment, however, Penelope walked down the stairs, looking slightly confused.
“Alice, why do you look so upset?” Penelope asked, a small crease forming between her eyebrows.
“You shouldn’t marry Jonthan Creevy. He’s going to hurt you.” Alice said, still a bit winded. Aunt Alanna looked from Alice to her daughter a back again with an expressionless face.
“What?” Said Penelope. She narrowed her eyes, half mocking, half annoyed.
“I saw it in one of my visions. He hit you. Or he will.” Penelope scoffed.
“You’re just jealous that you’re not in love yet. Maybe if you’d behave like a lady, you’d find someone to fall in love with, too. Dreams don’t come true. Everyone knows that. Why don’t you just own up to the fact that you’re a jealous little liar, coward. Besides, if your visions are real then that’s suspicious.” Penelope went on in a haughty tone that made Alice want to cry. “If you’re really having visions, then that’s the work of the devil and you’re going to burn in hell for being a jealous witch, a rule-breaking freak, and a liar besides.” Aunt Alanna’s eyes flashed.
“Penelope, you’re acting like a child.”
“It’s okay.” Alice said in a small voice. “I was only trying to help, Penelope. I’ll go home.” And with that, Alice rushed out the door, tears in her eyes.
Alice ran home just as hard as she had run to her Aunt’s house with tears blurring her vision this time. She knew how that she had to talk to her mom about what had happened. As she was running, Penelope’s cruel words kept playing over and over again in her head. You’re going to burn in hell for being a jealous witch. Freak. Dreams don’t come true. Liar. You’re a jealous little liar. Coward. Jealous. Maybe if you’d behave like a lady, you’d find someone to fall in love with, too. Witch. Rule-breaking freak, and a liar besides.
Alice walked into the house, pushing the phrases out of her head. Once she was in the door, she ran instantly to her mother and told her the whole story.
“I tried to explain to her that this had happened in a vision, not a dream, but she just wouldn’t listen.
“I tried, really I did, but she just told me that I was a jealous witch and that she thought that I would burn in hell.”
“Well, maybe you will.” Alice jumped. Her father was standing in the doorway.
“Alice, you shouldn’t go around lying and saying that you have magic powers. It’s bad enough that you disrespect your governess by not listening to her. Ignoring the ten commandments is ignoring the Lord, and that’s one of the largest sins out there. I would beat you if my back weren’t hurt. And you, Lilian.” He said, turning to her mother. “You should not be encouraging her so.” Lilian waited until her husband had left the room and then turned back to Alice.
“I’ll go over to Alanna’s to talk to her about this, alright?” Alice nodded. “Until I get back, I want you up in your room studying Latin with Miss Felicity, you understand?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Alice said, glowering at one of the flowers on the carpet.
“Then I’ll be right back.” Lilian said, putting on a hat and walking out the door. Alice dragged her feet all the way up the stairs and back into her room where Miss Joyless was doubtlessly waiting for her.
“You believe me, don’t you, Alanna?” Lilian asked Alice’s Aunt, taking her hand.
“Of course I do, honey. This isn’t the first time you’ve told me of your daughter’s powers, and I do believe you. And…” Alanna checked just to make sure that they were indeed alone. They were.
“And Alice isn’t the first to make an attempt at warning off Penelope. A couple of her school friends told her that he’s bad news, and we had him over two months ago and he was far too controlling.”
“So there’s hope for Penelope?” Alanna sighed sadly.
“I’m afraid not.” She said. “I’ve been trying, too. Trying to get her to reconsider. She just won’t, though. I honestly fear for her safety. I did before Alice told me the contents of her vision. She told you, as well?”
“Yes. Unfortunately, I don’t know of a situation in which one of her visions didn’t come true exactly. I wish I could be a better help.” Alanna nodded, playing absentmindedly with the charm bracelet on her wrist.
“Thank you for coming over.” Alanna said. Lilian nodded.
“Let’s hope this goes better than what we thought.”
Six months later, a letter came to Alice’s house. At breakfast, Lilian walked in with the letter, let out a startled gasp halfway through reading it, and stood up suddenly, dropping the letter to the floor and saying that she had to go over to Alanna’s immediately.
After Lilian had rushed out the door, Alice picked up the letter that was lying, face-down on the floor of the dining room. It was in Aunt Alanna’s handwriting and smudged with small drops of water.
I regret that I have to inform you of this in a letter rather than on the phone or in person, but I simply do not think that I could speak coherently as so you could understand me. I am so distraught with grief I can hardly think. I heard just last night that Penelope is dead. Her husband beat my baby girl to death in a drunken rage.
At this, Alice could read no more. It was too much. Penelope? Dead? She had seen her injured in a vision not a half years past, but this, this was too much to comprehend for her.
“Why did she have to go off to Alanna’s house again?” Edgar Brandon griped to himself. Alice rounded on him, crying.
“Penelope’s dead, dad! That’s why!” She shouted. He was so surprised that he didn’t have a retort to offer. Alice didn’t care what her father had to say, not really. Alice was too busy thinking about her (now dead) cousin, remembering the time they spent together. All those afternoons curled up in the window seat at her house, talking and doing projects together. Alice really missed those times. Right after the time she knew it was going to rain, when she went over to Aunt Alanna’s and saw Penelope. Alice felt shy, standing there in Penelope’s house, half-soaked with the rain.
“Your father’s jealous of our mothers.” Penelope had said, or words to that effect. Why would father be jealous of them? Alice had wondered that question then, and she wondered it again now. She considered all the time that her mother and Penelope’s mother spent together, how Mama was always happier, calmer, and more relaxed around Alanna than she ever had been around Alice’s father. It took Alice a while to put the pieces together, but, at some point, they fit. Alice’s mother wasn’t in love with her father, she was in love with her aunt. And it’s a good thing that she’s not actually my mother’s sister. Alice thought with a giggle. Though I do truly wish my mother had married her instead of my father, and then Penelope and I could have been real sisters, I wouldn’t have to deal with a governess, and I’d have two mothers, never having to deal with my mean father again.
When Alice was fourteen, she had just sat down to eat dinner with her family. It was a rather cold day, being early in the spring and all, so the cook had prepared soup for them. Alice lifted the spoon to her mouth, and dropped it back into the bowl instantly, it was just that hot.
It will rain outside. It will rain, and rain, and rain again. My mother’s car will go spinning off the road. It will go spinning off the road because another car hit it. My mother will die, and I will have no one to watch over me.
After coming out of the vision, it took Alice a moment to remember where she was.
“Alice, are you alright?” Her mother asked.
“Yes, of course, I believe that I just got my head in the clouds for a moment.” Alice replied automatically.
Dinner went on, and after it was finished Alice pulled her mother aside.
“Please.” She said, after telling Lilian the contents of her vision.
“Please don’t go on any car rides anytime soon. Promise me you’ll stay home when it rains.” Lilian considered this for a moment.
“Alright.” She said, after what felt like an eternity to Alice. “I’ll stay away from the rain.”
“Thank you, mama!” Alice exclaimed, throwing her arms around Lilian’s waist.
After a while, Alice’s mother decided that she needed to live her life regardless of what was going on in Alice’s head. It was the only time Alice and her mother ever got into a fight, and for good reason. Lilian felt the need to live her life, and Alice thought that this meant her mother no longer trusted her visions. The fight ended with Lilian telling Alice that what she wanted to do with her life was none of Alice’s buisness and sending her upstairs with no dinner.
Less than a month later, Mary Alice Brandon went to her mother’s funeral, distraught at the understanding that she would be effectively parentless.
Shortly after that, Alice got a letter in the mail from her Aunt Alanna, asking Alice if she would like to come over for tea. She did, and they bonded over their losses. Alanna had lost a daughter, and Alice had lost a mother, so in some sense they were perfect for each other. Neither of them were flawless, but they found solace in each other, a companion for their grief. And that was enough. They were enough.