February 8th, 18–
“And so, that’s how I – oh, hello, Victor!”
“Hello Richard,” Victor said, smiling at the hatter and the corpse bride standing beside him. “Hello Emily. How are you?”
“Fine,” Emily said. “Richard’s been telling me about how he made his body. You were saying?”
“I presume you mean before I greeted Victor, as I wasn’t saying anything just now.”
“Yes, silly,” Emily said, tapping a skeletal finger against his overlarge nose.
“Oh, I’m silly now! Maybe I won’t finish my story.”
Alice shook her head as she watched them. “Thank you for coming in,” she said to Victor. “It’s been impossible to have any good conversation here today. Not only are they here, so are Victoria and Christopher. The minute one suggests a topic, one couple or the other will put a romantic spin on things.”
“Romance is nice,” Richard declared. “I would say I would have liked to have found it before, but really, I’m perfectly happy having found it now.”
“You’re so sweet,” Emily said with a smile, leaning up against him and making him blush a darker green.
Victor allowed himself a moment’s envious staring. How he longed for Alice to cuddle up to him like that. Well, maybe not just like that – Alice was Alice, and he doubted she’d go about cuddling the exact same way as Emily. Did she even like cuddling? Oh, well, it was a moot question anyway. It didn’t do to dwell on what might have been. “Where are Victoria and Sir Christopher?” he asked, pulling himself free of the grip of the green-eyed monster.
“Downstairs – our White Knight felt it important to give her a chess lesson,” Alice said. “Either that or he’s preparing her to meet the White and Red royalty of Looking Glass House; she mentioned an interest in seeing Wonderland Park.”
“Have you met the chess people yet?” Emily asked Victor, looking quite curious.
“No, not yet,” Victor said. “I’ve been to Wonderland Park quite a few times now, but my interests have revolved around studying the various insects. I’ve been meaning to go and say hello to them and the card suits, though.”
“Lewis needs to brew up some more Drink Me first,” Richard reported. “Apparently there was some trouble with the last batch.”
“Trouble?” Victor repeated.
“Drink Me – or, as he insists on calling it, Pishalver – don’t ask me,” he added upon seeing Victor’s arched eyebrow. “I told him it’s not a proper name for a drink, but he insists. Anyway, under normal conditions, it exudes a special field that shrinks your clothes along with you. The latest bottles, however – he’s not sure if he added something or subtracted it, but. . . .” Hatter mimed something lowering to the ground. “Down went the person, but up stayed the clothes.”
Victor found himself imagining Alice as “the person” and gave himself a mental smack. Shame on you! You’re better than that! “I hope his test subject was all right?” he said, trying not to blush.
“Oh, Lewis was fine, just rather naked in his own shirt and trousers,” Richard laughed. “A little Eat Me – Upelkuchen, he calls it, which is worse than Pishalver – set him to rights. And he even managed to get his trousers on to spare all of his the indecency of seeing him without any clothes. Didn’t spare us the indecency of seeing him half-dressed, of course, but one can’t have everything. It would leave nothing left for the rest of us for a start.”
“And we can’t have that,” Emily agreed. Holding up her skeletal arm, she added, “I’ve already lost more than I should.”
“Indeed,” Richard nodded, stroking it.
“You really aren’t going to finish your story, are you?” Alice teased. “You’re going to get too involved in hugging and kissing each other.”
“Hugging and kissing are perfectly acceptable ways to spend time,” Richard said, putting his overlarge nose in the air. “But I suppose I should finish my narrative.” He paused. “Er, where was I again?”
Before anyone could respond, the door opened again. “Now, William, you promised me a new hat on account of all the trouble we’re going to.”
Victor felt his stomach abruptly try to crawl into his throat. Oh God no! It was bad enough when they met Doc and Marty! Please just leave please just leave please–
“Customers!” Richard sprang to attention with a wide, slightly Creative grin. “How may I help you?”
There was silence. Slowly, Victor turned around to see his parents gawking at Richard, looking rather like the fish they sold. Richard frowned at them, apparently concerned. “Can’t you speak? I thought I heard one of you talking just now. I know sign language, at any rate.”
Nell found her voice after a moment. “And just what are you?” she said coldly. Victor winced, already knowing this was going to be one of the worst moments of his life.
“You’ll have to be more specific. I’m quite a number of things.”
“We can see that,” William murmured, looking at the gears protruding from Richard’s elbows and knees.
Nell whapped him with her fan. “I can see you’re a Fabricated,” she snapped. “I’m wondering what you’re doing in this shop. What sort of man hires one of you stitched-together things to help in his business?”
Richard frowned. “Well, first off, you should say what you mean, and not just mean what you say,” he scolded. “Secondly, I’m not stitched together. I’m primarily welded and screwed together. Thirdly, the sort of man who would hire me is myself – I own the shop.”
“You own – who gives a Fabricated his own store?” William demanded.
“Nobody gave it to me. I had to purchase it like anyone else.”
“And they let you?”
“Yes. Otherwise we wouldn’t be standing here having this argument.”
Nell shook her head, making a clucking nose with her tongue. “It’s absolutely disgraceful, isn’t it William?” she commented. “The way they let creatures like this into--” Her eyes fell on Victor, standing frozen by the counter. “Now what are you doing here?!”
“I--” Victor croaked, wondering what he could say to help minimize the damage.
“Standing by my counter,” Richard answered for him, a deep frown on his face. “Do you have a problem with that?”
“Of course I do! He shouldn’t be here, mingling with the likes of you!” Nell said, stabbing at the air with her fan.
Richard crossed his arms. “I’ll have you know that Victor is a rather good friend of mine,” he said, voice icy. “What gives you the right to dictate his activities?”
“I’m his mother!”
The look of shock on Richard’s face might have been amusing if Victor hadn’t been so nervous about the outcome of all this. He jerked his head between Victor and Nell a few times. “You?” he finally said.
“Yes, me! That’s my son, who apparently is in even worse condition than we thought!” Nell rounded on Victor. “What are you doing here, consorting with piles of moving parts – oh, Lord, and there’s one of those walking worm-feasts here too?!” she added, spotting Emily.
Emily looked like she’d been slapped, while Richard just scowled. “The terms are Fabricated and Reanimated, M-Mother,” Victor said, starting to get angry. “There’s n-no need to be so n-nasty.”
“I think there’s every need,” Nell said, shaking her head. “What happened to you, Victor? You used to do as you were told. You never did it very well, but you did it. Now you’ve run off to gallivant around with – with madboys and Igors and their Inventions! What did that horrible Dr. Brown do to your head?”
“N-nothing! Mother, p-please, not all T-Touched are evil. I’ve b-been living here almost a month now--”
“While having your brains scrambled!”
“Dr. Brown only scrambles eggs, not brains,” Richard spoke up. “He’s a mechanist, not a biologist. Besides, who would want scrambled brains? I can’t imagine they’d taste very good.”
“Stay out of this,” Nell snapped at him.
“Victor, we’re only looking out for your well-being,” William said, leaning on his cane. “It’s not healthy for you to stay here. Sooner or later you’re going to run afoul of someone who wants to use you for spare parts.”
“Doc and Marty wouldn’t let that h-happen to me,” Victor said loyally.
“Neither would I, when it came down to it,” Alice spoke up. “And really, the town isn’t that dangerous.”
“What do you know?” Nell said. “You’re a resident. You’re just as crazy as any of them. Who are you, anyway?”
“Alice Liddell, ma’am,” Alice said, with what Victor would swear was a sarcastic curtsy. “I’m the clerk here at the shop.”
“Clerk? You mean you’re a working woman?” Nell seemed more disgusted by this than by Richard and Emily. “What sort of social classes are you associating with, Victor? We’re better than people in mere trade!”
“How?” Richard asked, sounding honestly confused.
“What do you mean, how?”
“I mean how! You sell fish, don’t you?”
“That has nothing to do with breeding,” Nell said haughtily.
“Or ambition,” William agreed. “I have nothing against a honest day’s work, but your kind never seems to care about advancing beyond your position.”
“According to you, we don’t have a position,” Emily pointed out, eyes narrowed.
“We must have a position,” Richard argued. “However would they judge us otherwise?”
“We’re destined to have tea with the Queen and mingle with the elite,” Nell said, nose in the air. Shooting a glare at Victor, she added, “Not to spend our time wallowing around in the filth of this city.”
“That was truly amazing, Sir Chris – oh! Oh, um, h-hello, Mr. and Mrs. V-Van Dort.”
Victor didn’t know if this was worst or best thing to happen right now. On the one hand, his parents seeing Victoria emerge from the basement room with Sir Christopher could lead to bad things for his friend with her parents. On the other – good lord, the expression on his mother’s face. She genuinely seemed to have been struck dumb, as it was his father who spoke first. “Miss Everglot?! What – what are you doing here?”
“I was j-just playing chess with Sir Chr – Sir Lloyd,” Victoria said, nervously twisting her hands together.
“I was giving her lessons,” Sir Christopher added with a smile. “She’s a very fast learner. Seems a pity her parents saw fit to give her so little academic knowledge. Ah well, we’ll have that fixed soon enough. Mr. and Mrs. Van Dort, was it? May I assume you’re related to our Victor?”
“Your Victor?” Nell finally got out, voice weak.
“Oh, he isn’t mine alone, per say,” Sir Christopher allowed. “It’s not as if I fathered him, or bought him legally. But he’s certainly one of the group, which is an acceptable meaning for ‘our,’ I believe.”
“The group. There’s a group.”
“Well, yes,” Sir Christopher said slowly, his smile fading. “You seem upset; is something wrong?”
“Just that my son seems to consider your type to be acceptable company,” Nell said between clenched teeth.
“Mother! That is Sir Christopher Lloyd! Her Majesty’s White Knight!” Victor said, gesturing wildly. “You surely can’t object to my spending time in his company!”
“I wouldn’t, if I didn’t see the company he was spending time with!” Nell jabbed at Sir Christopher’s chest with her fan. “Shame on you! Don’t you know you’re above these – these degenerates?!”
Sir Christopher glowered. “Madam, these people are some of my dearest friends,” he said, voice coldly polite. “I don’t consider myself above them at all.”
William looked at Victoria. “You’re just here to see him, right?” he asked, nodding at Sir Christopher. “Not any of these other people?”
“Mr. Van Dort--”
“It’s bad enough she’s seeing him,” Nell interrupted, fanning herself. “She’s supposed to be getting married to our son.”
“Victoria told me that any possibility of the union had been more or less dissolved,” Sir Christopher said, honestly confused.
“We’re paying for them to stay here on the condition they don’t give up on Victor entirely,” Nell replied. “Though apparently he’s trying to sabotage all our efforts. Really, I don’t know where we went wrong with him,” she continued, obviously glad of any opportunity to complain. “I don’t even know why he seems to like it here – besides brainwashing, of course, but why bother with him? He can’t be a very good assistant. Everything scares him – the dark, strange people, oddly-shaped trees. . .when he was little, he used to wet his combinations regularly. Sometimes I think it’s a wonder that he doesn’t--”
“MOTHER, I AM NOT FIVE ANYMORE!”
Everyone started at the sudden exclamation – Nell, in particular, looked ready to jump out of her skin. Victor couldn’t blame them – he’d surprised himself a little there. But hearing her go on like that, humiliating him yet again after insulting all of his friends. . .well, something inside of him had just snapped. He could feel the rage flowing through his mind, bubbling and seething and making his entire body feel hot and uncomfortable. “And I am not frightened of everything!” he added, fists clenched at his sides. “I was never frightened of everything! I admit that I have a n-nervous personality, but I h-haven’t been afraid of the dark for years! And I can’t recall ever being afraid of trees. And as for your rude comments about my friends, I find them very hurtful! All of these people have been nothing but kind to me. I never got that at home. Not from anyone.”
Nell stared at him for a moment. Then she seemed to recover some sort of equilibrium. “That is because you never tried! Not with the right classes. All you ever did was stutter and stumble over yourself. There was a reason we thought it best you and Miss Everglot not meet before the ceremony.”
“And that worked out so well, didn’t it?” Alice said, glaring.
“You stay out of this,” Nell snapped. “I don’t know what’s wrong with you personally, but I’m sure there must be something.”
“Mother!” Victor said. “May we stop with the personal remarks?”
“Oh no, let her bluster,” Alice said. “She’s only embarrassing herself, you know.”
“Outrageous!” Nell cried. “Have you no manners?! Your parents ought to have taught you better!”
Alice stiffened at that. “I’m afraid they never got the chance,” she said after a moment, in a carefully neutral voice. “They died when I was young.”
“You’re an orphan? That’s why you’re working trade?” Nell paused, then huffed. “I suppose it’s better than the other option.”
Victor felt the rage bubble up again. “How d-dare you?!” he spluttered.
“Oh, Victor, I didn’t imply that she’d be any better at it,” Nell said snootily.
“Don’t bother, Victor, I don’t give tuppence what she thinks,” Alice said, though Victor noticed she was still rather tense. “As long as she doesn’t say anything bad about my parents.”
“I have no interest in your lineage whatsoever,” Nell replied, nose high. “None of us do – isn’t that right, William?”
“None at all,” William agreed. “Victor, really, you can make better friends than this.”
“Miss Everglot is part of the group you’ve just maligned,” Victor said, teeth clenched.
“Miss Everglot, I’m sure, is just a little confused,” William said gently. “And she is associating with perhaps the only Touched worth knowing.”
“I’m associating with the others as well,” Victoria said, looking as put out as the rest of them by now.
Nell shook her head and spread her arms dramatically. “What is this world coming to, William? Our son and the daughter of a lord and lady, condescending to spend time with a Fabricated--”
“I think technically I’m an Automaton, because of all the metal bits,” Richard interrupted, though whether it was because he was literal or because he wanted to get Nell’s goat, Victor couldn’t tell. “I think you have to be all organic to be a Fabricated.”
“A whatever-he-is, a Reanimated, a Touched – granted, a Touched of high social caliber,” she allowed, nodding at Sir Christopher in what was intended to be a magnanimous way. “And an orphan in trade.”
“Oh, how horrible,” Alice deadpanned. “A young lady with no parents actually working for a living. Not all of us were born into or married money. Begging your pardon, Victoria.”
“It’s fine – I know what you mean,” Victoria nodded.
“It’s where you choose to work is the thing,” Nell said. “What normal person wants to spend time around Touched?”
“Whoever said I was normal?” Alice grinned her best evil grin.
“Right! You’re just as mad as the rest of them, aren’t you! You should be locked up and the key thrown away, before you hurt someone!”
The smile seemed to freeze on Alice’s face. Victor felt his blood boil. “Mother, that’s enough!” he shouted, stepping forward. “These people are my friends, and I will not let you degenerate them!”
“How can you consider such people friends?” William asked, sounding truly confused.
“Because they’ve been kind and caring and – and everything the people back home in Burtonsville aren’t more often than not! Everyone I’ve met here has shown me how wonderful the world can truly be. I’m not going to let you ruin that. I. Like. It. Here.”
“Victor Fitzwilliam Van Dort, how dare you speak this way to your own parents,” Nell hissed, eyes narrowed.
“How dare you speak this way to my friends! Particularly Alice! She is a truly amazing young lady. Meeting her has made my life so much better, I can’t even--” Victor waved a hand, wishing he could somehow pull the words he needed right out of thin air.
“How could someone like that improve your life?” Nell demanded, jabbing her fan at Alice, who had finally dropped the smile for an all-purpose glower. “Look at her! She’s obviously nothing more than--”
“I WILL NOT LET YOU INSULT THE WOMAN I LOVE!”
The entire shop went quiet. Victor felt his rage vanish, the heat of anger snuffed out by sudden icy shock. Oh God. Oh God, I said that out loud. What possessed me to say that out loud?! Alice is going to hate me, Alice is going to hate me. . . .
There was a long, uncomfortable moment of intense silence. Victor could feel everyone staring at him. Finally, Nell sniffed, “You are impossible, Victor.” She turned on her heel and headed for the door. “Come along, William. Let’s find a respectable hat shop.”
“Coming, dear,” William said, voice soft and stunned. He stared at Victor a moment more, then followed his wife outside.
The silence returned as they left. Slowly, Victor forced himself to turn around and face Alice. She was looking at him with wide eyes and an expression that suggested all intelligent thought in her head had stopped for a moment. “Alice, I – I--” he stammered, feeling a wave of guilt worse than any he’d felt before. Informing Victoria and Emily that he didn’t love them romantically had been at least private affairs. Here he’d announced his feelings so loudly he wouldn’t have been surprised if people passing two streets down had heard him. And about a young lady that had said quite clearly that she didn’t need romance. She probably despised him for humiliating her. He despised himself already. And he could still feel the others in the shop staring at him, and – and –
And suddenly, the only thing he could think of doing was running. Just bolt for the exit and do this another day. He couldn’t handle this right now. “I’m sorry,” he got out, before turning and dashing out the door. He knew that this was stupid, that he should go back and face the music like a man, but it was too much emotional torque in too short a time span. Stupid, stupid! he berated himself. What was I thinking, yelling that? I’ve embarrassed myself, I’ve embarrassed Alice, God knows what our other friends think of me –
“Victor!” He heard footsteps racing behind him. “Wait!”
Oh God, she was going to chase him? For a moment, Victor seriously considered speeding up. Then he remembered seeing firsthand how fast Alice could be when she’d killed that snark. He really didn’t want that sort of thing directed at him. He made himself stop and face her. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to say that, I value your friendship and I know you don’t care for romance--” he babbled as she caught up.
Alice put a hand on his mouth, silencing him. “Was it true?” she asked, green eyes intense. “Did you – I’m fairly certain you did, but assuming never gets one anywhere, so let’s be absolutely sure – did you mean what you said just now?”
Looking into those eyes, Victor couldn’t find it in himself to lie. “Yes,” he said softly. “I – I l-love you. I f-figured it out when I met Victoria, but I’d g-guess I’d been in l-love with you for a little while before that. I was g-going to tell you t-the day you met her and Emily, b-but you said you didn’t n-need romance, and I d-didn’t see the point of r-ruining things with a m-misguided confession.”
“You – you really do--” Alice’s voice was shaking now. “Oh Victor. . . .”
“I understand it’s h-hopeless,” Victor rushed to assure her. “I just – I don’t want to lose you as a friend, I like you, and I genuinely enjoy all our time together. Please d-don’t hate me.”
“Hate you, how could I--” Alice stopped, looking shockingly vulnerable, even with the knife strapped to her side. “Victor, I – I – I--”
She suddenly made a noise between a growl and a groan and grabbed her hair. “My psychiatrist is going to have my head,” she said, sounding upset. “One bloody word and I can’t say it. When it’s most important, I can’t say it!”
“You needn’t say anything, Alice,” Victor told her gently. “You already said your piece the other day--”
“No, I need to say this,” Alice interrupted him, looking back up. “Victor, I – I--” She stopped again and looked at him for a moment. “To hell with words,” she suddenly declared.
“Alice, what do--” Victor started, then stopped as Alice grabbed his tie –
And pulled him down into a kiss.
Everything seemed to stop for a moment. The people around them, the sounds of the world, the thoughts in his head – all vanished as his lips met hers, warm and soft. It only lasted for five seconds, but to Victor it felt like a lifetime. He blinked slowly as she released him, not moving from his hunched-over position. “Alice,” he finally said, “d-did you just say you didn’t need r-romance – because you thought I didn’t--”
“Partially,” Alice said with a deep sigh, looking at the ground. “But part of it is that I’ve got a bit of a complex about saying ‘I – I – I you-know-what you’ to someone.”
“There’s this little piece of me that’s certain it’s a death sentence.”
Victor felt a light bulb turn on in his head. “Does this have to do with your parents?”
Alice nodded. “Being the only survivor of the fire did some horrible things to my head. For the longest time I thought it was all my fault, that if I’d only done something, woken up sooner. . . .” She sighed again and shook her head. “It didn’t help that my climbing out of my catatonia meant going on a mental trip through a ruined Wonderland Park and watching a number of dear friends die thanks to monsters. I had to fight a Jabberwock in my head before I started feeling anywhere near better.” Her hand went to the sheath at her waist. “That’s sort of the reason I took up the blade. I wanted to match my skills in my hallucination so – so I could keep everyone safe in this world.”
Victor felt the urge to pull Alice close. Unsure whether or not that would be appreciated, he settled for putting a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s all right. I’m better now, really. And I know those other deaths were all in my head, just my mind attempting to make things right in a – rather gruesome manner, but – it still hurts a little. I still have the occasional nightmare of that world.” She reached up and put her hand over his. “And, obviously, I have trouble getting close to people sometimes. Richard and Cheshire and the others – I knew them from before. It was easier to reestablish our friendships. But it took me almost a month to start really warming up to Doc and Marty.”
“What about Victoria and Emily?” Victor asked.
“I don’t know where I stand with them quite yet,” Alice admitted. “They seem like nice girls, and I’m not one to judge Emily for being Reanimated, but – I guess I’m still a bit uneasy. Richard and Christopher liking them helps quite a lot, but I don’t think I’ll be really and truly comfortable until they’ve been together for a while.”
“Fair enough,” Victor said with a nod. He hesitated, not knowing if he wanted to bring this up. “And. . .myself?”
Alice looked up at him. “Allow me to put it this way – I hadn’t ever had a staring contest with a man the second time I met him before you,” she said, smiling.
Victor blushed, but laughed. “Oh. I – I never really thought – I didn’t realize my own feelings until Victoria--”
“You said,” Alice nodded. “I realized mine that same day, actually. I bumped into Marty while walking, and he mentioned you were meeting the girl your parents wanted you to marry, and I was surprised to find myself feeling a bit jealous. And then I realized, I’d only feel jealous if I – I--” She stopped, rolled her eyes. “No, I’m going to say this. If I – l-l-loved you.”
Victor gave her shoulder a squeeze. “So, we might have avoided some of this embarrassment if one of us had spoken up earlier?”
“If I hadn’t idiotically led you to believe I was incapable of loving someone like that, yes,” Alice said, eyes narrowed in annoyance at herself. “I’m sorry, I was just so annoyed with that other fellow, and then--”
“You don’t need to apologize,” Victor assured her. “I understand.” He frowned and looked down with a sigh. “I’m sorry so much of your life seems--”
“Horrible?” Alice filled in. “I’m sorry too, but there’s little one can do to change the past. And before you ask, no, no one’s come up with a working time machine yet. Your Dr. Brown is the only one who’s come up with a theory that doesn’t involve needing to destroy the entire universe so far.”
“Yes. This sort of thing is difficult even for Touched, it appears.”
They were silent for a moment, collecting their thoughts. Finally, Victor forced himself to speak again. “So – ah – w-where exactly d-does this put us?” He was happy that she loved him back, there was no doubt about that. But was she willing to try a relationship? Did she need time? He wasn’t going to force her into anything. Frankly, it was enough that she returned his feelings.
Alice looked up at him, mouth set in a firm, determined line. “My doctor’s always encouraging me to face my feelings head-on,” she said. “And frankly, I – I’d like to see what it’s like to be someone’s – girlfriend.” She blushed, then tried to frown again. “You just have to promise we’re not going to get as ridiculous as Christopher and Victoria or Richard and Emily.”
Victor couldn’t help a laugh. “I think being ridiculous comes with having someone to love,” he admitted, feeling suddenly as light as a feather. “I will attempt to keep it to a minimum.”
“Good,” Alice said, unable to keep from smiling herself.
Victor nodded, then decided to go ahead and be bold for once. “Well then – would – would you like to have d-dinner tomorrow night?”
Alice grinned in earnest now. “I’d like that very much. About eight o’clock?”
“Sounds right. I’ll – er – pick you up at home?” It occurred to Victor that he actually had no idea where exactly Alice lived. He knew it was with her aunt and uncle, but somehow the matter of her address had never come up before. Then again, we’ve always met either in Wonderland Park or Richard’s hat shop, so I guess I never needed to know before now. . . .
“All right,” Alice agreed. “It’s 1026 Tenniel Road – near the Baudelaire Orphanage for Unfortunate Children.”
“1026 Tenniel Road,” Victor repeated, fixing it in his mind. “I – I l-look forward to meeting your aunt and uncle.”
“They’re looking forward to meeting you, I’m sure,” Alice said. “I’ve mentioned you enough to them.” She chuckled. “Aunt Susan is going to be over the moon about me actually having a date. I don’t think either of them will really believe it at first.” She smirked. “But then, I do enjoy proving people wrong.”
Victor chuckled, then glanced up and down the street. “Er – well – I s-suppose I should g-go and settle our plans,” he said after a moment. “It w-would be a bit awkward to return to the s-shop, I think.”
“Probably,” Alice said, taking his hand and squeezing it. “Don’t worry, I’m sure everyone there will understand.”
“I hope so,” Victor said, reaching up with his free hand and fiddling with his tie. “And d-do tell them I’m sorry again about my parents.”
Alice looked up at him with an expression that seemed right smack dab between sorrow and rage. “I don’t think you have anything to be sorry about, but I’ll pass on the message.” She gave his hand another squeeze. “So – until tomorrow night?”
“Yes,” Victor nodded. “Have a wonderful day, Alice.”
Alice smiled at him – Victor privately thought she’d never looked so lovely. “I will. You do the same, Victor.” She went on tiptoe and pecked him on the cheek before turning and making her way back to the hat shop.
Victor watched her go, feeling deliciously buoyant all over again. She loved him! Alice Liddell loved him! And she was willing to allow him to court her! He had a date tomorrow night!
. . .He had a date tomorrow night.
Victor found himself beginning to hyperventilate as panic threatened to overwhelm joy. He’d never been on a date before. What exactly did one do? Should he bring flowers? Chocolates? No, wait, Alice didn’t like sweets. How formal was his dress supposed to be? Where were they supposed to go for dinner? Was anything supposed to happen afterward? What about her aunt and uncle, what did he say to them to prevent himself from looking like an utter ninny? Oh, God, why didn’t they make a pamphlet for these situations?
Wait a minute. He didn’t have a pamphlet – but he had something, or rather someone, infinitely better. He turned and raced in the direction of Dr. E. Brown’s 24-Hour Scientific Services, hoping desperately Marty was free to talk.