Saturday, January 21, 2023

A Day in the Life of a Mischievous Cat

 Flickering Flame

A lit candle stands alone,

The soft flame is swaying with a simple sigh.

Scarcely holding on, the light weakens.

In and out, not knowing that she's fading.

She's waning as Time doesn't know what's wrong.

Try as she might, the flame clearly dwindles.

The sigh has caused such trouble,

The flame was sure not long ago.

Time sees past the flame's flickering,

Knowing the future and past isn't enough,

For the flame is flickering in front of Time.

But Time is not the only one,

Who witnesses the dwindling of the flame.

Behind a smile, some riddles, and rhymes,

The flame implies tenacity.

She's waning in the present,

In and out, she flickers

In false tenacity.

It'll take more than Time.

She's flickering.

    As the sun becomes a dying light, a lean dark figure skips through Restless Souls Forest. The forest's black-brown trees bow low as they block out the sky. In the distance, moans and groans complain about their lost life. These ghostly figures wander around as tea time has already passed. Only a few spirits catch a glance of one of the living hopping through their domain. The bumbling ghosts attempt to snatch the prancing figure, only to fail wholeheartedly. But, the youthful woman hums as she dances around the endeavors to possess her.

    "One secret, two secrets, what delicious finds. This mischievous cat will find anything you try to hide," Cheshire continues, "The sun seems quite sleepy; I should check the time."

    Halting mid-skip, she balances on one gold mary jane heel. Positioning her hand in the shape of an L, the top of her glossy black claw marks the sun, and her thumb levels with the ground. Noting the hour with her hand-made axis, she realizes she must return to that place once more. Her fluffy purple cat ears lay flat within the purple chaos of kinky hair. She resumes skipping as two ghosts fail to catch her as she turns down a hidden pathway of mirroring trees. Finally, reaching a pair of trees with red leaves that frame a mirror, she must cross through the glass. The fancy guestroom the mirror leads to is a place she's reluctant to go. Unwilling to enter, the woman fixes her plum-color dress decorated with gold pinstripes and a peter pan collar. Despite fiddling with her appearance, Cheshire's feathery purple tail flickers in displeasure as she can't stall for long. 

    With her appearance at the proper level of chaos, she finally transfers through the mirror. Finally leaving Restless Soul Forest behind, she stands in a chilly guestroom inside the Duke and Duchess's manor. Departing from the too-cold room, she takes a short trip to a warmer guest room inside the estate. She opens the door to the freshly cleaned bedroom and spots another full-length mirror. Tinkering with her appearance again, Cheshire strides towards the colossus mirror that leads to the main hallway. Transporting once more, she escapes through the twin mirror into the main hallway. With cautious steps, she travels down the hallway. Towards the main dining room, savory smells cause her nose to twitch and her stomach to grumble. Her ears perk up as she hears cutlery clank together. Entering the dining room, she spots the massive spread of delectable foods atop a great table. The Duke and Duchess are entertaining other Heart nobles this evening. Unfortunately, the people dining have yet to take notice of her. Knowing that she would be unwanted, she grabs an empty plate and stacks it with food that doesn't need silverware to eat. Her ear twitches as she bothers to listen in on the conversation.

"Why do we even bother with keeping Cheshire's room warm? She's hardly ever here and comes and goes whenever she likes. One of these days, we'll have to have her pick one or the other. Either she stays or never returns." the Duchess takes a large gulp of wine.

    The other guests make a sound of agreement, and the Duke chuckles at his wife's comments. Cheshire Cat is notorious for disappearing and reappearing whenever she wants. A cat such as her could never be in one place long.

    Swallowing the bitten piece of bread in his mouth, the Duke speaks, "Cheshire Cat is far too whimsical to pick whether she'll stay home or never return. She'll find a way to do both sooner so she wouldn't have to choose one."

    The guests go into a fit of laughter, mocking Cheshire Cat's nature while she's in earshot. Conversations like this are a common occurrence in the manor. Cheshire has long grown numb to these words and withdraws from the dining room as the laughter chases after her. Unwilling to withstand the mocking laughter echoing through the hallways, Cheshire places a loaf of bread in her mouth and escapes the manor. She is forsaking her stolen plate of finger food on a side table. Once more outside in late twilight, Cheshire finds her way to Time. With her desire to see Time soon, Cheshire reaches the estate quickly.

    Out on the front lawn reading, a man with an imposing stature reads a curious clock that ticks backward. One side of his long fringe gets tucked behind his ear. Dark eyebrows look scrunched together, lips pressed together in a displeased smile. The clock told a convoluted timeline, and Time is trying to make some sense of it. Wishing to catch the man off-guard, Cheshire tries to sneak up upon him.

    "Don't even try it, Cheshire; I have eyes in the back of my head," his voice has a smile within it.

    "Honestly, why do I date you? I can't even do a surprise pounce because you already know it'll happen!"

    "Do you feel like breaking up?"

    "No, I have to have somewhere to go."

    Time places the clock down on the lawn table. Turning the upper part of his body around, he notices Cheshire's face. His face softens, and he reaches out his hand toward hers. Holding his cold hand, Cheshire allows herself to get led to sit at the table in front of Time. His other hand squeezes Cheshire's knee, prompting her to speak up about her sudden visit. With a heavy breath, Cheshire reiterates what the Duke and Duchess's said at the supper party she wasn't invited to Time.

Time takes a deep exhale, "There's no point in holding onto those words. You know how they are, and they haven't chosen to get better. So don't let their words needlessly ring inside your ears."

With a tired laugh, Cheshire lets Time's words sink into her. Letting his words chip away at the things the Duke and Duchess of Hearts said. Although she hardly feels better, Cheshire realizes that someone is missing.

    "Where's No One? They're usually not long in greeting me when I arrive at the estate."

    "No One is bothering Crow. Come here," Time moves Cheshire into his lap.

    Getting comfortable, Cheshire's ears and tail flicker in happiness. Her smile broadens to show off her sharp canine teeth.

    "So, is there anything I can help you with besides being an emotional support cat?"

    Time laughs, "You're not getting out of cuddling with me. All I want is your company, Cheshire, no more."

    The two stay this way with tiny adjustments as the sky grows completely black. Finally, with distant stars above and front garden gaslights illuminating the night, Time suggests turning in for the night.

    "If you're not needed anywhere else, is it all right for you to stay the night with me?"

    "I quite like that."

    The night went on as Time ensured that Cheshire ate a full meal as he drank tea and picked off food from her plate. Their night went on with them playing a game of cards. A little over an hour later, No One returned to Time estate. The three then played several board games as No One kept mixing up the rules of the different games. The later it got, the three departed to private quarters. Before getting ready for bed, the couple plays one last game for the two of them. Gazing deeply into Time's eyes above her, she notices that Time's clock face irises reflect her face. A Cheshire flush and purring stares back. Overwhelmed with the force of Time, Cheshire buzzes with pleasure. After the warm fuzzy feeling of afterglow, they take a drawn bubble bath together. With the conclusion of their nightly routine, they return to the king-size bed to sleep.

    The proceeding morning is full of domesticity as the trio eats breakfast. Time subtly whines about visiting the Queen of Diamonds to fix her new clock jewelry box. The time is off, making the Queen of Diamonds waste 20 minutes each day. No One teases their brother for having to keep everyone's time consistent. Cheshire only kisses Time's cheek and straightens his coat before he leaves. With him gone, No One runs off to torment unsuspecting Wonderlandians. Saying goodbye to the Time estate staff, Cheshire departs as well.

    With a skip in her step, Cheshire travels to Wonderland City. The trolleys cruise the streets as the horse-drawn carriages trot along. Mad Hatter's Hat Shop is as mad as ever. The three-story-high shop has customers and employees fumbling around. The city rumbles and bumbles with riddles and rhymes. Buzzing about like disorganized bees, Cheshire weaves herself through. She's on time to meet with the White Rabbit, March Hare, and Dormouse for lunch. A few days ago, March Hare suggested they all have lunch at the recently opened cafe, Garden Flowers. Only some days, Tiger-lily, Rose, Daisy, Violet, and Larkspur can agree on what to do. Best enjoy the restaurant now before the threat of weeds comes around. Spotting the albino rabbit, Cheshire makes her way through the cafe. After she pounced on three waiting friends, she took a seat on a mushroom. Picking up the last menu, Cheshire makes polite conversation as talk. She feels pink eyes on her but ignores the unsubtle worry. Everything is fine. Daisy pops up, takes their orders, and gathers the four menus. Moving on from the starter conversation, March Hare and White Rabbit debate about the best way to have a fiber-rich diet when someone they know catches their eye.

    Skipping backward into the restaurant is a dark skin Indian woman holding a heart-covered envelope. Stopping at their table, she turns to the White Rabbit.

    "I brought a letter for you from Heart Palace, Mr. Rabbit. The Five of Hearts said it was urgent," she hands over the envelope.

    "Thank you, Mary Ann. I'll be sure to add a bonus to your pay this week," the White Rabbit pulls out the letter.

    "Splendid, everything is tidied up when you return home; farewell!" Mary Ann skipped backward again.

    Surprising courteous of White Rabbit's privacy, Dormouse and March Hare go on to play I spy while they dine. To collect more secrets, Cheshire secretly places her head over the White Rabbit's shoulder to look at the letter. Because the letter is from the Queen of Hearts, Cheshire reads it carefully. Unfortunately, the Queen is out for the afternoon and won't be at the palace. With a lead to a secret discovered, Cheshire reattaches her head to her neck to finish eating. Then, pretending she wasn't snooping in another person's business, Cheshire detaches her hand to grab a cucumber sandwich. Sandwich in hand floats right to her mouth so she can take a bite. 

    In uncontrollable excitement, Dormouse loses her grip on the teacup she was drinking from. The teacup then whizzes through the air, crashing into Bill's head. The force of the cup causes Bill to faceplant into the table; he is enjoying lunch with Mouse, Duck, and Dodo. Hearing the frustrating noises of a disturbed lunch, the four friends turn away to look at what is happening behind them. Duck's and Dodo's feathers fly about in frustration as they argue with Bill on how to properly crash into the table during lunch. Mouse busy herself with drinking from the broken teacup that caused Bill's crash into the table. Snickering at the chaos at the other table, Cheshire compliments Dormouse's aim. Seeing they are all finished with lunch, the White Rabbit calls for Daisy to bring them their check. With the plates and non-missing teacups cleared, Cheshire folds the bill in fours, with each member taking a corner and splitting the bill. Paying their piece of the slipt bill, they say farewell and leave the cafe.

As Cheshire wanders around, she comes across Side Walking Lane. Knowing her next destination, Cheshire turns her body sideways and scootches down the narrow path toward the Bitten Leaf bar. Reaching the entrance of Bitten Leaf, a frog and fish footman greet her.

    "A riddle if you please," croaks out frog footman.

    Cheshire grins, "I am a ghost that leaves your lips from time to time."

    With a harsh gasp, the fish footman approaches with a tray of eat-me cookies, "Take one, please."

    Following the footman's instructions, Cheshire takes one cookie. She then prances past the two footmen to the actual entrance of the bar. Standing before her is a small red door that even a child would have trouble crawling through.

    "Too big." a snooty male voice states.

    Knowing the drill, Cheshire takes one bite of the small eat-me cookie. While she chews, she shrinks smaller and smaller until she manages to be the perfect size to fit through the red door.

    The doorknob smiles at Cheshire's proper size, "A riddle, if you please?"

    "I am a ghost that leaves your lips from time to time."

    "Thank you, and enjoy your stay at Bitten Leaf," the red door opens, and Cheshire enters the bar in the perfect size.

    Once inside, Cheshire plucks the top mint chocolate from a large green leaf bowl as she skips away from the entrance. Pulling out a handkerchief, she places the other half of the cookie in her skirt pocket. Feeling too lazy to walk to the bar counter, Cheshire does her disappearing-reappearing trick to avoid the walk. She then arrives at an empty seat at the bar; Cheshire's tiny body stands on the tabletop next to Caterpillar. Since the two are the same size, Cheshire flashes Caterpillar a giant grin. Caterpillar blinks his eyes lazily and puffs a cloud of smoke from his blunt toward Cheshire. Then, with an annoyed huff, Cheshire signals a butterfly bartender over. Blue Butterfly flutters in front of Cheshire to take her order.

    "I'll have strawberry rum with sweet lemon cubes and a cute bowl of chocolate mousse topped with strawberries," Cheshire's ears twitch at Caterpillar's huff.

    "Right away," Blue Butterfly flies away to deliver Cheshire's order.

    With her order taken care of, Cheshire eats the mint chocolate. Swallowing the chewed candy, Cheshire returns to her proper size. Hopping off the bar table, Cheshire sits criss-cross applesauce and turns to Caterpillar. Despite her patience, Caterpillar takes a few more puffs from his hookah. Finally taking a break, Caterpillar pauses from smoking.

    "Please, sit on the stool closest to me, Cheshire," Caterpillar gestures to the hookah pipe.

    Taking the invitation, Cheshire sits on the stool closest to Caterpillar.

    "So, how have you been, my dear?"

    "I'm doing well but could be doing better," Cheshire gives a muted smile.

    A kaleidoscope of butterflies delivers Cheshire's drink and dessert. First, she takes a sip and a bite before Caterpillar can inquire more about the secrets she holds within. Then, taking her chance to avoid diving in on her private thoughts, Cheshire enjoys her treats.

    "Alright, business it is. Have you gathered any new secrets across Wonderland?"

    "While I journeyed through Restless Soul forest, I found hidden trails that lead to the four royal suit palaces."

    "What of the souls that haunt the forest?"

    "The ghost of Restless Soul forest has no desire to move on. They only stop their torment of travelers at appropriate meal times and for afternoon tea," Cheshire waves over a new kaleidoscope of butterflies to take away her finished drink. Finally, Cheshire asks for payment, "For a secret gain, may you pay a secret in return?"

    "As you know, Hatter has a lovely red rose garden. So, naturally, I had to pay a surprise visit. The roses were quite aromatic, and I couldn't help but take a nibble. The roses, of course, objected to allowing make a taste of their petals. I tried to persuade them, but the roses wouldn't have it. Then, before I could try a different argument, I spotted the Queen of Hearts enjoying a picnic with Hatter. It was a lovely picnic consisting of only them and red roses."

    With a new secret received, Cheshire smiles widely at Caterpillar. She then takes one last big bite from her chocolate mousse. Finishing her dessert, Cheshire stands up and says farewell to Caterpillar. She waves goodbye to Blue Butterfly and exits the bar. Once reaching the door, Cheshire pulls out her half-eaten "eat me" cookie from her skirt pocket. Eating the second part, she shrinks to fit through the door. 

    Then the doorknob asks, "I am a ghost that leaves your lips from time to time. What am I?"

    "A lie"

    "I hope you had a nice time at Bitten Leaf," the door then opens, letting Cheshire through.

    Before going through the door, a small table that wasn't by the entry appears beside it. Atop the table is a tiny glass vial with a tag that says, "drink me." Picking up the vial, Cheshire takes the sweet liquid shot and starts growing to her regular size. Then, when she returns to her honest height, she makes her way to the Fish and Frog footman.

    At the same time, Fish and Frog footman recite, "I am a ghost that leaves your lips from time to time. What am I?"

    "A lie"

    "We hope you enjoyed your stay at Bitten Leaf."

    With her business done, Cheshire leaves through Side Walking Lane and makes her way to Hatter manor. Taking Directionless Road, Cheshire wanders into Hatter's red rose garden. Not making a sound, she snoops around when she spots a romantic scene outside of a novel happening between Hatter and the Queen of Hearts. Confirming her suspicions, Cheshire leaves the couple to their secret date. She instead enters the Hatter's manor by a side entrance. As she aimlessly wanders around the estate, she comes across a tea room. Likely one of many tea rooms, as Hatter does love his tea. It is only a short time until a maid finds Cheshire and asks if there's anything she can do for her.

    "If you could be so kind as to set up for afternoon tea?"

    "Of course, Miss Cheshire Cat," the maid then leaves.

    Upon the maid's return to the tea room, Cheshire sees a serving chart filled with different teas and snacks for multiple guests. Thanking the maid, Cheshire reassures the maid she'll be fine by herself. When she finished her second cup of tea, Hatter arrived at the tea room. A nervous energy buzzes around him, and Cheshire smiles at him. Then, wishing to be at eye level with Cheshire, Hatter sits at the head of the table. 

    "It's rude to make a guest wait for some time, you know. By the third cup of tea, I was going to start searching for you,"

    "Apologies, I had important matters to attend to," Hatter himself a cup of tea and a couple of cucumber sandwiches.

    "The red roses must be happy to see their mistress and master together, huh?"

    Flushing at the accusations, Hatter stutters an unbelievable excuse for what Cheshire saw. Then, finally, she smiles in sympathy and sends her to Hatter's cheek to reassure him. When he calms down, realizing that Cheshire won't reveal his secret, Cheshire disappears from her seat to appear in his lap.

"But since the Queen of Hearts can never stay for the night, I can comfort you tonight if you let me stay,"

With a sad smile, Hatter hugs Cheshire closer. Cheshire ears and tail stiffly flicker and sway.

"Cheshire, you are always welcome in my home. You need not pay to stay," he holds her gently with each word as Cheshire tenses in his arms, "As your friend, I'll continuously welcome you."

With a strange and distant look in her eye, she retorts, "A housed cat needs to prove she's grateful to those who house her."

    Sensing Hatter wanting to ask questions, Cheshire laughs it off, "Thank you for letting me stay if I want to."

    The grandfather clock inside the tea room rings, with the cuckoo bird declaring it's 4 in the afternoon and that Time has dropped by. Leaving Hatter's lap, Cheshire returns to her while Hatter gets up to welcome Time. The same maid as before leads Time inside the tea room. Hatter and Time briefly shake hands before Time sits in the chair beside Cheshire. Smiling at Time, Cheshire fixes him a cup of tea to his taste.

    "No One has decided to join me today," and just like that, No One appeared sitting across from Time.

    "Hello, No One,"

    "It hasn't even been two days since I've seen you,"

    "Hello, Hatter and Cheshire, nearly two days since seeing you are too long," with pleasantries out of the way, No One starts eating away at the snacks.

    Amused by his sibling's antics, Time drinks his tea slowly and asks, "How have your morning been, Cheshire, Hatter?"

    "Well, soon after I opened the hat shop today, I argued with a few customers. Wonderlandian residents of Chessboard City need to be made aware that proper hat wear for the morning is different from the same headwear for noon to six. I was accused of trying to see more hats, but it's not my fault they were ignorant of these rules..."

    As Hatter goes on about his morning troubles, Cheshire zones out and begins to feel herself fade. The farther away their voices become, the harder it becomes to stay in place. It's easier for her to flicker in and out. The edges of her vision blackened as if sleep calls.

    "Cheshire...Cheshire...CHESHIRE!" Time's familiar hand grabs her shoulder.

    "Humm?" Looking around, Cheshire realizes she drifted too far as she meets three pairs of worried eyes. Brushing off their worries with a giggle, Cheshire says a riddle, "I fly horizontally and rise vertically over a checkered plain. What am I?"

    Although No One replies with continuous wrong answers, Hatter and Time continue to watch her closely.

    "Okay, I give up! What's the answer?"    

    Before Cheshire can answer, Time does, "A rook."

    "No fair Time! You already knew the answer, huh? You cheater! This is why I can't trust you with riddles!"

    Having enough, Time says, "No One has left Hatter manor."

    "Not Fair!" is the last thing No One said before being forced to leave.

    "You're going to receive a rather loud complaint when you return to your estate, Time," Hatter pours himself half a cup of tea.

    Time shrugs, as he's too used to No One's antics to be fazed at this point. Then, laughing at Time's reaction, Cheshire appears atop his lap. Happy to have Cheshire in his lap, Time wraps his arms around her and gives her a loving hug.

    "You're going to have to be extra friendly to No One before pulling that stunt again," Cheshire nuzzles Time's shoulder.

    Time kisses Cheshire's forehead, "You're right, love. It was insensitive of me, and I should apologize."

    "I see, Time, I tell you to be a good brother, and you simply shrug. But, when Cheshire suggests that you take No One's feelings into account, you listen," Hatter takes a long sip of tea.

    An embarrassed blush covers Time's ear because of his obvious bias, but he refuses to deny it. He only holds Cheshire closer as she purrs in his arms to calm him down. With his embarrassment dying down, Time and Hatter move on to other topics as Cheshire's mind drifts. The two men's voices become a soothing deep hum rocking her consciousness farther away. In and out, she fades, barely holding on. Needing to move around, Cheshire disappears from Time's lap. Hunching over to hug and kiss Time's forehead, Cheshire departs and leaves the tea room. Leaving the manor the same way she came, Cheshire travels through the red rose garden.

The dwindling fire is fading.

Waning light losing spark.

The weakened light is threatened to snuff out.

    Lost in her thoughts, she doesn't realize that she lost her way inside the Crooked Woods. Crooked trees and crooked pathways, nothing grows and lays straight. Everything curves and bends when one lives in the Crooked Woods. However, when Cheshire thinks to go down a crooked path outside the Crooked Woods, Crow flies overhead. Crow is large enough to fit a family of six on his back. With the strength to lift his body so high, it's no wonder Cheshire gets caught up in his gust of wind. The loud flaps of a pair of wings are the only warning she gets before Crow changes the wind pattern. Sweeping her up above the trees, Cheshire sores through the air. Flipping about with no control in wherein Wonderland she'll land.

Stardust Sailing

A crumbling star spirals into dust,

Sailing on the air's wings, traveling above.

A star, once whole, is a pretty state,

Until something breaks.

Bit by bit, the pieces get carried away,

Flying along with the wind.

Farther and farther the pieces go,

Likely failing to become a new whole.

Across the wind, stardust flies,

Shrinking the star from its whole.

Filling the wind with its crumbling bits,

Stardust scatters in the wind.

    As Cheshire soars, she fades in and out as if becoming a part of the wind, but as the ground nears, she becomes whole. Then, like a proper cat, she lands on her feet. Peering at the trees, Cheshire takes in the soft purple bark and warm brown leaves plump with life. The purplish-green grass still has specks of dew clinging to it. Cheshire realizes she landed somewhere within the Tulgey Woods. Cheshire wanders around the twisting purple woods directionlessly after a causal shrug and a skip. She only halted because she came across the Jabberwock. 

    The Jabberwock's long neck slithered its way onto her directionless path. Cream-white eyes stare her down as a lipless mouth grins with jagged yellowed teeth. Silver blue scales glisten in the early evening light as the Jabberwock's pudgy body crawls forward with the help of long tawny nails. Keeping eye contact with the Jabberwock, Cheshire slowly backs away.

    "What is this lost cat doing in my woods? Surely, this lost cat isn't up to anything good?"

    "I'm up to nothing, but tell me, Jabberwock, what of the Jubub Bird?" Cheshire keeps herself out of the Jabberwock's claws.

    "Oh, Jubub Bird, oh, Jubub Bird. They aren't feeling very well. The Jubub Bird recently haven't been able to come out of their shell." the Jabberwock's teeth snap at the end.

Cheshire takes two large skips backward to stay away from the Jabberwock's mouth, "What about the Bandersnatch? Aren't you two pretty close?"

    With a lazy blink, the Jabberwock answers, "Dear Bandersnatch, oh, she ate too many snacks and has spent the day on her back. I did warn her to avoid eating so much, giving her a belly attack."

The smell of pond water tickles Cheshire's nose. Keeping one eye on the Jabberwock and another on the pond, Cheshire finds a chance to escape. Glasswater Pond is hidden deep within Tulgey Woods. The pond water is perfectly still and acts as a giant travel mirror. It contains thousands of other water mirrors that lead to smaller bodies of water anywhere in Wonderland.

    "This was fun, but I have to run, farewell Jabberwock!" disappearing from directly in front of the Jabberwock, Cheshire reappears at the center of the pond.

    Gracefully sinking into the water, Cheshire gets surrounded by the clear soft, rippling water. Within the depths of the pond, Cheshire floats through. Away from the surface, thousands of person-sized water mirrors surround her. Each mirror reflects a different destination in Wonderland. However, due to the different angles and shapes of the mirrors, it's hard to tell where Cheshire will end up once she travels through them. Picking a mirror that reflects red roses, Cheshire exits through it. She stood within the grand fountain inside the King and Queen of Hearts' red rose garden. Surveying the garden, Cheshire realizes that Hatter's garden is more intimate than the palace garden. Both are beautiful, but it's no wonder that the Queen of Hearts' romantic escape is the Hatter's garden. A trio of voices breaks Cheshire out of her daze. Recognizing the White Rabbit's voice, the other two must be the King and Queen.

    Turning the corner, the small entourage led by the King and Queen of Hearts come upon Cheshire standing inside a heart-shaped fountain. Disappearing from the fountain, Cheshire reappears behind the White Rabbit, thoroughly dried. Resting her disconnected head on the shoulder of the albino rabbit man. 

    The White Rabbit jumps as she whispers inside his erect ear, "I'm without a body, but you can hear me, and you can learn to read me. What am I, Mr. White Rabbit?"

    "Miss Cheshire Cat, by order of the King of Hearts, how did you get inside the Hearts Palace?"

    "You see, your majesty, as a cat, sometimes I wander one way, and other times I wander another way, ending up wherever. Hearts Palace is just another where I ended up."

Having enough of Cheshire's nonsense, the Queen steps forward, "What foolishness are you on about? Since you're on the grounds without an invitation, I order you to get out. If not, it'll be off with your head, cat!"

    "If my Queen insists, I shall return to the Hatter's manor."

    "And why and what would you be doing at Hatter manor?"

    "Why drinking tea, of course, as Hatter does make the best tea!" before the Queen of Hearts can start shouting, Cheshire continues, "the best tea Hatter has to offer is red rose tea. The tea tastes even better when surrounded by his beautiful red roses garden."

    Trembling in repressed anger, the Queen hisses, "And how do you know that, Cheshire?"

    Cutely tilting her head with a giant grin, Cheshire replies, "I know this because I've never seen Hatter look more lovely. While enjoying a picnic with his beloved lady, his eyes were full of love."

    "I had no idea Hatter was in a relationship. I thought he only had hats on his mind," the King of Hearts jokes with the White Rabbit.

    "That is true, your majesty. With so many eye-catching maidens of the Hearts court trying to catch Hatter's eye, I am not surprised someone finally did," says the White Rabbit as he bounces in place.

The Knave of Heart loudly coughs, "Your majesty, her majesty, the Queen just stomped off with several cards."

    "Oh dear, after my Queen!" the King hurried after her with the Knave and White Rabbit behind him.

    With a full-belly laugh, Cheshire smiles at the delightful conversation she just had. Then, ravenous for more mischief, Cheshire hums as she skips through Hearts Palace garden. Hunting for more fun to keep herself from fading away. END.