OUT OF THE BAG
Nothing makes me smile like my favorite riddle, "Why are you always smiling?" The answer's simple: "Smiling makes people wonder." At least in Wonderland it does.
I know ... Wonderland's sealed off from Ever After High and there's no hope for ever going back, right? What-ever-after. I'll believe that when the White Rabbit's on time. I'm not one of those people who believes "Follow your destiny, or you'll go POOF." BTW, that's riddle-iculous. I should know. Vanishing is kind of my thing. I go POOF all the time.
But people don't want to hear that from me. My destiny is to be the meddling Cheshire Cat of Wonderland. Forget destiny! I
sometimes prefer to guide people to the truth — that protecting your friends is the most important thing ever after. Just ask my best friend fur-ever, Lizzie Hearts.
When Lizzie floated on cloud nine into my room, I thought How non-strange. Lizzie's the next Queen of Hearts, and she's usually all "OFF WITH YOUR HEAD!" Why was she twirling around the room like a ballerina? Curious.
"Can you keep a secret?" Lizzie uncharacteristically giggled. "I just had my first date!"
Curiouser. "A crown on a sleeve isn't in when the first ends and the final begins?"*
"Since the most charming boy asked me out!" Lizzie gushed. "He's not like everyone else. He gets the real me."
"Hey, why aren't you answering in Riddlish?" I asked. When someone speaks the Wonderland riddle language, you answer with a riddle. It's just common courtesy.
"We live in Ever After now," Lizzie dreamily stared off, "We should try to fit in."
Curiouser and curiouser. "Lizzie, who asked you out?"
"Prince. Daring. Charming." Lizzie sighed.
"Daring Charming? Have you lost your madness?" I said.
"I certainly have not!" Lizzie said. "Daring's like me: Royally misunderstood." She crossed her arms and turned her back. "I think you should disappear."
Sarcastically smiling, I bowed. POOF!
Something unwonderful was up with Lizzie. I'd have to be Tweedle Dum not to be worried. When we first came to the land of Ever After, we only had each other.
Although it seems like nine lives ago, my last day in Wonderland feels fresh as yesterday. I was sleeping in my favorite tumtum tree. Then I woke up. I stretched. Then I fell asleep again. When I finally woke up to groom, something rudely knocked me off my branch. "What the hex?" I hissed. As I landed on my feet, Madeline Hatter, Bunny Blanc and Alistair Wonderland were there waiting.
Each of them looked ... sad. No surprise. For some time now, Wonderland's madness was out of balance. Alistair, who looked so much like his mom Alice, explained, "The Evil Queen's cursed Wonderland, and I figured out why. She's trying to take over our story. Nobody can stop the spell." He hung his head. "People from Ever After are here to rescue us."
"More like kicking us out," Bunny looked at her pocket watch. "We need to get to the rabbit hole soon or be trapped here forever after."
For the first time in my life, I lost my smile. "Wait! We have to get Lizzie." Nobody had heard from Lizzie in some time. Word was her mom went mad and locked Lizzie inside the palace.
We snuck into Card Castle. As the others distracted the guards, I POOFED to Lizzie's room and quickly POOFED us out to the croquet field. Moments later, Maddie came running towards us. "I lost Alistair and Bunny," she shouted.
"They'll have to catch up to us!" I said. We POOFED to the exit.
Precious seconds slipped away. Maddie paced back and forth. Lizzie shuffled her deck of cards. I faded in and out of invisibility. Where are they? I wondered.
Then two figures sped towards us, but it wasn't Alistair and Bunny. It was the White Queen and the Mad Hatter. The White Queen informed us, "We must leave. Now!" Before we could argue, the rabbit hole sucked us up and spit us out into Ever After.
Alistair and Bunny were trapped in Wonderland. Was it my fault? Did I abandon them? I haven't figured out those riddles, but I have sworn to never abandon a friend ever after again.
Wanting to date a Prince Charming is about as un-Lizzie-like as Lizzie can get. And not speaking Riddlish? Lizzie's lost her crown!
Look, I get it
kind of. Daring's popular and has a blinding smile. He has the varsity letters in Tower Climbing, Dragon Slaying and Damsel Rescuing. But he's such a standard-issue hextbook Prince. Why would Lizzie be into someone so ... usual?
But what really bothered me was Daring's destiny. He's the Prince Charming in Apple White's story. But he and Apple have an agreement: since they're going to live Happily Ever After, they won't date each other now. Meaning Daring's free to woo any girl. And, from the looks of things, that girl was Lizzie ... Or was it?
I found Daring in the Charmitorium with Duchess Swan. Duchess twirled her hair as Daring admired himself in his hand mirror. "How about it? You. Me. 8 tonight at the Multihex Theater?" he said with a smile.
"Okay," Duchess sighed, and leapt away in a grand jeté.
POOF! "Playing your cards right, Daring?"
DING! Daring smiled. "Are you asking me out on a date?" Daring winked, snapped and pointed his finger-guns.
My smile widened, "What about your date with Duchess?"
"Excuse me?" Daring asked.
"Excuses, excuses," I smiled. POOF!
Lizzie lay on the croquet field, plucking petals off a freshly painted rose. Usually she's careful to protect her mad image as the ever angry Queen of Hearts, but not anymore. She'd lost her way. I knew what I had to do.
POOF! "Oh hey, Lizzie? Can we talk? Look, I don't want to argue."
"Me neither," she said, putting the rose down. "I just want to be happy."
"Lizzie, you know Daring's not going to make you happy," I said.
"This again? Daring cares about me!" Lizzie said.
"He only cares about himself!" I said. Why wasn't she listening to me?
"OFF WITH YOUR HEAD!" Lizzie shouted. That's more like the Lizzie I know.
I smiled. "Let's have a girl's night out."
Immediately, Lizzie softened. "What were you thinking?"
"The Multihex Theater." I smiled wide. "Showtime's at 8."
The Multihex was packed. Everyone and their fairy godmother wanted to see a movie.
I POOFED to the top of the concessions stand. There was Lizzie's unmistakable heart-shaped hair near the entrance. And over at the snack line Duchess adoringly held Daring's arm as Daring adored his own reflection.
I POOFED to the entrance as Daring and Duchess headed into the theater. "Hey Lizzie! Want to get some snacks and I'll grab our seats?"
Just before the trailers started, Lizzie walked through the doors hugging two dragon-sized drinks. "Here you go, Kitty."
"Thanks Lizz — WHOOPS!" My drink "accidentally" spilled on the person in front of me ... Daring Charming.
"Hey, what the hex!" Daring shouted.
Lizzie's jaw dropped, "Daring?" She looked to his left. "Duchess?"
Daring's eyes widened. "Lizzie?"
Finally. This was the moment. Lizzie was going to give Daring an "OFF WITH YOUR HEAD!" like only a Queen of Hearts could. She would be herself again.
But that didn't happen. Instead, Lizzie fled the theater. When I found her, she was slumped against the troll bridge leading to school. She stared hard as I walked up to her. "You knew they were going to be there, didn't you?" she asked.
"Lizzie, I told you he was no good," I said. "Come one, let's get some tea." I offered her a hand up.
But Lizzie brushed it away. "You're not my friend. OFF WITH YOUR HEAD!" For the second time, my smile vanished.
Days passed, and Lizzie still wasn't talking to me. I tried stopping her in the hallways, but she acted like I was invisible. Was I? I left a note in her locker, but she discarded it. What the hex? All I tried to do was help.
That weekend, Maddie invited me to have tea with her, which sounded purrfect. As minty steam filled our dorm, there was a knock at the door. "Oh good, you're finally here," Maddie answered. She walked back to the table. Behind her was Lizzie, who narrowed her eyes at me. I admired my nails.
"I'm not sitting with her," Lizzie said. "You must have lost your head."
"Peas and crackers, it's time to stop fighting!" Maddie stomped, almost breaking her porcelain heels. Now I understood Maddie's plan. There's only one way to resolve a conflict in Wonderland: over tea while wearing hats. As if she was reading my thoughts, I am! - Maddie Get out of my story! - Kitty Maddie handed us a large hat.
I put on my hat. "Why are you mad? Daring's not the prince for you."
Lizzie put on her hat. "Do you know how embarrassed I was? I almost lost my head in front of everyone!"
I poured the tea. "You say that like it's a bad thing." We talked for hours about how things had changed since we came to Ever After. Finally I said, "What about your destiny? There's no Prince Charming in your story. "
"Since when do you care about destiny?" Lizzie asked.
That gave me paws to think. After a few moments I smiled, "I don't. But I need you to. You're our Queen and my friend. Only you can lead us back home. We need to break the curse." I raised my cup, "I apologize, Lizzie. I'm still learning to be a better friend."
"I'm sorry, too. I mean ..." Lizzie clicked her cup to mine. "One can't find a blur when handing over three."*
"Crowns and smiles under one tree."* I sipped my cup, and Lizzie sipped from hers.