“Out of all my ill-fitting hats, one has never given me a headache like you do.”
“I’ve only begun to give you a headache,” she whispered and turned around and walked down the steps.
She got to the landing before I was close enough to grab her wrist, stopping her escape. She wiggled, freeing her hand. When I refused to back off, she moved her leg like she was going to knee me in the groin, so I completely closed the gap between us, pressing my hips against hers. She had no movement to strike.
“I’m done with this charade!” I yelled even though we were millimeters away from each other. “Everything you say doesn’t make a lick of sense. Why did you come here? Surely it wasn’t just to annoy me.”
“Just because you don’t understand my way of thinking, it doesn’t mean that I don’t make sense!” she yelled. “You’re such a—”
“A what?” I interrupted. “An Otherworlder?”
She stepped closer, even though I hadn’t thought it possible, making it clear that I hadn’t intimidated her. Even though I was taller than her, she stood on her tip toes, making us closer to the same height.
“Actually, I was going to say that you are such a boy! What’s an Otherworlder, Ryley? I’m not sure that word even has a definition, or did you make it up? Now, who sounds crazy?” she said, spreading her arms wide.
I’d forgotten about everyone else in existence. Everyone was staring. Judging from the context spoken, I did sound more insane than she.
“What is Wonderland, Alice Mae?”
“Do you not remember anything?” She seemed genuinely frustrated.
“I’m not in the habit of remembering places I have never been, you stupid girl!”
“Don’t call me that!” She socked me in the gut. Normally, I would have thought it cute that she tried to attack me since she was so feeble, but today it only aggravated me.
“I was alerted that your father’s car had moved,” Alice Mae said. “Was he able to answer any of your questions?”
The hall got so quiet, not a single person coughed. I wanted to rip the damn rabbit’s head off, but it was in my backpack that I’d dropped when I noticed the hat carnage in my locker.
“My dad is not around,” I said.
“Interesting phrasing,” Alice Mae said, analyzing my comment. She tapped her finger on her chin like she was deep in thought. “You didn’t say he was dead, nor did you confirm it. Perchance you and your mom made up a series of lies about him?”
I had to shut her up before she told everyone the truth! I wanted to strangle her. I hated how she could completely destroy me with a few simple words. She knew my deepest secret, and now she was telling the whole school about my whacked-out dad!
“—where does he live Ryley? I can’t seem to remember its name. It was some kind—”
I slapped my free hand over her mouth. She bit down. I pulled my hand away. Teeth marks were embedded in my skin. Smirking at me, she licked her lips.
“You instigated this war!” she said. She spoke more loudly. She was right. Her voice did carry. “Your father isn’t dead. He’s insa—”
In a stated of extreme panic, I did the only logical thing I could think of to shut her up.
I kissed her.
Visit Sarah J. Pepper’s website to learn more about her unique retelling of the classic Wonderland tale, right here at: http://www.peppersreadingcorner.com/.
Also, check out her special Facebook interview here.
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