Chapter 1, 2, 3, 4,
Alice always found it very hard to apologize to the Cheshire cat. Sometimes she would tell him she was sorry, then he would make fun of her for thinking that she could ever possibly hurt his feelings. She didn't have the skill to do so, and he didn't have feelings to injure. Then sometimes he would be so miffed with her (despite his self aggrandizing reassurances that he could not be hurt) that he would not appear for several days. His absence made it impossible to apologize.
Then there was the fact that Alice felt that he should really be the one apologizing to her. But that would never happen. The Cheshire cat had no regrets.
And then, of course, there was the fact that he was a figment of her imagination, and apologizing to him was ridiculous. In fact, since she could (in theory) control his behavior, the fact that he acted so aggravating, made her irritated with herself in addition to being irritated with him.
And then there was the fact that she wasn't really sorry at all. He deserved it. Maybe he would learn a lesson. But probably not.
The only thing she regretted was that she had hurt his feelings. But that was mostly her disappointment in the way he handled himself, rather than a disappointment in her own actions. She would throw him off a table again if prodded enough and given the chance. Why did he have to act so bothersome? And why did he have to get snippy about it when she bothered him back? It was unfair.
But no. She was going to apologize, because - as much as she hated to admit it - she enjoyed his company most of the time, and she wished that he would come back and they would be as close to friends as Alice ever got. If getting him to come back meant that she had to swallow her pride and lie, then that's just what she had to do.
Head bowed and shoulders slumped in a posture of grief and infinite regret, she walked into the library and took her usual seat. She took out a single book on which the cat could sit, and then laid her head on the table upon her crossed arms.
The Cheshire cat appeared on her shoulders, pressing a paw awkwardly into her neck, and purring loudly. Setting anything out with the intention that the cat could use it a certain way was the most sure fire way to make the cat do something completely different. He ignored the book entirely, preferring instead to shift through her hair, attempting to find a comfortable place to sit when there was none.
"I'm sorry," she said, her head still pressed into her arms, her voice muffled.
"For overturning the table and throwing you to the floor."
"I believe that you should overturn more tables. It's entertaining when you do."
"It must have startled you to be thrown so."
The cat huffed. "Nothing startles me."
She rolled her eyes, thankful that he couldn't see.
"Then you're not upset?"
"I enjoy being thrown from tables."
She couldn't tell if the cat was being sarcastic, lying, or telling the truth.
"You're not angry?"
"I wouldn't say that."
"What would you say?"
"A great many things. I would say what the weather is like if you were to ask me. I would say that your hair is messy if you did not ask me. And I would sing very loudly if there was no one around to hear."
"You sing loudly anyway."
"Because you're not listening."
"Besides," he continued, "I would never tell anyone about emotions as vulgar as anger."
"Because you prefer to be passive aggressive."
"Me? No. Never." He attempted to sit on her shoulder only to slide off onto the table, where he sat as though that was his intention.
She sat up to look at him, asking one last time, "Are you angry with me?"
"That's a yes, then. Why are you angry if you enjoy it when I overturn tables?"
He tilted his head to the side, his tail beginning to disappear. He blinked at her as if questioning if he should tell her or let her stew, if it was worth mentioning or not.
"You should speak to him," he said.
He eyes darted to the circulation desk, then back to the cat, whose haunches had begun to fade. "Will that make you feel better?"
"It will be very entertaining regardless of the outcome."
"You are not a very comforting friend."
"Ah, but I have never overturned a table."
With that, he vanished, leaving Alice alone to face the boy at the circulation desk.
She could not go. She could stay put and study. She might actually get things done today.
But then again, the cat would know, and he would mock her cowardice for not approaching him, and attempt to drag her down into guilt by constantly bringing up her temper tantrum, and make fun of her table flipping technique. She didn’t really want any of that.
A sick feeling built in her chest as she swallowed and pushed herself to her feet, straightening her spine and quickly pulling her hair over one shoulder. Half dazed, she approached the circulation desk.
The boy looked up from his rather impressive display of balancing a pencil on its end. Or at least Alice found it impressive. His eyes held an interest that she had never seen in them before as he straightened to speak to her, pushing himself off the desk where he was reclining on his elbows.
It was the first time she’d seen him stand straight. He was ever so slightly taller than she was.
She bit back a comment about how she too enjoyed things like balancing pencils and staring off into space. The strangeness of it might scare him away even if he found such qualities endearing. If a first conversation went well, maybe she could ease into her strangeness. Maybe he’d like that part of her, since he shared some of those qualities.
Instead, she favored the more direct route.
“Hello,” she said. “I’m Alice.”