Unhinged Page 40

If that’s the case, what else has she been lying about?

I press a hand to my mouth. Morpheus is trying to come between us. I won’t let him.

“No,” I say. “You …” I point to Morpheus. “You told me I was the first since Alice to dive into the rabbit hole.”

He raises a finger. “Not so. What I said was you were the first since Alice who was cunning enough to discover the rabbit hole on your own and leap inside. I led your mum to the rabbit hole, and she let me carry her down. She wasn’t quite as resourceful as you. I believe that was her downfall, ultimately. That and her complete and utter lack of loyalty.”

Mom scowls in his direction.

I swallow a sob. “But Sister One, in the cemetery that day … she said I was the first to come forward and try for the crown.”

The look that passes between Mom and Morpheus is full of knowing.

“Perhaps because your mum never made it quite that far?” Morpheus offers the answer up as a question. A sure sign he’s covering something.

“It wouldn’t matter,” I respond. “Sister One was keeping track of my progress the whole time I was in Wonderland, because of what she stood to gain if I passed the tests. She would’ve been doing the same with Mom. No.” I direct my next words to my mom. “You’ve never been there. You thought the Liddells were cursed. You didn’t know the truth, didn’t know what the tests were for. Not until I told you. Right, Mom? Right?”

She wipes her hands dry on a dish towel and starts toward the doorway. “Allie,” she says as she steps across the threshold, “let me explain.”

Morpheus follows her, his mouth on a severe slant. “You owe her more than an explanation. You owe her an apology for deceiving her all these years.”

“You’re one to speak of deception.” Mom seethes.

“Oh?” In a graceful flash of movement, Morpheus backs her to the wall without even touching her. Again, he keeps that distance between them, some invisible line he won’t cross. “You let me take the blame for Alyssa being pulled into Wonderland, for the disorder in her life. But it was you who turned your back on your commitments. You made a conscious choice that affected the future of any child you and Tommy-toes would ever have. It’s time you admit it.”

In the dimness, Mom’s platinum hair glows and writhes like slivers of living moonlight—as evocative as the plants in our lunar garden caught in a breeze. I’m paying such close attention to her, I don’t notice what’s happening with Morpheus until he growls.

The moths on his hat’s brim flap, as if resurrected. They lift the hat off his head, and he has to leap for it. The corners of Mom’s lips quiver, fighting a smug smile.

She’s manipulating their wings.

I suppress the scream building in me, unable to deny what’s right in front of my eyes: the magic inside her that I thought had never been tapped is alive, because she’s been to Wonderland … and back.

I remember first meeting the flower fae in Wonderland, how they mentioned that I looked like “you know who.” I always thought they were talking about Alice, or maybe Red. But that wasn’t it at all. They were talking about my mom.

I press my spine into the wall hard enough to pinch my wing buds. “The smudged writing in the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland book,” I say, barely above a whisper. “Morpheus didn’t blur it. It was you. You didn’t want me to figure out you’d been there.”

Morpheus drops his hat into place again. He leans against the wall a few feet from me, one boot heel propped on the baseboard. “Your mum wanted to work with me from the very beginning, when she was thirteen and heard the nether-call. That’s how badly she craved the power of the crown. All I had to do was find a way she could accomplish the impossible tests in King Red’s decree. So for three years, I worked on an alternate route of obstacles to fulfill his requirements by playing on the definitions that he’d written out, getting her approval on each step—”

“You were going to let Queen Red live inside you?” I interrupt, staring at Mom in disbelief.

“Not quite,” Morpheus snaps. “Unlike you, Alison planned to use her wish as I instructed, to banish Red from Wonderland forever. And we wouldn’t even be in this sorry predicament had you chosen to do the same instead of saving your boyfriend’s insignificant mortal life.”

I want to scratch off the jewels under his eyes for saying that, but I can’t move.

Morpheus waves a hand. “It doesn’t matter now. I made the ultimate mistake, by not having her vow on her life-magic to finish what she started. Alison’s a traitor. She backed out because she met your father. ’Tis telling, though. How she kept all of the heirlooms, taking precautions so no one else could follow the clues I’d given her. Perhaps she wanted another chance to try for the crown one day.”

“That’s not why, Morpheus,” Mom hisses. “And you know that.”

He shrugs. “We could ask Rabid. He was there.”

I shake my head. “Where is Rabid?” In all the craziness, I’d forgotten we left him alone in my room.

“I tied him up,” Mom answers. “He’s being entertained by your eels. Electroshock therapy. Penance for his role in what happened to you last summer.”

I gasp at her callousness and start for my room, but Morpheus steps into my path.

“He’s fine,” he assures me, a hand on my shoulder. “Electricity has no effect on our kind.”

I shake him off. “Well, it can’t be good for my eels!” I shout. “They have to be terrified!” Morpheus and Mom both look at me like I’m losing it. If I am, they’re the ones to blame. “Get Rabid out. Tell him I demand to know why he’s here.”

Morpheus raises his eyebrows at me. Then, with an admiring glint in his eye, he removes his hat and bows. “As you wish, Your Majesty.” He passes a meaningful glance to my mom. “You might try telling your daughter the truth for once. Were you able to decipher any of the mosaics before hiding them?”

Mom shrugs, a sour expression on her face.

“Share what you saw … along with everything else you’ve been hiding. She won’t survive Red’s attack unless she’s equipped with the truth.” Morpheus offers me one last glance—jewels flashing the gentle blue of compassion—then replaces his hat. His boots clomp across the linoleum floor.

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