Splintered Page 86

Nodding, I take another sip of wine to ease the ache in my stomach. I smooth out the dress Grenadine gave me after I cleaned up—a red strappy one-piece with black hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs appliquéd just above the knee-length hem. The black petticoats rustle under my hands. She offered boots, but my arches are killing me, so I’m barefoot.

Attending an important political dinner only half-dressed. I couldn’t do that in the human world.

I never thought I would feel so torn about going home. Then again, I never thought this place would feel like home. “I want to experience everything that Alice missed out on,” I finally answer Ivory.

“I understand. Your heart belongs in the mortal realm for now, with the knight you told me of. He sounds very brave and noble.” A dreamy look passes over her face.

A pang of sympathy hits me. She’s always been so isolated— Morpheus must’ve seemed like a dream come true. Even if she can’t find the right guy, there are other ways to curb her emptiness, friendships she can forge. Maybe she just needs a nudge in the right direction.

I glance over at Grenadine, whose mouth glows with moonbeams as she laughs, oblivious to us. “While I’m gone, would you and Grenadine meet once a week or so? Eat together, play croquet, whatever you like. You know, to keep foreign relations balanced. You could take turns hosting . . .”

Ivory’s beautiful, icy features warm at the thought. “Of course.”

“And you might take the sprites back to your castle. They’ll be lost without Morpheus.”

The queen smiles sadly. “Yes. They will. I would be glad to take them in.”

We both pause as the conversation around us turns to stories of Morpheus’s antics throughout his life. The dinner guests snort and smile upon each telling—a transparent ploy to cover their sorrow.

I look down at my plate.

Ivory pats my hand. “He spoke of you often. His childhood with you was sacred to him. So few of us here ever experience that kind of innocence.”

My wings grow heavy on my back as I think of our short time together. The memories I worked so hard to remember will now haunt me forever.

Anticipating the inevitable good-bye to these wondrously eccentric beings—to a very wondrous part of myself—leaves me even more bereft. I gnaw on a drumstick. The mutilated goose snickers and rolls around on his platter, as if he can feel my nibbles all the way across the table.

“We should discuss your journey home.” Ivory places her candy aside. “Time is tricky as you step back through the portal between realms. Unless you envision a specific hour, the clock goes in reverse.”

So that’s what the flowers meant by time moving backward in Wonderland. “How far back?”

“It will drop you into the exact same moment you stepped through to begin with. This could work to your advantage. If you aim for your bedroom, you can give the illusion you never left.”

Blotting my lips with a napkin, I meet her gaze. “No. I have another place in mind. There’s something I have to do before my wings disappear, before I can start my life again.”


The way the portals work, I’m supposed to envision where I want to land, but it has to be a room with a mirror big enough for me to fit through. Magic is stricter in the human realm. Since the only three places I’m really familiar with at the asylum are the registration desk, the lounge, and the bathroom, I squeeze the tiny key on the chain at my neck and choose the obvious one.

Crouching, I crawl through the portal and end up with my knees in a pristine sink, hands banked on the edges for balance. I almost crash into Nurse Jenkins, who was bending over to dig through her makeup bag. An eyebrow pencil clatters to the floor. She totters backward and falls on her butt next to the toilet, gawking at me. A small sound, somewhere between a whimper and a gasp, squeezes from her throat.

Maybe I could explain the eye patches and wings by saying it’s a costume, but creeping through a mirror? Best thing to do is leave and let her convince herself she’s overworked. It’s unlikely she recognizes me, anyway.

I tuck my key into my bodice and breathe deeply, disinfectant stinging my nose. My petticoats crinkle as I hop down from the sink. Freshly mopped cold tiles meet my bare feet.

On my way to the door, I hear Nurse Jenkins squeak. I pause. She’s still sprawled out, in such a state of shock, she’s practically drooling. A full syringe has fallen from her pocket along with her keys. I almost pity her, until I see Alison’s name on the syringe’s label.

I kneel beside her and clamp her keys between my fingers. “I need to borrow these.”

The nurse stares at me, gaping.

A sense of retribution takes over, and I give in to my wicked side. “You know, you seem a little high-strung today.” I roll the syringe her way with my toes as I stand. “Maybe you should take something . . . sleep it off.”

I tip Morpheus’s fedora, turn to the door, and shake out my wings for good measure. Checking to make sure the hall’s empty, I step out, biting back a smile.

The sterile corridors that used to intimidate me hold no terror now. I duck in corners and stick to the shadows, close to being caught once or twice, but since only the night crew is here, I’m soon on the third floor where the padded cells wait—alone. I don’t have to guess which one she’s in. Call it netherling intuition, but I know. Unlocking her door, I creep inside and shut it behind me.

Curled up in a corner, she turns her shaved head and squints my direction. “Allie?” Her voice sounds tiny and muffled.

I take the hat off and drop it. The dim lighting makes her look fragile and weak. My heart caves in. Maybe she’s still too sedated to do this. She proves me wrong when she pushes herself up to lean against the cushioned wall, wrestling with her straitjacket.

“W-wings?” Understanding creeps over her features. “You found the rabbit hole.”

“It’s over, Mom,” I whisper, moving cautiously toward her across the padded floor. I’ve no sooner ripped open the Velcro belts holding her arms in place than she pulls me into a hug. We kneel, clutching each other tightly.

“But you’re one of them,” she sobs against my neck. “The curse . . .”

“No more curse,” I whisper, rubbing my cheek along the fuzz of her head. “There never was one. I have so much to tell you.” h..I..i

I wake up to a growling stomach. White noise buzzes all around and sunlight seeps under the curtains. Still groggy, I glance at the calendar over my bed. Saturday, June 1st. The morning after prom.

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