Elizabeth, a twenty-four-year-old interior designer living in Brooklyn, New York, encounters a little more than mental static when she sits down for her morning meditation, feeling disconnected from herself and her reality. As she meditates, she forces herself to confront her inner demons head on-including the darker parts that she would rather keep hidden from others, like her boyfriend, Adam. Her inner conflict leads her down a rabbit hole that is far different from the one she remembers from her favorite childhood story. When Elizabeth reaches the bottom of the rabbit hole, she follows a shadowy figure in a familiar blue dress who taunts her and coaxes her deeper into Wonderland.
Unable to release herself from her meditation, Elizabeth chases Alice through Wonderland, guided by clues left by Alice, as well as the dark and strangely familiar characters she meets, like the Cheshire Cat, the Tweedle twins, and the Mad Hatter. In Wonderland, Elizabeth comes face to face with her inner light and darkness, and, finally, Alice-and discovers that Alice's secret might be what she has been searching for all along.
|Publisher:||Greenleaf Book Group, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.53(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Meditations in Wonderland
By Anna Patrick
River Grove BooksCopyright © 2015 Anna Patrick
All rights reserved.
Elizabeth stumbled into the bathroom and groped the wall for the light switch with the needy fingers of someone functioning from the blurred state between being awake and being asleep, where the subconscious mind still pulls the strings.
The light streaming in from the window behind her caught the medicine cabinet mirror, beckoning her. She flicked the light on and rubbed her temples as she approached the sink. She didn't reach for her toothbrush. Instead, she gripped the sides of the sink, her white knuckles complementing the porcelain, as she held in a scream. It wasn't the toothbrush she was after this morning.
"Almost there," Elizabeth murmured, as she came closer and closer to catching her own gaze in the mirror. Invisible needles pricked her spine as eye contact became more imminent, making her damp grip slide on the porcelain. Slowly, slowly, her eyes inched upward to meet themselves in her reflection.
When her gaze finally connected in the mirror, she thought her eyes looked like black holes, despite the fact that they were really a dark shade of green. To her they looked like a doll's eyes, as if behind their luster resided secrets long withheld, locked away beneath their glassy depths, entombed in a place few dared to reach. She noticed the wrinkles on her forehead and the faded acne scars. She observed the thin, white scar above her left eye, where her childhood cat scratched her long ago. She saw the delicate skin under her eyes as an abyss of purple, twisted veins. The sight of her canvas of skin and sunken eyes caused her to furrow her brow, which only made the story lines on her face grow deeper. They began to look like trenches, and when Elizabeth tugged at them they fell back into place like obedient soldiers. As she stood there an acidic revulsion crawled through her, and made the hairs on the back of her neck stand at attention.
She looked away, and the goose bumps that dotted her neck subsided, leaving her body cold. She picked up her toothbrush and threw it at the sink, hard, as if she wanted it to fly down the drain and reappear in another dimension.
"Ellie? You alright in there?" said her boyfriend, Adam, who sat with Fitz, their French bulldog, just feet away on the living room couch.
"Yeah, I'm fine," she called out to him, her pulse racing. "I just dropped something." It was on days like this that the studio apartment she and Adam shared took the form of a small labyrinth, with each sound reverberating against the maze of walls, closing in on them in a broken chorus. She unwrapped her fingers from the sink and splashed cold water on her face.
What's wrong with you! her internal monologue began. Who can't look at themselves in the mirror? Are you crazy?
"Enough!" Elizabeth whispered, "Not today."
The cold water did nothing but awaken her to the realization that her pills were inside the medicine cabinet, just within her reach, concealed within a small pouch hidden behind her perfume bottle so that Adam would never find them. The thought of them made the clamor of her inner chorus grow quiet.
Her fingers fumbled the creaky mirror open, revealing the medicine cabinet's innards — the bathroom secrets kept tucked away from prying eyes: the embarrassing creams, the "feminine products," the prescribed topicals with faded labels, and Elizabeth's black velvet pouch that contained blue and orange pills.
Blue or orange day?
She had to be quick. She had two, maybe three, minutes until Adam would knock to check on her. The 10 stamped on the blue pills looked less appealing than the 20 printed on the orange one, but to her disappointment, there were only three left. They looked like candy in her glistening palm.
Guess it's time to call Mack, she mused, as an image of her drug dealer swept through her mind. She found a sad sense of comfort at the thought of his outstretched hand holding a fifty-dollar bag of uppers. She met Mack in college and was fairly certain that Adam had no idea he existed. It was a coincidental stroke of luck that Mack came back to live in Brooklyn with his parents, just a few blocks away from where she now stood. Elizabeth had his number saved in her phone under "Mom's Office." The memory of his hands danced through her mind, unmoved by protest or better judgment. She longed to feel the bag transferring to her own hands, the crinkling of the paper she shoved back into his, followed by the flash of the blue butterfly tattoo on his right wrist before he faded back into the darkness from whence he came. And then she would leave and pretend it never happened.
She quickly popped the pill with 20 stamped on the front into her mouth with her shaking hands and swallowed it dry.
Nothing serious. Just for recreation.
Just for recreation. Helps me focus, that's all.
I am strong. I am strong and in control.
She heard the teapot scream from the kitchen area, which was only a few feet away thanks to the tactical layout of their studio apartment, followed by Adam's hurried footsteps as he rushed to take it off the stove. For a moment, she thought he might hand deliver her cup.
Oh, God. Don't come in here, she pleaded, as she felt her heartbeat in her palms. She held the pouch behind her back and faced the door. She heard the cup clink on the table in the living room.
That was close, she thought, but, if it's not a big deal, why not tell him?
Better yet, why not try an honest look in the mirror?
She put the pouch back quietly. The relentless buzzing of accusations and questions in her head abated until they were nothing more than a murmur. She leaned her forehead against the glass and released a tense breath.
Maybe tomorrow. Tomorrow I'll look in that mirror and hold that gaze. I'll see my real self, Elizabeth thought, as she did almost everyday.
She made herself that promise most mornings. It became nearly as routine as brushing her teeth. After Elizabeth parted from her sheets, as the sun rose and the world began to stir, she would lose herself in her morning rituals: sliding on her slippers, drowsily brewing her tea, combing her hair with her fingers, and brushing her teeth as she meandered around the kitchen lost in thought. But on this particular morning, Elizabeth remained in the bathroom and stared into the abyss, trying once more to find the light in the darkness behind her eyes, and it kept her from her tea.
Finally, she emerged with sunken shoulders and a quiet mind.
"Ellie?" Adam asked again.
"What?" she asked, with a bright smile.
"You sound cheery."
"Of course!" she smiled, "Why wouldn't I be? I —"
She backed into the living room chair, knocking her worn, black leather purse to the floor. A white compact with pink borders stamped decoratively along its sides tumbled out with the other forgotten objects. She didn't open it to check if it had broken. But rather, she stuffed it at the bottom of the bag with the rest of her neglected treasures, which she picked up from the scratched wood floor: the crumpled-up to-do lists and grocery lists, a lipstick, a mascara, and a notebook for writing down the fleeting thoughts she didn't want to forget.
She dropped the bag back on the chair, where it landed with a thud. Then she turned and faced her old wooden armoire. From its contents, she chose a soft, red cotton tank top and tight, black, leather leggings, with back pockets that were stitched with a tribal pattern. They felt like a second skin.
From the living room sofa, Fitz left Adam's side to trot loyally behind Elizabeth. He jumped down from the couch, onto the old Persian carpet that Elizabeth's mother gave her and Adam as a housewarming gift, and landed heavily on the floor. As he ran past the small dining table in front of the couch, he leapt over one of its legs, causing the table to shake and almost topple the picture frame resting on top of it. The frame held one of Elizabeth's favorite photos of her and Adam, which captured them together at the beach they visited last summer. Their eyes shone like the green sea foam that encircled their ankles. It was one of many photographs of the two of them that littered the apartment. On their kitchen counter sat a picture of them wearing long black gowns, their college diplomas clutched in their fists like trophies. The picture next to it captured them dancing the night away at a family party a few months prior, with Adam spinning Elizabeth, who had kicked off her heels. Their desk sat across the small room, and on it rested an old photograph of them at their senior prom. It was the only photograph that documented the first few years of their relationship. A film of dust speckled the glass frame. Elizabeth always told herself she would wipe it off but never did.
Then there was the collage that Elizabeth put together one rainy day, though she claimed it was never quite finished. It was almost entirely black and white. There were three small photographs of her and Adam at various celebrations, and two more of them with both sets of parents. The one picture printed in full color dominated the collage, even though it was nestled at the bottom. From the bottom left-hand corner, an old photo of Elizabeth's favorite childhood pet, a red-orange tabby cat named Lucifer, grinned a toothy grin.
From the kitchen, Elizabeth snapped out of her trance for a moment. Fitz nearly bumped into the back of her legs as he skidded to a stop. She looked over at Adam, with his curly black hair still messily pushed to one side from sleep, while his lush green eyes stared back at her with that look that gave her those familiar butterflies. His eyes were green, like the forests she longed to get lost in. She knew his eyes better than her own, and her anxiety dissipated as soon as she caught his gaze. He was handsome, in a careless way, like he had no idea what he looked like most of the time. His smile had a tinge of arrogance to it — the kind of smile that only boys who have been handsome from a young age possess. He didn't take his eyes off of her.
"What are you looking at?"
"You," he grinned.
"Like what you see?" she smirked.
"I'm wondering what it is you see."
"What do you mean? I just —"
"Just see me. I know," he said. "I mean I'm wondering how you see yourself."
Elizabeth clenched her jaw.
"It didn't sound like you dropped something in there," he said with a pause, "It sounded like you threw something. Did that have something to do with looking in the mirror?"
She relaxed her jaw as the orange pill brought her back to life, leaving her with an acidic aftertaste and a quiet mind.
"You're my mirror," she said with a smile. "You should know that by now."
He held her gaze. It occurred to her that he really was a reflection of herself, her own ideal image printed backward. She knew it from the day she met him, when they were teenagers. He had given her butterflies ever since — the old friends that fluttered in her stomach now, dancing their usual dance.
Their love matured along with them as they navigated their college years. After graduation they moved in together, adopted Fitz, and built a home that reflected the home in their hearts in which the other dwelled. Their differences complemented one another to create a symmetrical balance, and through their openness and honesty, they could point out strengths and weaknesses in one another that, like a cancer, could otherwise remain unseen to the infected. On the first night they spent together in their apartment they vowed to treat their relationship like a spiritual practice. A spiritual practice meant dedication and bringing awareness to each moment, which Elizabeth struggled with on this particular morning. But Adam's fascination with her did not falter, even on mornings like these.
Candles were always lit, and dust was swept under the rug, where it accumulated slowly over their years together. When clutter piled up, it mounted in designated places. A stack of unpaid bills towered high on the kitchen counter, and old cooking magazines that Elizabeth had never opened sat on the counter, surrounded by chipped paint. But it was their clutter, and Elizabeth and Adam grew to love it over the years.
"You didn't answer my question," Adam interjected after a minute of silence.
"Well, I —"
Before Elizabeth could answer, she tripped over a pair of Adam's worn, light blue sneakers, which somehow always managed to be in the way.
"Sorry, I was going to put those away —"
"No, it's fine," she stammered, happy to be let off the hook. "You always know how to keep me on my toes."
She had even grown to love Adam's contribution to the clutter, including the light blue sneakers that Adam always wore, despite the fact that Elizabeth had bought him a new pair for his twenty-fourth birthday last year. He remained loyal to them, despite the holes and frayed edges. Elizabeth began to overlook the initial annoyance she felt at the rejection of the new shoes as time went by, and she accepted his old, beat-up pair as a fixture in their apartment. She had carefully moved them away from Fitz's wandering eye during his teething phase. Sometimes, she even cleaned the scuffs off their soles, and though Adam didn't always know how to thank her outright, he would take great care to give extra compliments on the dinner she made, or on the way she wore her hair. Over time, Elizabeth recognized this pattern in him, and if any moments of tension arose, she would remember his subtle appreciation for her, even as she caught sight of the sneakers lying in their usual spot, right in her way.
"Want a quick breakfast?" he asked quietly.
"Breakfast? You haven't cooked breakfast since we moved in together," she grinned. "And anyway, I think I'm going to get a quick meditation in before work."
She walked toward him and wrapped her fingers behind his neck, pulling him closer. He smelled like their warm bed linens. Her top lip found the familiar fold between his, and as she kissed him she breathed him in. He leaned into her, grazing the inside of her leg lightly with his fingers, sending a pulse like a sigh through her body. She let her hand slide down his chest and land in his lap. For a moment, she wanted to escape herself and become a part of him.
Fitz let out a bark, releasing them from the moment. He pawed the couch, wanting to be scooped up and placed at Adam's side, where he expected to remain until Elizabeth left for work. She and Adam both worked in the city, commuting at the usual hours. He worked as an actor, and she worked as an interior designer. Though at times their lifestyle felt like a revolving door of feast and famine, the artists inside them never slept.
"Sounds great," he whispered as he leaned back and put his hands behind his head like a king, the veins in his forearms standing at attention. Sometimes they meditated together, holding hands and synchronizing their breaths. To them, it felt more intimate than sex.
"It won't be long. Ten minutes? I have to leave for work soon, anyway."
"Sure. What music do you want today? Bach? Nature sounds? Anything but the whales again."
"No sound today," she smiled back. "I'm enjoying the quiet."
Elizabeth left Adam and Fitz and sauntered over to the small corner of the room by the window that they had turned into a cozy meditation space. She placed a miniature statue of Buddha on a small side table in front of the window, with a desk clock resting at his side. In front of the Buddha, there was a pink yoga mat, rolled out and welcoming. Several shelves hung on the wall on either side of the window, which housed assorted objects from their childhood, collecting dust: Adam's forgotten soccer trophies, the old prom picture in its dusty black frame that showcased two young faces that have since turned older, and the collage with Lucifer's wide, fanged grin staring back at her. The last object on the shelf was Elizabeth's favorite: a small Alice in Wonderland doll that she favored throughout her youth, whose hair was in a perpetual state of unkempt from playtimes past. The doll's familiar blue dress had faded over the years, but Elizabeth could never seem to put her away for good. During their move, she had held her over a box with "for charity" scribbled sloppily across the side, staring deeply into her old blue eyes, but she couldn't part with the doll. Instead, she turned and put her back on the shelf, where she still sat, her frozen gaze exuding an elixir of truth.
Excerpted from Meditations in Wonderland by Anna Patrick. Copyright © 2015 Anna Patrick. Excerpted by permission of River Grove Books.
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