Before we can move any further ahead, we need to back up…
Alice was born in a castle, inherited by her great-great grandparents and passed on through generations. Her childhood was extremely sheltered, with overly protective parents who never granted her any freedom. She was homeschooled and never allowed to leave the house unless she was running errands with a parent or going to Sunday service once a week.
Church was her only chance at making friends — and even then, there was no “Sunday school” for her to socialize with peers, just exhaustingly long services where she was forced to sit there in silence. Even if she were to make friends, “play dates” were not allowed and sleepovers were out of the question.
Alice was comfortable speaking to adults at the church. She was always kind, courteous, and polite. They often complimented her on her dedicated and studious ways, always praising her parents for raising a perfect angel. Alice felt at ease with her naturally ability to impress the adults: the way she stood in silence and never interrupted their stories, the way she always said “please” and “thank you,” the way she never raised her voice or whined…
And yet her peers made her feel opposite, like a total outcast. The children at her church were like animals. The girls liked to talk about fashion and makeup, they liked to sing and dance to pop songs, debate who the cutest celebrity is, topics Alice knew absolutely nothing about. The only topics she really had to offer were regarding school subjects or the Bible. The boys were much, much worse: they liked to throw things and make fun of people and beat each other up. Alice’s composure that was so well-praised by adults meant nothing to her own age group.
Even in her own home, Alice was still a prisoner stranded from society. Her parents would not let her own a cell phone, watch TV, or use the internet. They didn’t even want her looking at newspapers to see what was going on with the world. The only source of media available to her were books, pre-approved by her parents.
Alice resided at the tippy top of the castle: a bedroom full of books. She spent most of her time reading and dreaming away. She would pick up a book in search of inspiration, and then look out her window and daydream for a few minutes, and then get back to her book — and so on.
By age sixteen, Alice begged her parents to let her get a job — anything to get out of the house alone! Her parents were heavily resistant, but gave in with enough persistence. Finally, they decided it would be okay for her to seek a job at The Golden Library where her grandmother works. They also reminded her that there would be no plans for college, and that once they found a perfect husband for her that she would immediately have to quit.
“What if I meet my future husband here?” Alice wondered to her mother, “would you ever approve of him?”
“No,” her mother bluntly shook her head, “he has to be from the church.”
“But no one likes me there,” Alice moaned, “they all call me the weird girl.”
“Nonsense,” she brushed it off.
Luckily with her family connection, Alice was able to score a secure position at The Golden Library with ease. Immediately, she found so much more freedom here. Now she could actually access the internet! Sometimes she lied to her parents about working extra hours just so she could stay late and watch a movie! It was so liberating in ways that no other “normal” girl could understand!
Following high school graduation, Alice increased her hours from part-time to full-time at The Golden Library. Her mind had expanded so much in two years. She now listened to pop music, read magazines, and browsed mindless viral content on the Internet daily. Her mother was quick to notice a change in the way she spoke and composed herself.
Dealing with costumers was a breeze — reminiscent of her childhood days, dealing with adults: all she had to do was put a big smile on her face and remember her manners, and they loved her!
The co-workers were harder to deal with, however. Still adjusting to the outside world, Alice continued struggling to fit in with her own team. Flashbacks of childhood bullying wouldn’t go away. And no matter how much pop culture she chewed up, she just could not escape her sheltered upbringing. It was too late by adulthood, already encoded in her DNA.
Although there was one boy in particular. His name was Quade. She seemed to click with him like no one before. Their conversations were slightly awkward just like with anyone else, but something was different about the energy. She found it easier to open up to him, like she could trust him — coming from a girl who has been brainwashed to fear the outside world and trust absolutely no one except for her parents and God. But this was a God-like man.
One day after work, everyone had left, except for Alice and Quade. Dreading to go home, Alice suggested ordering a pizza and watching a movie together. And so they did. It was a wonderful night, the most fun Alice has ever had, and before leaving he reached in for a hug. Alice pleasantly accepted and embraced him completely. Then, he reached in for a kiss, but Alice was so terrified and so highly aware of her lack of experience that she instantly turned her head and made and excuse to go home. But she was smiling and blushing the whole way.
Her feelings for him were so strong that she could not handle it. She needed some sort of emotional outlet for her to safely express herself. So she grabbed pen and paper and did what she knows best: write. She wrote imaginary letters to Quade, pretending they were a couple. Knowing her mother would certainly find these letters, she attempted to disguise her handwriting and stored them at work rather than her bedroom.
My whole life, I was sheltered from the world. My childhood was wonder, all I ever did was wonder. I wondered… what is it like to have friends? To have a sleepover? To go to a party? A concert? What is it like to have a television? To own a cell phone and call people? To have people call you back?
What’s it like out there? To go traveling, fly an airplane, sail across the sea? What’s it like to be in another country, another continent? What would it be like to fly a rocket ship to the moon?
But most importantly, I wondered, what is it like to fall in love? And now that I have found the answer to that question, the previous questions are useless. I don’t need to know.
I entered The Golden Library in search of freedom. And now that I have found you — this is the only freedom I need. What would it be like to call you my friend? To have sleepovers, parties, and go to concerts together? To have late-night phone calls together? To travel together, on airplanes and sailboats? To fly to the moon together and never return back to Earth?
Come with me, let’s fly to the moon…
Love always, xoxo.
Alice’s mother sensed a complete change within her daughter. This worried her and made her feel out of control. She feared Alice would make the same mistakes as her. Curiosity was in their gene pool, and it was something her mother prayed that Alice would grow out of by adulthood. Unfortunately, Alice’s curiosity seemed to be growing. The more she knew, the more she wanted to know.
“I need to talk to you about your curious nature,” her mother sat her down after work one day, “it’s dangerous.”
“Nonsense,” Alice shrugged with a smirk, mocking her mother. For, this was her mother’s natural response every time Alice came to her with a question, new idea, or even simple pondering.
“You’re putting in more hours at work, yet your paycheck says otherwise…”
“I volunteer,” Alice sternly defended herself, “it’s a library, not a billion-dollar corporation…” she rolled her eyes.
“Since when did you get so smart?” he mother barked.
“I read a lot,” Alice giggled.
“Ugh, you know what I mean,” she scoffed, “when did you get so sarcastic? Who have you been hanging out with?”
“No one but God!” Alice forced a fake smile, “Because humans are evil and made of sin.”
“Not evil, but yes, born with sin,” her mother corrected. “It’s a scary world out there, full of temptation. Perhaps there is a boy at work who is tempting you… with greasy, pizza-stained lips?” She stared her daughter down.
“What are you talking about?” Alice imitated her mother’s cut-eyes, “are you spying on me?“
It was true, her mother had gained access to the library’s surveillance tapes after Alice started lying about working late, to see what she was really up to.
“I may have found a nice man for you at the church,” her mother swiftly changed the subject, “we’ll set up a date for the six of us to meet: us, Father, him, and his parents. They are lovely people. We’ll try to get you two married by the end of the year and you can leave that pesky job of yours. With a child on the way, you’ll be far too busy.”
Alice’s heart sunk. Her only sliver of freedom was now being ripped away from her with no remorse. She had just reached adulthood, and now she was regressing back to childhood again. Her parents could not lock her away from the real world forever.
The next day at work, Alice immediately searched for Quade. He needed to know what was going on, how intrusive her mother was being, the plans both her parents had to take away her freedom completely. But he was missing…
Quade had mysteriously disappeared…
At first, Alice was in disbelief. She asked around. She Internet-searched. Nothing.
She continued writing letters. Except they were not love letters now, but heartbreak letters… She coped with her loss by pretending they had been a real couple, pretending they went through a real breakup, pretending he was begging for her back… she wrote, and wrote. And by creating her own stories, she found her own freedom…
Her mother had lost total grip on her daughter. Alice’s attitude was on fire and her rebellion was out of control. She thought the disappearance of Quade would help, but it only made things worse. Alice experienced a total 180-degree shift in personality. She was now actively retaliating against her parents’ wishes.
Yes, the disappearance was her mother’s fault. She was threatened of him stealing her daughter away from the holy life her parents always planned for her. A powerful family they were, all her mother had to do was “make a few calls” and “switch around a few things” … the details are not important.
Her mother was all too aware of Alice’s new rights as an eighteen-year old: no longer legally bound to her parents, earning her own money… she could easily run away to live a life with Quade, corrupting herself and their generations to come… exploiting the holy life that had been so meticulously curated for her…
Out of final desperation, her mother got her hands on a potion. This was an extremely powerful and hazardous potion. It came from the church itself. After consumption, Alice would have no memory of Quade. Not only that, she would regress back to her younger, submissive self.
Her mother decided to let Alice continue working at the library. And maybe her plans for arranged marriage could be delayed until she could find the absolute perfect person for her. It was simple: all she had to do was continue to secretly drug her daughter every night at dinnertime, and that evil curiosity of hers would dissipate, and her daughter could remain to be under her complete control…
To be continued…