I don't own Alice in Wonderland or any of its characters. Based on the 2010 Tim Burton film.
Written for the AiW Pr0n Battle at Live Journal.
Helen Kingsleigh meet Lord Ascot in the cemetery. Both find that they have one very special thing in common.
So Much More Left To Give
Helen Kingsleigh sat on the marble bench near her husband's grave. He had been gone for five years today, but to Helen, sometimes it felt as if he had only been gone a few hours. Or a lifetime.
The loss of a loved one never seemed to provide a sense of linear time, Helen reflected. There were days she would feel the loss of Charles so acutely that she felt as if he had just passed away hours ago. Other days, she would feel as if she had been left alone by cruel Fate for decades.
She sighed and couldn't stop reading the inscription below his name: Beloved Husband And Father.
Yes, he had certainly been that. Helen smiled as she thought of another word for him: dreamer.
Almost as important to him as being a good husband and father, were his dreams. He had fancied himself a dreamer of not-impossible dreams.
"Well, Helen, Alice is off on a grand voyage, and you have nothing but empty dreams now."
"I beg your pardon, Mrs. Kingsleigh, am I intruding?"
Helen, startled, looked up and saw Lord Ascot standing a discreet distance away. He obviously wished to visit with her, yet he did not wish to impose upon her if she did not desire his company.
"I couldn't help but notice you here. I came and placed flowers for Lady Ascot and then desired to pay my respects to...I beg your pardon." He turned as if to leave.
"No, no, please don't leave, Lord Ascot," Helen said. She patted the bench beside her. "Sit with me. Sometimes memories leave us...lonely."
"They do, indeed," Lord Ascot said, smiling gently and seating himself beside her.
"If I may be so bold as to inquire, what did you mean by saying that you only have empty dreams now?"
Helen looked at her brown-gloved hands and blushed. Goodness! She couldn't remember the last time she had actually blushed! She was an old woman, not a young socialite!
She took a deep breath. "Lord Ascot, I may as well be frank with you. You were Charles' best friend, and now you are Alice's mentor. You..." She paused, suddenly uncertain of what she had intended to say.
"I'm your friend, too, Mrs. Kingsleigh."
Helen looked at him and smiled. "You may as well call me Helen," she said. "I see no need for such formality."
He returned her smile. "Nor do I...Helen. And you may call me Richard."
Helen felt that blush again. Goodness, wouldn't it just go away? She hoped that the brisk autumn air would give her colour and that Lord...Richard, wouldn't see her blushing like a schoolgirl!
"Well, Richard, what I was thinking of is rather morose. I do not believe that it would be a pleasant topic."
"We are in a cemetery, Helen," Richard said, "what is terribly cheerful here? Please, feel free to speak to me of anything you wish. I am your friend, after all."
Helen shrugged. He was right. "Well," she began, "I always hoped that Charles and I would have many more years together. I...I never expected to be a widow at my...at this stage of my life."
"You are not old, Helen," Richard said. "I know what you are trying to say. Yes, Charles' passing was unexpected."
"It was, and even though I have two daughters that I love dearly, it is not the same as loving my husband. I..." She stopped again. What she wanted to say was too personal and not appropriate at all!
"I cannot speak of it, I am sorry," she concluded. "It is unseemly."
"Helen, I think we have known each other long enough to dispense with such nonsense. We are friends. However, I shall not press you. We may sit in silence, if you wish."
For several minutes they did just that. They sat in companionable comfort and ease and soon Helen decided that Richard was correct. They were friends. Why should she not speak freely?
"Richard, I was indulging in self-pity. I am grateful beyond measure for my daughters and the life I have had, but I was pitying myself."
"That is allowed, Helen," Richard said softly. "We are allowed to be human. We are allowed to feel...loss."
"Yes," Helen replied softly. "However, I was pitying myself not only for my loss, but for the loss of the use of...my heart."
Richard turned on the bench and faced her squarely. "What do you mean?" There was an intensity in his eyes that startled Helen almost as much as his sudden appearance had.
"I...I had believed, after Charles passed, that I would no longer feel the need to love...in the same manner." She fidgeted a little and then clasped her hands. "Richard, after all this time, I find that I have a heart filled with love, but no-one to give it to. I am not even terribly old. I have so many...empty years ahead of me. And that pains me. I have so much left to give."
Helen looked down at her hands. Beside her, Richard was silent for some moments. Then he gently placed one of his hands lightly atop hers.
"Helen, I think whether or not you have empty years ahead of you is entirely your decision. You do not need to be alone. Any man would be lucky to have you as his wife." He cleared his throat. "That is...if you decide to remarry."
Helen huffed in annoyance. "Richard, I am not a terribly marriageable woman." Then she burst into laughter.
Richard joined her. "That is precisely what Alice says!"
"Exactly!" Helen replied. "That is why I cannot believe I said that!" She sobered quickly, though. "But what Alice claims about herself is no less true for me. I am not a high-born woman, Richard. I have no fortune. I have nothing to...recommend me. And, if I were even to consider such a thing, the man would have to be a man I find amiable, unpretentious, and a man I could grow to...love."
Richard squeezed her hands gently. "Helen, I think you are absolutely right to feel as you do. I...feel the same."
Helen looked into his kind eyes. "You do? You think of the years left and the emptiness ahead?"
Richard hesitated, then took Helen's right hand and raised it to his lips. It was a forward gesture, but Helen found she did not mind. She could see that Richard trembled a little, hoping that she would not be offended. When she gave no indication of being so, he grew bolder and pressed a kiss to her fingertips and then turned her hand over and kissed her palm.
"They needn't be empty; not for us, Helen." He gazed into her surprised eyes.
Why hadn't she thought of the possibility earlier? They had been friends for decades, after all, and had always been fond of each other. Could they possibly have a future together? Charles had been the love of her life; there was no doubt. But did that mean she could not find happiness again? Did that mean she could not find love with a man she already knew, and knew well? A man she already liked and respected? A man who had, just minutes earlier, caused her to blush?
Helen held Richard's gaze, and she felt the tension in her face lessen. Then, almost of their own volition, her lips curved into a smile.
"Perhaps not, Richard, perhaps not."