Chapter Twenty-Four: A Copiously Precarious Lunch

Alex woke up to knocking on her door. She grunted, hoping it would disappear. Instead the door opened and Moxie walked in. She proceeded to make noise, grabbing and throwing clothes out of the closet. Alex looked at the clock by her bed and frowned.

“What the hell?” She grumbled. “It’s 3:30 in the morning! There is no good reason for me to up this early.”

Moxie simply shrugged, pulling the covers off of Alex. Once she left the room, Alex grabbed the covers off of the floor and threw them back over herself. Five minutes later, the covers were pulled off again, followed by a large glass of water being poured onto the back Alex’s head.

“Fuck off!”

“Chester said that you’re going for lunch with the Tweedles and that you need to be presentable.” Moxie started to undress Alex, pulling her off the bed and dragging her to the bathroom.

“Isn’t this a little excessive? It’s just lunch.”

“It’s lunch with the Tweedles and William.” Moxie slapped her hand away from her face. “It’s important that you keep them distracted while Raven and I break in and make a copy of the device and update.”

“So the mission is happening now. Is there anything else we need?”

“No. Once we have a copy of the device, we’ll have what we came for.”

 

*******

 

It was another couple of hours before Alex was ready. When she got to the lab, William raised his eyebrows. As usual, he didn’t say anything to her. Bobbi came in twenty minutes later, in her usual mess. She took a double take when she passed Alex.

“Well, someone’s sure dressed up today.”

Alex smiled, shrugging her shoulders.

The next few hours were eerily quiet. All three of them sat at their stations, working in complete silence. By the time it was lunch, Alex was dying to get out of there. There was a knock on the door, and William opened it. William stepped aside, allowing the twins to enter.

“Good afternoon! Are you ready for lunch?” Dom chirped, smiling at William and then at Alex. William grabbed his jacket off of his chair and kept the door open for the twins and Alex.

“Have a good lunch Bobbi.”

Bobbi watched them walk out, a small frown forming.

Alex and William followed the Tweedles back to their office, Alex grabbing onto William for support when she looked down through the glass. There was a large table in the middle of the room, and the Duchess and two other people were sitting in chairs, their knees crossed and their faces were blank. Alex felt her heart begin to beat faster as the Duchess stood, smiling cruelly.

“William, Sandra: you’ve met the Duchess before. She’s here with the Royal Prince and Miss White. They’ve accompanied the Queen on her yearly visit to the Laboratory and are extremely interested in the device’s progress.” Dea smiled, gesturing for Alex and William to sit.

William turned into a charming gentleman, talking sweetly with the Duchess, and Miss White. The Duchess turned to Alex, holding her hand out. Alex bowed, while placing a kiss on her hand. She straightened her back, staring into the Duchess’s eyes, returning the smile. The young man, dressed in a blood-red suit, stood up and charmingly reached for Alex’s hand to shake.

“A pleasure to meet you, Miss Taylor. Your cousin told us to look out for you. I’m so glad that we’ll be able to tell him how well you look.” He tilted his head slightly, as if taking note of her face. Alex tried to gently pull her hand out of his grasp. He sat back down in his chair, crossing his legs, and his grey eyes staring at her. The woman sitting next to him, betrayed no emotion, and simply nodded at Alex. Her white hair hung straight along her back, the silver strands shining in the sun. Alex sat down, between William and Dom, her heart still feeling tight. The food was brought in a few minutes later.

“So William, how are things going with the device?” Dea asked.

William, coughed slightly, placing his fork on his plate.

“We’re on schedule, and the device is just finishing with a last update.”

The Duchess turned to Alex, her smile widening, “How’s the irreplaceable Miss Taylor doing?”

Alex opened her mouth to answer, but William surprised her when he answered, “She’s been extremely useful in our endeavours.”

Everyone smiled proudly at Alex, as though she was a close relative. The rest of the lunch went smoothly, with the Tweedles asking more questions about the device. The Duchess didn’t say anything else, simply watching Alex closely. The Prince tried to make the atmosphere light, talking about some future parties in the city. Alex tried to keep the conversation going, hoping that Raven and Moxie had completed what they needed to. The prince left the lunch early and placed a soft kiss on Alex’s hand.

“I’ll see you around, my dear.” He whispered into her ears, causing her to shiver uncomfortably, but she nodded.

The twins escorted Alex and William back to the lab, along with the Duchess, and Miss White. They slowed as they walked down the hall. Miss White, and the Duchess both pulled out their firearms when they saw the door was open. William breathed in, holding his breath. The door was pushed open and Miss White entered first. The Duchess kept everyone back. Miss White came back out, placing her firearm back in its pocket. She nodded at the Duchess, who immediately entered the room. William and Alex followed Miss White and the twins into the room. Alex gasped, horrified at the scene in front of them. There was blood splattered over the walls, and the desks. Bobbi’s body was sprawled out on one of the desks. Her eyes were wide open, horror written on her face. The Duchess placed her hand over Bobbi’s face, closing her eyelids. She glared down at the desk, not saying a word. Miss White began to shout orders at the Tweedles, trying to get a handle on the situation. Alex and William were pushed out of the lab, and led to separate offices with armed guards waiting outside.

Soooooo…..

How do I start this again? Oh, right: I’m sorry… I suck, I know… The last 7 months have been kinda crazy. For the first three months I just wanted to relax and just veg. Seriously I just procrastinated. After those first three months, life went insane. This summer has been the busiest summer I’ve actually had in the last 5 years. I was trying to work as much as I could, wanting to fix my computer – oh, yeah! My computer screen got cracked just before finals last semester, so I didn’t have a computer for about 6 months. I also went out with friends a lot more this summer, had some great experiences and yeah… I think the biggest thing, is that I’m pretty close to finishing the first book of Falling Through Wonderland, and that’s pretty scary right now. That means going back and editing, fixing all those lovely spelling and grammar mistakes, and just general things, and then I should probably start working on the second book and fixing whatever plans I had for it… It’s just kinda overwhelming, and honestly right now, I’m not in a good place.

Yeah there’s that aspect as well… I’ve been really struggling with depression, and just lately, I’ve started to have anxiety/panic attacks. It’s been fun. I’ve got to change something in my life, and I know what it is, it’s just horrible timing, what with school and midterms, and also trying to have a social life of some kind, as well as making sure to take care of myself both mentally and physically. Pretty much this year has been an asshole, but I know that a lot of my friends have been having a crap year too. So I’m not alone.

The good thing is that I’m taking a creative writing course this semester, so I’ve been forced to some writing. Now that doesn’t mean I’ve worked on the book yet, but I’m planning on doing a short prequel based on Nick for the course. I won’t be publishing that on this site until after I’ve published the rest of the series since it’s probably going to have some spoilers for the series. Also I’m going to try to start working on the next few chapters, and hopefully I’ll be able to publish them in the next couple months. I’m not going to promise anything yet though, but I promise that I will try to let you guys know what’s going on.

Take care of yourselves and hopefully I’ll update in the next couple of weeks!

The Battle

As I kneel on the ground,

I see the giant’s cruel face;

Laughing at my weakness,

And in a soft whisper, I breathe, “Grace.”

 

I breathe heavily,

I look all around me,

I see the enemy baring down;

One by one, my comrades fall,

And like me they’re crying, “Grace!”

 

Soft, sweet, and melodious,

The sound travels all around;

The enemy stops, they stare…

Then they lift their weapons high/

 

I see the flash of silver,

I close my eyes in prayer,

I hear the rustle in the trees,

And footsteps that hadn’t been there.

 

I open my eyes to see,

My General standing in front of me;

His shield and sword in hand,

He cuts the giant down.

 

In a moment the battle’s finally o’er,

The War at long last won;

All the tears are wiped away,

And my General gently whispers, “Well done.”

 

And a cry rises from my comrades,

My voice is sounding with theirs;

The sound so sweet to my ears,

As we shout with victory, “Grace!”

Chapter Twenty-Three: Settling In

A moment later, she felt strong hands lift her to her feet. She opened her eyes and started to look down again.  One of William’s hands pushed her chin upwards facing the door at the end of the hall.

“Now child, don’t go being stupid. If you have a fear of heights, don’t look down.” He was still gruff, but he didn’t let her go. Once they reached the doorway, William leaned Alex against one of the walls, and he unlocked the door with his keycard. He left her standing there, with the door slowly closing.

“Bobbi, go get the new assistant the Tweedles have assigned to us. She’s a little queasy.” William’s voice called out.

Alex grunted, trying to move on her own towards the door. She was feeling slightly embarrassed, unsure where this irrational fear had come from. A young woman walked out and smiled sympathetically. She reached out a hand to Alex and pulled her into the lab.

“Sorry about William. He’s a little impatient.” She said. “My name is Bobbi, by the way.”

Alex took a couple of steps and realized that the entire floor of the lab was covered with a soft cork flooring. She breathed a sigh of relief.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what happened to me. I was perfectly fine in the Tweedles office.”

“Yeah, well, that’s the Tweedles. They have a certain power of over people. What’s your name?” Bobbi asked.

“Her name is of no consequence, Bobbi.” William stepped out from behind a bookcase, holding a small device in his hands. He walked over to a desk and began to tinker with it. Bobbi frowned at him, turning back to Alex.

“Sorry. Again, about him.”

“No problem. I’m Sandra Taylor.” Alex nodded, smiling.

Bobbi didn’t really react to Alex’s announcement. Instead she handed Alex a cup of water with a couple of pills.

“What are these?” Alex asked. They were small, rounded, and light blue.

“Oh, these are just to help with your queasiness.”

“Bobbi, stop being a wet nurse and get back to work.” William barked at her. She smiled apologetically to Alex, walking quickly to help William.

 

*******

For the next week, she barely saw Chester, Raven, or Moxie since Alex would get up early and get to the lab as quickly as she could. It didn’t matter what she did, or how early she got up, William was always there, working silently. He didn’t address her, or ask for her help. Bobbi would show up around 7 in the morning, with a cup of coffee in one hand, her eyes still closed, and constantly yawning. Her hair was usually unkempt, sticking up in odd places, and extremely frizzy. By mid-afternoon though, her face was perfectly accented with makeup that showed off all of her good features, her short dark red hair slicked back with gel.

Bobbi began each day, training Alex. For the most part, Alex was the fetcher for William. Whatever he wanted she grabbed for him. First thing in the morning, she would bring him his first cup of coffee. Bobbi tried to give Alex more to do, like getting her to place orders for equipment, and picking the orders up. She’d already made a friend with a random person who she passed in the hallway. The term, friend, was stretching it. For the most part, all Alex and the girl she passed ever said was a greeting and in inquiry into how their day was going. Alex didn’t actually know her name.

For lunch, Alex would meet up with Moxie and Raven, back at the apartment. Their days started earlier than Alex’s, so they would usually be drinking a second or third round of coffee when she got there. Moxie was often curled into a ball, having a nap, despite the large amount of caffeine. Raven and Alex would talk the hour away, often ending up on the topic of Alex and her life. Raven had a charming way about him, making Alex feel slightly giddy, as though she had a couple glasses of champagne affecting her. Truthfully, Alex knew that it was a crush and nothing more, but she had to admit that it felt good to be noticed.

She never really saw Chester. He was up hours before Alex, and often came back long after Raven and Moxie had left. He was home for supper a couple of times their first week there, but he was quiet, and reserved.

It had been a month when Bobbi invited Alex to join her in the cafeteria for lunch. They sat at a large table with a group of people, dressed in white lab coats, arguing loudly. Bobbi, quickly joined in, while Alex sat silent. The Resistance was brought up and while everyone agreed in their opinion of the Resistance, it was the how to dispose of them that was being argued. One man believed they should be eradicated, while some were a little more lenient, saying the traitors should be exiled to work in the mines in Club County. Bobbi was more gracious.

“These ‘traitors’, don’t realize that the Queen is the best ruler we’re had in Wonderland. If they would just fall in line and obey the laws, their quality of life would increase dramatically. I agree that some form punishment should be administered. But not everyone deserves severe punishment. These people, are being led astray by fanatics, who call themselves ‘True Wonderlandians.'” She finished, her voice even and calm. Everyone had been silent up until that point. They began to rant and argue again, within seconds. This went on for the rest of the lunch hour. Thankfully, none of them asked Ale what she though, including Bobbi. Later, once Alex returned to the apartment, she told Raven what had happened.

“Fanatics?!” He burst in outrage. “They all live such privileged lives in their large houses, their decadent food, filling their bellies, satin and lace wrapped around their obtuse stomachs. Meanwhile, the ones who have no money because there are no jobs, are being brutalized because they can’t pay the obscene taxes set on them.”

He continued to rant, his face beaming with a passionate rage. Moxie was sleeping, as usual, so Alex did something she never would have done. She grabbed his face, bringing it close to hers, and kissed him before he could continue his rant. His arms wrapped around her waist, pulling her closer to him, as if trying to meld the two of them together. They moved slowly, him leading her toward her room, her allowing him to. The front door opened, and Alex pulled away, putting her hands to her face, trying to cool it down. Raven walked away, into the kitchen and began to cook dinner. Chester stood in the middle of the living room, staring at Raven. Alex walked into the bathroom, patting her face with cold water.

It was slightly awkward that night, sitting at the dinner table. Neither Alex or Raven spoke, while Moxie talked about her dreams that she had while napping. Chester simply nodded, not really paying attention. Both Raven and Moxie quickly cleaned up, and left Alex and Chester alone for the night.

“So, how’s it going? Is William treating you okay?” Chester sat on the couch, crossing his legs. Alex walked over to join him.

“He’s okay. I don’t know if I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing… I feel useless.”

Chester nodded. “Yeah, that’s what William does. Don’t worry though. So long as he finishes his work in the next month, you’ll be okay.”

“What is he working on anyways?” Alex asked.

“It’s an update to the record scanners. They’ll be able to identify counterfeit keycards.”

Alex frowned at this information, but Chester simply shrugged.

“That’s why we’re here. We’re going to update our keycards, so that we’ll have a better counterfeit.” He yawned, stretching out his arms and standing up. “Oh, I’m tired. By the way, tomorrow the Twiddles want to have lunch with you to talk about William’s work.”

He walked to his room. A moment later, he popped his head back out.

“Also, whatever’s going on with you and Raven, make sure you know what you’re doing.”

His door closed and Alex’s face was flushed as she got ready for bed. She had to make sure she didn’t cross anymore lines between her and Raven. After all, she didn’t belong in Wonderland and he did. She would be going home soon, and she couldn’t go though the pain of growing a fleeting attachment.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everybody!

I was going to try and update with a Christmas story that had a happy ending… But I found it difficult to do and I’m going to my best to tell you guys why. I guess, in a way, it is a Christmas story. It’s my own.

Growing up, the holiday season was my favourite. Listening to the music, opening the presents. Once I got older, I loved buying presents for my family. I always wanted to get them the perfect gift.

For my brother, I would try to listen carefully, buying him the things that I thought he would like. When the movies of the “Lord of the Rings” franchise came out, I bought him a set of the books from Costco. I remember he had mentioned that some of his friends had the books. So I bought him the set, thinking he would love it. He wasn’t really as excited as I thought or hoped he would be. Now, I own the set, I bought him. I wish that I knew what he really wanted. I wish I knew him.

My mom is the woman who was the hardest person to buy for. Often, she would buy her own gift, wrap it, and then open it on Christmas morning and pretend like it was the first time she had ever seen it. It was slightly annoying. There were other years, when she would send me and my dad to go get her gift, usually a perfume that she liked. I think the first year, that I surprised her, was back in 2010 or 2011. I bought her a large book on Oprah. It was a great moment for me. Seeing her smile, and knowing that I had finally surprised her.

For my dad, I tried to get him the things that he would use, or need. He didn’t really care for Christmas. He acknowledged his dislike of the season, blaming his dad for it. He would try though. Taking me to go get my mom’s gift. Or driving me to the mall to meet up with my friends the night before Christmas Eve. He would complain though, whenever I set up our christmas village earlier than December. I don’t really remember a time, when he’d open a gift and have that smile, that a parent would hope for, much less a child.

For me, Christmas was such an important and wonderful time of the year. It still is. It’s still my favourite time of year. But it’s also the saddest time. About four years ago, my mom and I were no longer apart of the cult that my brother and dad are, and that Christmas was hard. My parents and I spent Christmas morning at my brother and sister-in-laws. Some family had invited my brother and his wife and my dad to spend Christmas Day with them. And my family accepted. We left their house around one that day and my dad left our house a couple hours later. It was just me and my mom. We watched a movie, I think. Enjoyed my small white christmas tree in my room. The first christmas tree, that I had ever had. All of the ornaments on it, were way too heavy for its tiny branches. But there’s something about your first tree. But still, both my mom and I knew that things were changing. By the next year, my dad had left her, my brother and his wife barely talked to us.

This year, we’ve been invited to spend Christmas with different friends, and I’m grateful for them. I’m grateful for the friends I have. They mean the world to me. But it doesn’t take the pain away. It’s there, and it’s so much more apparent at this time of year. I’ve started this little tradition. I buy a christmas card for my dad, and my brother and his wife, and one for my niece. I don’t send the cards, partly because a couple years after I left the cult, I made the decision to cut them out of my life, until I know that they’re there. I can’t deal with the hot and cold relationship that I saw so often in other families apart of that place. I want commitment, and respect, and I know I’m not wrong for that. But the choices I’ve made, have been incredibly hard. Another reason why I write them cards, and keep them, is to keep the small hope that I have that they’ll leave their cult, and be apart of my life again, alive. I want to hold my niece. I want her to know, that she is loved. That she’s been loved from the moment she was born. This Christmas, I miss them more. I don’t regret the choices I’ve made, because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here today. I wouldn’t have met the wonderful people that I have. I wouldn’t have reconnected with my best friend, Marion. And even though, she’s no longer here with me, I at least had the chance to have a real friendship with her. One where no one was pulling the strings. Where it was just us. So I wouldn’t go back. I wouldn’t change my choices. I made the choice to live, and not to die. So, to end this story on a happier note, I’m so grateful that I have my mom. It’s because of her stand that she had make, that I left. She was there, when I needed someone, and together, we’re there for each other. So this Christmas, it’s me and her. She’s still the hardest person to shop for, and she’s the strongest person I know. Even when she thinks she’s not. So Merry Christmas, and have happy new year!

Hey Everybody

So, I’ve been working on the next chapter, but I’ve hit a little road block… I need some time to figure some things out, before I can post again… I do have a story plan, but my characters have taken over, and changed the plan a little. So because of these small changes, I need to find out what will happen in the big picture of the story.

Anyways, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to post a new chapter in a couple weeks, but I don’t want to make promises that I can’t keep. I will post again in a couple of weeks, either with a new chapter, or an update, letting you know what’s going on. All of you have a good couple of weeks and Live Long and Prosper!

Chapter Twenty-Two: Saying Goodbye… Again

The King was a good-looking man, with kind eyes. He was obviously older, but Alex could see that he had been good-looking when he was younger, and he had continued to age very well. He got up out of his chair, and nodded his head in acknowledgement.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, my dear.” He clasped her hand tightly, giving it a firm shake.

Alex nodded her head, unsure what the appropriate reaction was. It didn’t matter though he was already hugging Chester tightly. It was as if they were two brothers who’d been separated for too long. A moment later, he shook Nick’s hand, smiling the entire time.

“It’s good to see you, Nick. It’s been too long.”

“Yes, it has. It’s unfortunate I have to leave so soon.” Nick stood stiff. “Thank you, for taking on my cousin. Her family and I appreciate it.”

“Of course. Anything for an old friend. We’ll make sure to take good care of her, as we did for you.” He was still smiling, and Alex could see admiration in his eyes. “Are you sure you have to leave?”

Nick nodded. “I’m afraid so. Her Royal Majesty is expecting me with new designs for the upcoming ball.”

“Ah, yes, I understand. Well, I’ll let you go. Wouldn’t want you to be late.”

Nick smiled, and turned to Alex, giving her a hug. He didn’t say anything to her or Chester. Instead, he left quickly. Once he was gone, the King turned to Alex, still smiling.

“So, the Tweedle’s will be taking care of you, showing off the wondrous facilities we have here, and why we do what we do. Chester, of course will be helping out, but you may not see him as much, since I’ll be using his expertise in other parts of the lab.” He sat down at his desk and nodded at the Twins. They immediately guided Alex towards the door.

“Have a good day Alex, and know you can always come to me with any questions.” The King called out.

Chester was sitting in the chair opposite of the King. he nodded slightly when Alex looked back at him.

A signal to go with them.‘ Alex thought. She followed the Twins out of the office.

They didn’t say anything for a few moments when they entered the elevator. Alex stood awkwardly as Dom began to hum. The doors opened a couple of floors down. The floor consisted of five large offices. Two of them were interconnected, and that was the one that the Twins led Alex to. Dea sat in the first office, while Dom leaned against the desk. Dea gestured for Alex to sit down. Once she was sitting, they began to talk.

“So, you will be starting tomorrow morning, on Floor Zero, in the storage room. We have some files that need to be organized.” Dom started.

“Once those files are organized, you’ll move up in status. It doesn’t matter who you are or who you’re related to. Everybody starts at the bottom.” Dea clasped her hands together. She and Dom both stared at Alex, waiting for her reaction. Alex didn’t say anything, unsure of how to handle them. Dea smiled after a couple of minutes and Dom leaned forward.

“So, where has Nick been hiding you?”

Alex shifted in her seat feeling uncomfortable. She felt slightly like a mouse facing down a cat. For a few moments she sat frozen, unable to speak. A moment later, she could hear Nick in her head, relentlessly questioning her over and over until she had convinced even him, that she was his cousin.

“My cousin and my family weren’t particularly close and it wasn’t until recently that Nick reached out to my family, offering to find me a job. So, he wasn’t deliberately trying to hide me.” Alex’s smile was small, and tight.

The Twins nodded, not quite convinced. “Well, if that’s what you want to believe.” Dea said. “Nick is the sort of person that has many secrets.”

“Well, you would know best. He told me how much time he spent with the both of you.” Alex stated.

Both of the Twins smiled, and Alex knew she had won them over.

Just feed their ego, and you’ll begin to win them over.‘ Nick’s advice echoed in her head.

Dea opened a drawer and pulled a tablet out of her desk. Dom began to chatter about nothing, while Dea was typing. A few moments later, there was a knock on the door and Alex turned to see an old man, slightly hunched over, with electric white hair. His face was full of wrinkles and his face seemed to be permanently frowning. His eyes were a piercing blue, and Alex felt like he could see into her soul. He coughed loudly when neither of the Twins acknowledged him. Dea looked up a few moments later and raised her eyebrows.

“You requested me?” The old man said, an annoyed expression resting on his face.

“Yes I did. William, this is Sandra Taylor, a cousin of Mr. Taylor. She is joining our cause and she will be joining you in your lab. Hopefully, a fresh set of eyes will be just what you need to finish the devices.” Dea’s tone was crisp and curt.

“Excuse me?” William’s face broke into outrage. “I don’t need the help, and I don’t want it. Especially not from some little pencil pusher, following your orders.” Dom stood up, arms folded, while Dea stopped typing and clasped her hands together.

“William, that is enough. As I’ve told you before, you don’t have to like us or anyone else for that matter. But, you do have to treat us and everyone else with some regard. Now, if you would please take Sandra with you  to your lab, and start showing her the ropes. Thank you.” Dea turned back to her tablet.

William glared at both of the Twins, and grunted. He turned towards the door, walking out of the office. A few moments later he stuck his head back in, frowning at Alex.

“Come on, Taylor, get a move on!”

Alex got up and ran after him. He didn’t say anything until they got into the elevator.

“The Twins may want you to help me, but all you’re going to do is get in my way.” He was gruff and still frowning. he pushed the button and the elevator began to move. “What you’ll be doing is simply sitting in the lab, waiting for me or my assistant to ask for your help. Which is unlikely to ever happen. As I’ve said, I don’t need a pencil pusher, I need intelligence.”

Alex bit her lip, frowning slightly. “Your name is William, right. Is there anything else you like to be called? Arrogant asshole, perhaps?” Alex said.

“Hmph… Well, you’re certainly related to Nicholas Taylor. Insolent, and no respect for those who possess actual intelligence, and wisdom.” He muttered.

Alex rolled her eyes, forgetting about the mirrors in the elevator. The doors opened and Alex followed him down a long narrow hallway. Alex looked down as she walked and nearly lost her balance. They were on the third floor, and Alex was a little queasy from the height. She had forgotten about the glass floors. Not to mention, the Twins said she was starting on Floor Zero, and she had assumed that she had a while before she had to deal with the heights. She tried not to think about the height and keep walking. She only took a couple more steps and had to stop. Her stomach was rolling with butterflies, and she could feel her legs giving way to her fear. She closed her eyes and felt herself sliding to her knees.