Disclaimer: Plot is mine, anything you recognize belongs to someone else, I don't claim it, blah, blah, blah.

A/N: My first attempt at an Ella Enchanted story. Enjoy!

Summary: On the night of the third ball, everything went according to plan. She plans to forget Char and go on living with her curse as a maid in Dame Olga's house. But first loves always die hard.

Call it a Gift

By Blackberry Ink

Prologue: A Little Fall of Rain

I want to repair your desire
And call it a gift
That I stole from just wanting to live
Now I see the vision through your eyes
Your innocence no longer fuels surprise

Trying to outrun your fear
Running to lose
Heart on your sleeve and your sole in your shoes
Take a left,
A sharp left
And another left, meet me on the corner
And we'll start again.

- Badly Drawn Boy - Once Around the Block

"Marriage is supposed to be forever, but friendship can be forever, too," Char said to me, a hopeful expression on his face that made me want to melt. "Will you-"

I felt a slight tugging at my mask, and I jumped slightly, darting quickly away. I turned to see Hattie in front of me, arm in arm with a duke.

"I'm afraid this has gone on too long," she said, dropping her partner's arm and stalking over to Char's side and putting a protective arm around his waist. Char looked startled and stepped politely away from her.

"Forgive me, my lady," he said with a slight bow. "I don't believe we've met."

Hattie's eyes widened, and I stifled a laugh at her startled face.

"Prince Charmont, I cannot permit you to stay in this imposter's company any longer. She is clearly plotting for the downfall of Kyrria!"

Char and I both laughed, and he put my arm in his again. I smiled at the touch and nearly melted at the sight of his grin.

"I assure you, Lela would do no such thing," Char guaranteed her.

"Yes, you must have mistaken me with someone else, Lady Hattie," I said. "If you'll excuse us..."

Flustered, Hattie pursued us as we turned to continue our walk. "Charmont-" She latched her arm onto the one that wasn't already entwined with mine.

"Please, Lady Hattie," Char said, and I noted irritation in his voice. "Leave us." He tugged my arm gently and began to walk away.

"Say you'll dance with me, Charmont," Hattie called to him.

Char pretended not to hear her. I looked sideways at him, swallowing as I admired his profile, the curve of his nose and the shape of his lips and the way his eyes seemed happy when he looked at me. I noted that they didn't seem to have the same light they had the last time I'd been with him and wasn't sure whether to be happy that I was the only one that could make him look like that or upset that I'd never seem him look at me like that again.

"As I was saying," he continued. "I have no plan to marry. The entire notion of marriage is overrated."

I offered a small smile and hoped he couldn't spot the sadness in it. "What made you think that?"

He looked away and his eyes hardened slightly. I cursed myself for making him upset.

"I'm sorry,' I said. "I didn't mean to pry."

"No, it's alright," he said. "I think on that topic often anyway."

He thought about me! I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.

"Not to be rude, but I'd rather not talk about it," he said.

"Oh, you're not being rude. I shouldn't have brought it up."

He was silent for a minute, looking away, and I used the time to drink in his features and memorize the way he looked right now.

"You're staying past midnight tonight, yes?"

"Yes," I agreed. A few more hours with him would be worth the long walk home. "I wouldn't want to miss your singing."

He chuckled. "I'm sure you're the only one who feels that way."

I laughed along with him. He began to talk again, and I lost myself in his voice. I willed the tears not to come again as we wiled away what felt like the last night of my life.

"I had a wonderful time," I said as I stood on the front steps of the castle. Char brought my hand to his mouth and I closed my eyes to feel his lips. I forced a smile as he rose to look at me again and hoped he couldn't see the tear that coursed down my cheek.

"So did I," he said. "Thank you for making these past three nights bearable." He laughed, making the tears come faster. I'd never hear him laugh again. "Where's your carriage? I'll escort you to it."

I bit my lip and feigned looking around. "Oh, don't worry. I'll walk myself."

"No, I insist," he persisted.

I smiled. I wanted him to stay with me as long as possible, but what would he do when he found I had no carriage?

"Let's just say goodbye here," I said. "It will make it easier."

"We'll see each other again," he said earnestly.

"I suppose," I said quietly. "But please, let's say our goodbye's now."

"Well, if that's what you'd like." Our eyes met and I could barely stand this close to him for fear that I'd wrap my arms around him. "I'll see you soon, Lela. I'll be sure to make sure I stop in Bast whenever I can."

I couldn't hide the tears. "I look forward to seeing you there."

"Don't cry," he murmured. I stopped and he took my hands in his. I resisted the temptation to see if the rope burns he'd gotten had scarred or if they'd healed. Even harder was to resist the temptation to kiss each of his fingers and shout that it was Ella, his Ella, and yes, yes, I loved him.

"Goodbye," I said as he dropped my hands.

"You must come see me whenever you come back to the castle," he said.

"I will," was all I could say.

He waved and I walked backwards as far as I could without it seeming strange. I nearly tripped, and he laughed. I cried as I left, and his sweet, joyful laughter followed my all the way home.

I was such a fool to love him.

It began to rain.

A/N: No, not all chapters will be that short. This is just a prologue, remember? Drop me a review to let me know if I should continue this story.

Edit: I finally uploaded the somewhat-fixed version of this chapter. I got tired of getting e-mails pointing out (sometimes quite rudely) the POV errors I had here. I knew about them, just never got around to posting the correct chapter. As many guessed, I did start writing this in third person but went back to change it to first – apparently I missed fixing five or six pronouns. It was my fault that I got over a dozen messages, and I thank everyone who was kind in letting me know.

I appreciate everyone pointing out errors. My only stipulation is this: be nice about it. I make mistakes – I'm only human. Now I have a new beta to assist in catching my errors, but for the first few chapters there were some complications with the person who used to edit for me and I did it myself. I'm not exactly that great at it.

So, er, the main point is this: if you're going to review, by constructive. I absolutely love getting reviews and I try to respond to all of them, but it really puts a damper on my day to get an email from someone telling me what a horrible person I am because I missed two commas somewhere in chapter three.

Thanks again to everyone who's reading and reviewing. You guys keep me writing. :)