So, I looked at the last time I updated this and I almost fell over. Two years? I can't believe my muse has gone away from me for that long on this story. For everyone who has stuck with me this whole time, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your patience and support has meant the world to me. Obviously, since it has been such a long time, my writing and writing style has changed a bit, but I tried to keep this more or less the way it was before, and any changes (I hope) are improvements. It's still short, but I feel like this was the perfect way to end this. This is the last chapter. It's been wonderful, and I am so excited that I could see this through until the end. I have worked on this last chapter for quite some time now, and I hope that you all enjoy it as much as I did.
Upon entering the ball, Ella knew that this had been a bad idea. She was so attached to Char, too attached to Char, and the idea that seeing him again would make it any better was ridiculous. And yet, here she was.
As much as she knew, really knew, that this wasn't a good idea, as much as the annoying, rational voice in the back of her head told her, the thought of staying away was unbearable. Because it was one more day, one more moment that she could spend with Char, and losing that seemed worse than anything else. She at least deserved something, right? She at least deserved a little more time. And for a brief moment her plan seemed to work out.
Then reality sunk in and Char had fallen for someone else. Ella should have been happy. This was what she wanted, or so she assured herself. His happiness and safety mattered more to her than her own. But, she loved him, and it broke her heart to see him with someone else. And so it was confirmed in her mind that this was, in fact, a terrible idea.
Running blindly, the tears flowed freely down her face as she tried to seek solace. Memory took her to the weeping willow tree where she stopped for a moment to sit and calm her spinning thoughts. It was there where Char caught up with her.
"Lela," he said quietly, putting a hand on her shoulder, "Lela, what's wrong?"
Ella backed away from his touch, but turned her masked face to look at him.
"I wouldn't want to ruin your conversation, Your Highness," she said, unable to keep the hurt and bitterness out of her voice. Ella regretted it immediately, but Char didn't seem hurt by her tone. Instead, he just looked confused as he worked through the reason for her tone. It only took a moment for understanding to flash on his face.
"Oh! That's what you think? That's not what I was talking about at all!" and then more quietly he said, "Ella, I could never love anyone other than you."
Her heart broke, and she wanted to throw her arms around him. But then realization hit her and she froze, rooted to the ground in shock.
"What did you just call me?"
He did not respond, but instead knelt down in front of her and held out a shoe. Her glass shoe.
"May I?" he asked gently. She shook her head.
"No…you shouldn't….I shouldn't…Char…" she tried to say through her tears.
"Please," he asked in the same gentle voice. Ella sighed, and gave him her foot in defeat. Char slid the glass slipper onto her foot, and it fit perfectly, just as they both expected.
Ella let out a breath she didn't know she was holding, and for a moment it seemed as if the entire world was still. Char took both of her hands in his and lifted her to her feet. Mesmerized, she held still as he leaned in and lifted the mask off of her face, their faces mere inches apart.
"I knew it was you," he whispered, and then wrapped his arms around her and kissed her.
They stayed like that for many long moments before they pulled apart, and Char pulled her closer in a tight embrace.
"I love you," he said.
"And I love you," she replied brokenly.
"Marry me." He said, ordering her half-knowingly.
"I…" she started. She wanted nothing more than to marry him, even before he had ordered her to. She wanted to be with him forever. And then there was the familiar pull of the curse, demanding that she say yes. Her mouth opened, but she shut it violently, remembering all of the reasons why she should say no. Remembering the harm and suffering she could unwillingly bring her love. All of these things fought wildly inside her as she stumbled away from Char, feeling the ground tilt and spin.
"Ella?" he asked, concerned.
"I can't," she said, and the world stopped spinning. A wide grin spread across her face as she realized what she had just said. "I can't marry you!" She said again excitedly. Surprisingly, Char pulled her close, kissing her again.
"I knew it," he breathed when they both stopped to catch their breath, "I knew you could break the curse."
"How did you know?" she asked, his statement only confirming a suspicion that she had started to have.
"The letters," he told her, "You didn't mean to send them to me, but I got them anyway."
"Oh," Ella said, not knowing what else to say. Then her eyes lit up. "You want me to marry you?"
"More than anything else."
"Yes!" she said, throwing her arms around his neck, tears running down her face (and his), "I will most definitely marry you!"
Char laughed and spun Ella around, and for once the world seemed perfect and right.
And so the rest of their days were filled with laughter, love, and the perfection that can only come from human imperfection.
So, that's it. Leave me a note, tell me what you thought. Reviewers are like sunshine, so please make my day and leave a review!