Her Almost Fairytale

Sandcastles, seashells, sunsets . . . It all stretches so far away. She stares out at the sea, blue reflected in blue, and hopes that one day she will be the one sinking into the horizon. She reaches out a hand, as if the warmth of the last rays of light is something tangible, something she can catch and seal in a corner of her heart. Her eyes flutter close.

Why is everything so far away?

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful girl, and from the mirror of the world, her own reflection was all she saw.

Behind closed lids she throws back memories like a shot of strong brew. The taste is sharp and metallic and lingers long after the sun had set and the sand had dried between her toes. She is not wearing shoes. She feels a small sense of freedom in that knowledge. Like she's six again. A little girl in yellow whose only obligation was to look beautiful.

And she was beautiful. Still is. Will always be.

Her mind swims through layer under layer of past, digging through the skeletons of yester-years, piercing through relics left behind a lifetime ago. She is all those people whose existence offends her. Spoiled, proud, petty . . . It hurts to know what she has been. Hurts to remind herself that she has been all those things and more. She doesn't like to know, to think, to remember—but she does.

Still does.

Will always remember.

She tries to not think too much. Her body feels light and for a moment, she dreams of falling. She ponders letting go of life, of herself, of that one little ray of sunshine in her hand because she does not believe she deserves anything so wonderful. She knows she does not deserve it.

One day she asked the son of a shopkeeper to turn her into a princess.

They were meant to be a pattern, like the quilt on her bed. A framework of familiarity. Sewn, stitched and spread in place. No one like surprises. So when the days blended into seasons, and seasons into years, without a single fray at the seams, she thought it would last forever.

Why are you so cold!

He never called her anything but stunning or beautiful or lovely. Only those. Because it's what she's made of. No sugar and spice and everything nice. No rainbows and unicorns and fairy-godmothers. Things like that are childish and she's a lady. A stunning, beautiful, lovely lady who would one day marry the prince of her dreams and live happily ever after in a far away castle in a far away land. Far away from him.

It didn't seem wrong at the time. She was being herself, wasn't she? She was looking out for herself. Hoping for the best for herself. Yearning, praying, wishing for all the pieces scattered across the surface of hopes and dreams to come together on their own and give her that happy ending every little girl longs for.

But that was her problem from the start. There was too much of herself. Too much nothing when it came to others. Then one day, before she even realized it was happening, the pattern she had grown to cherish came undone and the pieces threatened to smother her.

You only think about yourself! You're cold, selfish, mean—

She realized then that she was so used to being called stunning, or beautiful, or lovely that she never thought of the possibility of being called anything else.

Something broke when he walked off even after her first tears fell. He didn't even look back.

For a measure of time, they kept apart. She was not too young to know that he was mad and needed space, and within that time frame, awareness opened a window into her self-conscience. She slowly began to tilt her perspective to a whole new direction. Awareness is bitter, but what comes after the third, forth, twelfth bite is the reason she swallows.

On the tenth day of silence, she stood before him. Hair unbrushed, nose unwiped, dress unkempt. And apologized. For everything. And he forgave her. She knew he would of course. His boyish confessions of love amounted to something didn't it? But when he actually did, it made her cry harder than all of those ten days put together. She finally saw what was right there; what she needed the most. More than those sugary praises, more than the pattern they hung to, even more than the companionship she craved.

It was him.

Twenty years have gone by and her vision remains the same. A crystal sphere hangs over her eyes, bits of this and that reflected off every angle so that there's no escape from remembering. It grates at her, but most of the time, she allows it, because remembering means there's no escape from forgetting either. And she never wants to forget.

He could not fulfill her wish, but he did something better.

She jumps slightly as warm arms envelop her from behind, around the waist. She doesn't struggle or react more than she needs to. There is a pressure on her shoulder where he rests his chin. Their cheeks are touching. His soft breathing draws her closer. He smells of wood and peppermint and . . . curry?

She feels herself relax. The crystal sphere grows dim, the memories cease its flow and her eyes closes once again.

He gave her his promise.

"Aren't you cold?"

His question is soft like the sand beneath their feet, and he shows his concern by holding her tighter against him.

In another time and place she would have laughed at the irony of his question. Or cry. Or both.

Instead, she sighs contently, because she knows exactly what to say.

"Not anymore."

To give her that happy ending she always wanted.

Her biggest regret is that he might remember everything as clearly as she does.

She wonders if he does.

He probably do.

It makes her love him all the more.

And he did just that.


Author's note: This started off as a little speck at the back of my mind that just snowballed into this overly structured monstrosity. The story came quite easily to be honest, which surprises me the most, and it's not the most well-written or plotted out but I hope this inspires other writers to contribute to the meager pile of Eliza/Charlie fanfics out there! Spread the love, yes? You know you should.