Whoo! The result of nostalgia and insomnia.
Ella Enchanted is, and always will be one of my favorite books. It's sitting on top of Flipped right now.
The first time you meet her, she's upset.
Not because of you, of course. Who wouldn't be at their mother's funeral? You can't help but notice her discomfort of being at her father's side and it hits you. She had been close, very close to her mother and her father had never been there.
So she's almost alone in the world.
When the funeral's over, you watch her run off and despite yourself, you follow her. No one else really notices, they're preoccupied giving Sir Peter, now widowed, their thoughts. But you'll see him later, you're sure. For now, you're preoccupied with the girl.
There are prints in the ground and at one point, there's the imprint of someone who fell- but got back up. You keep following, and from a distance, you see the girl crying behind the leaves of a willow, head buried in arms. She's held in her tears, and you don't want to disturb her, but you can't leave her just yet so you pretend to observe a nearby grave.
You've heard about this girl. Her cook tells your cook stories and Cecilia loves to hear stories. She loves to hear them about this girl, especially.
She finally looks up at one point and she's strikingly pretty, but in the vulnerable way. You've seen her with her mother from afar before, laughing and even then you thought she was pretty.
"Cousin of mine. Never liked him." You say to break the silence. She definitely recognizes you, but she's still in that daze. "I liked your mother."
You want to take those words back as soon as you say them but instead awkwardly walk back to where everyone else is. And she slowly follows you as if she isn't sure how she should behave.
And so you make small talk. You don't remember most of it, just mainly when you made her smile because it's the first time she's smiled in days. And you feel proud, proud that you were the one to do that.
You hand her back to her father, almost hesitantly and she curtsies, messily before making her way into the carriage. The door closes and you see the gash where her skirt has gotten caught in the door and you can't help but laugh.
And you watch her leave, that smile still engraved in your brain.
It's a story that you don't want to tell Cecilia just yet, and keep it in a box of memories.
The second time you see her, you were taking a walk after picking out apples from a tree. She's slowly advancing on a centaur, offering a piece of cheese and you hand her an apple. She's surprised, but she definitely does not look unhappy.
And so another conversation with her. She makes you laugh, this girl. More than anyone else in a long while. You two visit the parrots where she displays a knack of tongues while you struggle. And you can't help but think in the back of your mind, this girl would make an amazing queen.
You try to shake that from your mind as you walk with her closer to the ogres. Automatically, you walk a little closer as if you want to protect her, but from what she is like, you wonder if it would be the other way around.
There's a soft lisping sound and you rescue a baby gnome from a nearby ogre, handing him over to her when she asks. But the ogre is laughing then and in Kyrrian, he tells her to go foreward and there's fear in her eyes.
She takes a slow hesitant step and you're instantly confused. He had not been persuasive, like you had heard ogres were from your knights yet she was still walking.
Stop! You hear yourself shout. And she does, trembling. You ask her why she followed his orders and she avoids your eyes, saying something about the baby. But you're not diverted and you ask again. She says something about the ogre's eyes. You realize something's off, but are too much of a gentleman to pry anymore because she's obviously discomforted.
With a few words, she soothes the baby and he's smiling. You accompany her and the baby back to the other gnomes. You don't notice people saluting you, because it's out of habit until you see her slightly in discomfort, giving a deep nod. Probably because curtsies tipped her over, you note with a small smile.
You're getting ready to leave for your skirmish with the ogres and you can't help but think of her. You have a centaur like you promised her and you take him with you to pay her a visit. You don't even realize you're holding your breath with anticipation until you get to her house.
Except neither her father nor she were there. Instead, you're received by the head cook, who is probably the closest to her. The cook tells you she was sent to finishing school and you're outraged. You like the girl a lot, because she was honest and sincere. Finishing school? Why would she need to go there when there was nothing wrong with her to begin with?
You can tell the cook agrees with you but out of courtesy of her employer, holds her tongue. And you leave with the centaur, still upset she's at finishing school yet even more upset that you didn't get to see her.
And then you're out on your skirmish when you hear about six ogres nearby. You and your men put in and before you get to where they are, you spot her turning around with the ogres asleep. You're happy to see her but you still have your job and when you're tying them up, they wake and start to fuss. You ask if she can tame them and she's startled at first but comes to her senses and talks to the ogres, who calm down. And she says something to you but you can't hear her before realizing you have beeswax still in your ear.
You two catch up. The fears that you had about her becoming a stuffy courtier are unfounded because she's still as funny as ever. Except now, she also knows all the little things you've seen at court and joke about them with that light-hearted humor. She says something about a mutton or a fork and arranges your hand around her finger and you're a little jumpy at the sparks that you feel. You introduce her to your knights and you notice Sir Stephen grinning a little too much but you regard it as nothing.
The ogres make a fuss and then she walks over to them, fierce and brave. You don't catch most of her speech but she looks up at you and smiles and you can feel yourself blush.
Soon enough, you part ways but before you can let her go, you ask her if she'll be back at Frell soon. She replies and asks why but you avoid the question.
You just want to see her more, as soon as you can.
And so you're still on your skirmish and return home. You hear news of Sir Peter's remarriage and your heart races a little because you know she'll be there. It's being held at the old palace and instead of going home, you go straight there and get there right as she's running upstairs.
You follow her, and open the door at the top to see her tumbling back against your legs. She grabs a hold of your sleeve, pulling you inside the hallway before closing the door. You find her behavior odd, but don't ask anymore when she doesn't offer an explanation. And so you recall a story your father told you and her eyes light up, ready for adventure.
You explore the area, making small take- about why the hidden passageway would exist before finding yourself without buttons on your doublet and in an old garden. She sits down on a bench and you hear stone rubbing against stone. You tell her to stand up and find inside a pair of glass slippers and hands them to you. She only takes one, but they don't break and she tries them on, standing up and making twirling to the music.
You dance with her, talking in between some songs. At one point, you talk about marriage and love. She confirms that she is not engaged or any of that sort and your heart lifts. She states that she's too young anyways and you smile because you already know that you want to spend the rest of your life with her.
And then you two slide down the staircase together. Twice. You can't remember a time where you had more fun as you catch her and twirl her around. You can't really think of anything except you know you love this girl.
You attempt to call on her before leaving for Aythora. Twice, you meet her step-sister, who says that she would come home soon but she never does. The second time you leave, you see her standing in the window, and you turn away, confused, a little hurt, too much to turn around. And you want to see her before setting off but your father is too preoccupied and you set off, knowing you won't see her for a year.
But you get a letter, not too long after settling in and before long, you're anticipating when the post comes. Every new letter, you fall more and more in love with her, and you're anxious to know her feelings but won't press it.
Six months at Aythora, you decide you can't take it anymore and write. You write all your feelings for this girl and lay your heart on your sleeve, hoping she loves you back. You write out everything in your heart and anxiously wait your reply.
But when it returns, it isn't what you wanted. It's written in her stepsister's hand and you almost can't believe. You almost throw the letter into the fireplace, knowing it was a joke when a half sheet, written in her hand falls out. You know it's her. The writing, the wording, everything screams her.
And you realize she's just like all the others.
You throw the letters into the fire, one by one, with a heavy heart. As the last one burns up, you don't say her name, but you whisper 'goodbye'. To what? You're not entirely sure yet.
The rest of your time is a blur. It was a mix of thinking about her and trying not to think about her. It's hard for you to get over her, because you're alone with your thoughts so much and you long for the familiarity of your home. Before you know it, it's time to go and you almost regret it as you leave because the place it so beautiful but you always thought of something- or rather, someone else.
And you stop at a busy little inn for the night. A girl brings you and your knights ale and there's something in your stomach that tells you you know this girl, even though you never met her. She asks about the one person you try not to think about and you place it. Areida, the girl she had known in finishing school.
You shake that from your mind, convinced that girl is long gone but Areida is just as adamant that she isn't. You almost want to stay, ask about the girl you love but you're set to go home where your parents are planning a ball. Most likely for marriage, as dreary as it sounds. And so you go home, and restrain the urge to walk by her house.
Because you still haven't forgotten her and you don't think you will at this point.
The balls begin and they're as you remember them. The girls are all preemed like showhorses, but one of them makes you laugh, just like her. But you shove that aside. Finally, one last girl who hasn't taken off her mask approaches you and she catches your attention. You dance with her and she makes you laugh before realizing you have other guests to attend. You tell her you'll look for her later but you don't see her. So you resolve to find her the next night.
And you do. Around midnight, yes, but this girl has already enchanted you because she's sweet and genuine. She reminds you a little of her, and you realize because of that, you can grow to love her. You sing to her a little and ask her to stay but she curtsies with her apologies and promises to stay the next night.
Your mother asks you about her. And you tell her and there's a little bit of a gleam in her eye but she does not say anything. And the next night, you highly anticipate her arrival. She arrives in all white- like a bride, you think and you introduce her to your parents. Your mother has that gleam again and whispers something in the girl's ear before handing her back. You leave for a bit before realizing you want to just spend the night with her and steals her from Hattie's clutches.
So you two talk and it's nice. You never thought you'd find a friend and tell her this, along with your resolve not to marry. She isn't surprised or hurt which makes you realize she wasn't in it for the marriage game. In that moment, you realize you can fall in love and are about to ask for her hand when her mask is snatched off.
It's her. The one you dream about. The one you fell in love with. And you realize, she isn't married, she's here but before you can do anything, she runs off. You follow her, though you know she'll be faster because you've got Hattie breathing down your neck and you have to get your men together. You know where she'll be though, it was only a matter of getting there before she ran away again.
Because you can't let her get away.
You spot the glass slipper on your way and take it with you because you have a feeling that the girl you knew when you found those still existed. And you reach the house, and suddenly, you see her again, garbed in servant's clothes. Her names is Cinders, Hattie lies, but you know from the moment you touch her, it's not.
And you bring out the slipper and Hattie and her sister try it on. It doesn't fit of course, and it fits the trembling girl in front of you. And you have to ask because you need an answer. You ask if she loves you.
And she does.
You're overwhelmed by happiness and ask her to marry you. She starts with a yes, but it almost seems against her will and you wonder why until you realize who her step-family is. She's still shaking and rocking back at forth amongst the noise until finally, she shouts that she won't marry you. She won't, and she shouts it outside before running at you and kissing your cheek.
And you turn her head and kiss her on the mouth, like you've thought about doing for ages.
She's trembling again and you're confused because she loves you and won't marry you. She begins to say something about a spell, a curse when a confused expression overtook her face. The cook comes up, hugs her and whispers that she was free. You're still confused but she just turns to you with a smile and perhaps a bit of mischief in her eye.
She kneels and says that she had been too young to marry, a secret joke between you two and you can't help but smile. She says that she was now old enough, old enough to marry and ask you to marry her. You almost want her to stop talking and you do by kissing her your consent.
Because really, it was what you wanted all along.