A/N: This is my contest entry for the Generation Dare in The Dares Forum! Anyone can vote, but please read all the other entries as well!
Also, Charlie and Eliza are about twenty-two or twenty-three years old in this story, though there are flashbacks to their childhood, so everyone else on the island is aged accordingly.
Image credit goes to Saoto/OrigamiKonan on deviantART.
-Cotton Candy Mareep
He still remembers the first time he laid eyes on her.
Her hair was the first thing he noticed. For a girl, it was rather short, just barely down to her shoulders. But it was shiny in the sunlight, bright gold and curled like that of a princess. She looked so sweet, all dressed up with that enormous red bow in her hair. Like one of those pretty little porcelain dolls.
"Who is that girl?" Charlie asked his father, who observed from the doorway as the carpenter, Gannon, carried a large pink suitcase into the nearby house. The luggage was thrown over his shoulder as easily as if it were merely a sack of potatoes.
Chen beamed down at his son. "That's Gannon's daughter, Eliza. She's just moved in from the mainland, and she's your age. Isn't that nice? Now you have a friend!"
Eliza. What a pretty name, for such a pretty girl. He repeated it to himself under his breath. Eliza.
Eliza took in her surroundings with a hint of uncertainty, her eyes wide and nervous as if unsure of herself in this strange new environment. They were pretty as well, Charlie noticed, the irises a bright sparkling blue like that of the ocean.
Sensing the girl's discomfort, Charlie lifted a hand in greeting, beaming happily. Eliza stared at him, but after a moment's pause, she waved back, a small smile on her face.
Charlie's tiny, child self didn't know much when it came to females, but he could tell you one thing that he knew for sure- that girl looked beautiful.
That was nearly fifteen years ago, to this day.
He remembers everything, even if she doesn't.
Charlie leans against the counter of his father's shop as a barrage of memories comes to mind. Memories of his childhood, and a certain blonde girl with sparkling blue eyes.
Eliza always had big dreams. Dreams that she didn't hesitate to share with Charlie, or anyone else who listened.
She wanted to be a famous pop star like Lanna had been, with a rich, handsome boyfriend and millions of fans.
She had wanted to marry a man like Will. She wasn't interested in Charlie, at least not in that way. He was her friend, the one who was always there for her, listening to her problems and giving her advice. He was her shoulder to cry on. But never romantically, as much as Charlie would have loved it to be that way.
She wanted to be a princess. They had been quite young at the time, sitting on their usual spot on the bridge, when Eliza had asked Charlie to make her into a princess.
If only Charlie had the courage to tell her that she already was a princess, at least in his mind.
If only he had the courage to tell her that he loved her, before it was too late.
He hasn't seen her in five years.
As soon as her eighteenth birthday came around, Eliza was gone, as swift as an eagle on the wind.
It was the day after Elliot's proposal to Julia, Charlie remembers. He had seen her that day, seemingly just as excited about the new marriage as anyone else on the islands, but there was a strange look deep in her eyes. A look of regret.
Charlie didn't realize at the time, but now he wishes he had talked to her about it. Maybe he could have convinced her to stay. But who was he to get in the way of her dreams?
The next day, she was gone without a trace.
Charlie asked her father where she had gone, and Gannon told him that she had left on the early morning ferry for the mainland, leaving only a single handwritten note behind. She was determined to pursue her career as a singer, even though she honestly couldn't sing especially well, from what Charlie could remember. She had taken a few singing lessons with Lanna, but perhaps that just wasn't enough for her.
Eliza left behind everything she knew growing up, to pursue her one unlikely dream. Left her father, her home, her friends.
She left Charlie.
He misses her; not once has she ever left his mind.
Charlie still helps his father maintain the store, just as he had when he was a boy. It's all he's ever done, and probably all he ever will.
A woman walks into the store, and the first thing Charlie thinks is that she looks beautiful. Like a princess.
She looks strangely familiar in a way, but Charlie can't quite place it. However, strong emotions stir up in his heart, and he knows she's important to him in some way.
The woman recognizes him first, a tone of warm surprise in her voice as she speaks to him, and the slightest hint of disbelief.
It can't be her… and yet it is undoubtedly Eliza. Her golden hair is much longer now, all the way down to her waist, but curled as it had always been. And her blue eyes sparkle with that same radiance that had attracted Charlie to her in the first place. She is even more beautiful than he remembered.
They embrace, and it is the most wonderful feeling in the world, holding her in his arms again.
He has been waiting for this day, the day she comes back to him.
He treats her to a lovely dinner at the diner, and orders her whatever she likes, despite her faint protests. He even buys her donuts for dessert. They had always been her favorite, he remembers. And they still are, apparently, as her face brightens when the dish is brought to their table.
Eliza explains how her life on the mainland had gone. How she traveled to the city with the hopes of becoming famous, hopes that were soon shattered. Lanna had always told her that the music industry was harsh, and Eliza now realizes just how foolish her dreams had been, for a girl who could never even sing.
Eliza ended up becoming a waitress to make the money needed for her rent, until she could finally quit. Unsatisfied with how her life had been going in the city, she came back.
Although Charlie attempts to comfort her, he can't help but grin, he is so happy to see her. And he tells Eliza all about his life on the islands after she had left.
How Sabrina's pregnancy had went on without any issues, and Vaughn had been ecstatic to be the father of a beautiful baby girl. Regis was now a proud grandfather.
How Taro had passed away just last year, and the entire town came together for the funeral, and even Natalie cried, which had surprised him.
How Chelsea and Mark had finally gotten married, as everyone on the islands knew they would, and now run the farm together with their children.
Charlie pauses for a moment. "Eliza... I-I missed you."
She smiles, a genuine smile. "I missed you too, Charlie."
Another memory comes to mind. He remembers all their conversations, one after another. She had always wanted to be a princess.
And finally, Charlie gains the courage to speak.
"You're my princess."
Eliza looks at him in wonder, and Charlie knows that he is not the only one to remember everything.
"You... you remembered?"
He had never forgotten.
He loves her, and he thinks she might actually love him back.
Like a true gentleman, Charlie walks Eliza back to Gannon's house, her old home, but Eliza hesitates at the door.
"Wait... Charlie, I-I don't want to leave you yet... I really did miss you, after all these years."
Charlie smiles and nods his head in understanding. Together, they make their way to the beach.
The beach is absolutely beautiful at night, just as much as it is during the day. The white sand is soft beneath their feet, and bathed in moonlight until it practically glows. The breeze has a salty tang to it, and in the distance, gentle waves are heard lapping against the shore.
Charlie steals a glance at Eliza, who takes in the scene with unsuppressed delight. Absolutely beautiful.
They sit down on the beach, and talk for what seems like ages, as the moon makes its way across the black velvet sky. It's almost as if she had never left.
Finally, Eliza turns toward him. "Charlie... I-I came back for you. I missed my father, yes, and my home here... but most of all, I missed you."
She leans forward, and Charlie leans in to meet her. Their lips touch, and now he knows for sure.
She really does love him, after all.
Eliza smiles. Maybe dreams really do come true.
Because Goddess knows, she's been thinking of Charlie ever since her departure from the Sunshine Islands. Honestly, that was always her true dream- to be with Charlie, her best friend.
And she is sorry. Sorry that she ever left Charlie without a single word, sorry that she gave him up for foolish dreams that never meant anything to her in the end.
Sorry that she broke his heart. Because that's exactly what she did, she told herself all these years. And she had always harbored a secret guilt for that.
But now… now she can rest easy. Now, they are together again.
She still remembers the first time she laid eyes on him.
It was when she had first moved to the islands, many years ago. Fifteen, to be exact.
Her father got her off the boat, and carried her luggage into the house. She had been happy to see him, of course, but the idea of moving to a whole new town, filled with people she didn't know, scared her.
And then, she saw him. A small boy with dark hair, around her own age, stood in the doorway of a nearby home with his father.
Their eyes met, and the boy grinned, waving a hand at her in what he hoped to be a warm, welcoming gesture.
The gesture worked. Her initial nervousness faded away as she lifted a hand in reply, smiling.
Eliza turned back to her father. "Daddy, who are they? Who's that boy?"
Gannon smiled down at her. "That's Chen over there, and his son Charlie. Charlie's about your age. Not a bad boy- you should try and make friends with him."
And that she did, although sometimes she went about it in the wrong ways. But despite her occasional rudeness to him, he still stuck with her. He still loved her.
Eliza loved him, too- she just didn't know how to show it. She had never told him how much he truly meant to her.
And she always regretted that.
But at last, the princess is reunited with her prince.
Eliza breaks away from the kiss, her eyes sparkling. "...I love you, Charlie."
Charlie smiles again and slides his hand over to hers. "I love you too, Eliza. And I always have."
A/N: Well, this came out much different than I had expected. And much fluffier. XD
Seriously, my first idea for this story was so much different, but since I wasn't exactly sure where I was going with it, I ended up taking a much simpler, poetic approach. Hope you enjoyed!
-Cotton Candy Mareep