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Welcome to Charming, the year is now 1894. It’s time to join us and immerse yourself in scandal and drama interlaced with magic both light and dark.

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As he fell, Ford recalled the trials of Gulliver during his interactions with the Lilliputians.
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Breaking Up Was Easier in the [18]90s
#17
As she listened to the explanation of their connection, Daffy's whole body sort of stilled into a silence that she didn't quite understand. It was hard to identify the feeling she had creeping over her. She had known, they both knew, that the other had been in love before, but now knowing this much put it into a sharper focus. Knowing who made it very concrete.

"Oh," Daff managed softly as it all really sank in. Her hands drifted to her cheeks to cover up the embarrassment as she thought back through the exchange. She'd been such a mess and too chatty and Mrs. Rowle was so well-dressed and well-spoken and beautiful; Daff was none of those things. In fact she was the exact opposite most of the time.

Daff couldn't tell if it was better or not to have gone into the situation blind. Well, maybe it was for the better? Mrs. Rowle had been kind enough in her evaluation at least? Maybe just to spare Elias' feelings. Daff still couldn't quite put her finger on what she was feeling, aside from embarrassed, so she peeked back up at him, fumbling over what to say.

"I—" Merlin, what was she supposed to say? Everything seemed sort of contrite or self-serving. Mostly she was worried, in a way she wasn't sure she had ever been before, about what somebody else thought of her. "I was a bit of a mess," Daff came out with finally. "I hope I wasn't too embarrassing." This mattered, obviously it did, but like he said, it was a long time ago and they had moved on and were happy to be here, so she could have her moment about this another time, by herself.




[Image: Daff-Sig-Spring24.png]
#18
He had been so conscious of telling her this – had weighed it up, made something of it in his head, trying to decide whether it was better to be transparent or more considerate to keep it himself – that he hadn’t expected her to be nervous, hearing it. It was rare to witness Daff so wrong-footed by anything. There had only been a few times Elias had felt it in the time that he had known her, and – he had hated it every time. (Perhaps because he had often felt some part of the blame for it, for making her feel unsure of herself.)

No, he wanted to say, that’s not at all what I meant.

So he shook his head in earnest, and put a hand out to take hers, gently, to lower it from her face. “You couldn’t be embarrassing, not to anyone,” especially not to me, Elias objected, as firm as he could be. He ran his thumb over the back of her hand, and let his other hand settle at the back of her neck, trying to encourage her to hold his gaze and believe it. “You’re perfect. And it – doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, but I just thought you should know –” that it had been her, a lifetime ago; that there was nothing else to worry about; that everyone could see the beautiful person Daffy was – “that she’s happy for me. For us.”




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#19
Daff exhaled at the touch of his hands and nodded, grounded by the nature of the contact and his assurances. She wanted to object, she could be plenty embarrassing, but she supposed it was never intentional. Daff didn't often feel awkward or out of place, so rarely ever felt embarrassed either, but she was starting to realize that since they were getting married, she would become an extension of him and she might need to be a little less, sometimes.

Looking up a him, she did purse her lips at "perfect" because she really thought he might have lost his mind to say that, but she didn't think now was the time to argue about that either. The knot in her chest loosened a little. It was good to hear that Mrs. Rowle was happy for them when she thought about it. It indicated that enough time had passed that the old heartache had healed enough to make room.

She squeezed their joined hands, her other one dropping from her face to rest on his shoulder. "I had this conversation recently too," she admitted, eyes still on his. Daff hadn't figured out how to bring this up, but she supposed they were here now. Only she couldn't figure out how Elias had managed to find the words. Her mouth felt dry, thinking it best to just come out with it. "Do you remember the friend that brought me to the hospital back in May?" Daff had no idea how much Elias remembered of Noble in the flurry of everything, but she forged on. "Noble Greengrass? He's, well, I ran into him again recently." That he was akin to a spirit at the time wasn't exactly relevant. "He said the same, that he was happy for me." There, that wasn't so bad. She hoped.




[Image: Daff-Sig-Spring24.png]
#20
He tried not to let it have any effect on him, as she explained in turn that she had had the same conversation, but something dropped in his stomach in spite of himself.

She had called him a friend – but clearly she meant that he had once been something more, otherwise there would have been no question of him being happy for her.

(He had known she had suffered a heartbreak, had understood her when a year or so ago she had mentioned still healing from it, when she had thrown herself into starting this shop – but it struck him now, from talking about Evangeline, how much more raw it really must be for her, how recent it had been.)

And he had been at the hospital. Of course Elias remembered the man: he had been indebted to him, grateful for his having been there for her when he hadn’t. That gratitude felt bitter to the taste now – he could feel it again at the back of his throat – though he made sure to keep his shoulders relaxed under her hand. But his gaze had shifted a little over her head, trying to process the knowledge without her being able to observe his thoughts too well.

Greengrass was happy for her, then. He was turning it over in his mind, trying to string together a picture of Daffy’s past with little more to go on than these facts, trying to decide who had chosen to end it, and when, where the lingering hurt feelings might have arisen, and when they had subsided. It was none of his business, he knew. It shouldn’t matter now. “Ah,” he said finally, because he had to voice something reassuring, whatever else he was thinking about. “Mm, I remember,” he added, nodding, and with what he hoped was a neutral tone – “That’s good. I didn’t realise you were still friends.”




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#21
Daff knew exactly how he was feeling right now and she sighed softly. Maybe more of an explanation would help? Maybe it wouldn't. If they were going to have this heavy conversation, they couldn't just keep standing here; to both to give them a moment to think and to get more comfortable, Daff stepped back, pulling him toward the sofa with her. She flopped heavily onto the cushions, tucking herself sideways so she was facing him. She kept a hold of his hand, finding comfort in the contact.

"I think it's complicated." She hummed out, unsure of how to start. "We aren't friends, not really." It was just hard to categorize whatever relationship still lingered. She would like for them to be friends, but knew that was impossible for a lot of reasons. It was her being an idealist, ever the optimist, even when she knew it was a stretch, even on a good day. "The whole thing was youthful ignorance, at best, it started back in school." Daff had been looking at her hand in his, realizing she was being avoidant, she chanced a glace up at him, trying to keep her own expression somewhat neutral. She hadn't told anybody this in any great detail, had chosen to keep it to herself out of self-preservation, but Elias had told her about Evangeline and she didn't want any secrets between them.

"Real life got in the way," too much for them to be able to pretend to be the adults they had hardly become. "And I broke things off. He's got a lot going on and you know me, it's hard for me to watch people struggle." Noble had too much that was more important to focus on, and despite her breakdowns of willpower here and there, in the long run, things had ended up the way they had for a reason. "We don't keep in touch, just bump into one another every now and then."




[Image: Daff-Sig-Spring24.png]
#22
The pull towards the sofa was – probably good for him. It broke the burgeoning tension in his body, didn’t let his shoulders get stiff or his jaw grind. He leant into the sofa cushion and faced her, letting his body soften to listen before he judged.

And he knew he couldn’t have said anything if they were still friends – certainly not after Irene – but privately he was perhaps a little relieved that they weren’t. And that Daffy had been the one to break it off.

But his heart still broke for her all the same, hearing her confess it. Youthful ignorance; real life – it hurt to imagine reality, or other people, disappointing her in any way. He wasn’t sure what to say to her about it, though: words mostly seemed inadequate. “I’m sorry,” he tried, and just squeezed her hand again. “It must be hard.” He remembered it being, especially those first few years. Every time he’d seen Evangeline he had been tormented all over again.

But, for all the pain Daff had been through, Elias was more glad than ever to have the present with her, to be fortunate enough to be the one sitting here with her.




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#23
It was hard and that Elias could acknowledge that without any sort of qualifier made her feel a little lighter. She'd played this conversation up in her head so much that she was relieved that they were able to just get it out and move on. She smiled slowly, albeit a little sadly, at him. "Everything happens for a reason," Daff had always believed in that. All of life's almost maybes were there to help you grow. She'd learned a lot about herself over the last couple of years that she would have never imagined were possible. Daff wasn't sure she would change a single minute of it if it meant she wouldn't be right here, right now.

Even with a collection of broken things in the wake of everything that had happened that Daff still felt responsible for and guilty over, she knew she couldn't change the past. She couldn't fix Noble's financial problems or Irene's broken heart, no matter how much she wanted to be able to do something. There was no use in looking back. All she could do was focus on the future with Elias. She wanted absolutely nothing else, more than anything else she had ever remembered wanting in her entire life. It was hard to sum up just how much she was looking forward to this next chapter, how excited she was to see what forever looked like with him.

"It feels like a different lifetime," she admitted, hoping that made sense. "Sometimes I look at you and I wonder how I had this whole life before you; the colors aren't as bright, like it's some sort of fuzzy dream, and the details aren't as important." The early chapters in the story were just building up to here. It was good that they had opened the book up to look back and understand a bit more about one another, but it didn't change the plot going forward.



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[Image: Daff-Sig-Spring24.png]
#24
She had put it all into words so well. All that pain of the past and the path their lives had taken, and perhaps neither of them had ended up quite where they had expected, but now that they were it seemed near impossible to imagine things any other way. What would he do without her now?

Daff had made him feel miles better in that description of how she felt about it, moreso than any explanation of her history could have. And more artistically than he ever could have, too. He ventured a thoughtful smile. “Different lifetimes,” he echoed, nodding in earnest; he understood that entirely. “I know the feeling.” He felt like a different person with her.

And whatever happened, there was no return from that alteration now. My life is definitely more colourful nowadays,” he joked, nudging her lightly to express the cause of it. He foresaw no shortage of flowers in his future, not now that she had agreed to marry him. His life hadn’t ever been so bright, before.


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