Man! challenge in a can Man!





Let's Pretend Happy End
Rebecca Parker

Cordelia liked to dress up in her Princess outfit. She hung it on the back of her closet door and often donned it for an hour or two a few nights a week.

She would walk around her room and wave like Princess Diana on her wedding day. She would imagine Gru on her arm, and she would pretend to get misty as the adoring crowds cheered them on and stared at her with rapt attention.

For the longest time, no one knew. She would pick up the outfit, careful to move slowly as the golden coins, or whatever they were exactly, tended to clash and clatter as she slipped the top onto her shoulders and across her chest.

The skirt was next, and that too she would step into slowly and silently. Then came the jewelry, which she fastened with care. She would close her hand over the necklace, letting her fingers move over the curves and circles gently. The touch of the cold gold underneath her fingertips sent her back to Pylea for precious seconds in her mind. She could feel the arms of her throne as she grasped them, ordering doctrines and changes long needed and using her important voice. She loved her important voice.

The last, and most important touch, was her crown. She kept it in a box all to its own in her closet, nestled safely on a satin pillow. She would lift it up with delicate fingers, and place it on her head softly. And although she knew there was a good chance she was merely imagining it, she could swear that as soon as the ensemble was complete, she could smell Pylea again- not the stables and the grass, but the floral scent that always permeated her chambers. Most pleasantly, she could close her eyes and smell Gru; his masculine aroma and the way she could almost smell the innocence and good intentions on him somehow.

She sighed as she stared at herself in the mirror. She would never admit to Angel how much she missed him; how he was the greatest sacrifice she had made. It was only two weeks ago that her body had been scarred and burnt, and even that paled next to giving Gru up. Fortunately, the type of pain losing him had caused her was easy to hide. She just held her chin up high and swallowed hard when he crossed her mind. That night weeks ago, lying in bed in pain with all of them watching over her, she wasn't strong enough not to show how much she hurt.

She hated being weak. Even more, she hated showing it. In Pylea, as their Princess, she was strong. She was strongest of them all somehow, and although she was aware that it was merely their perception of her, she believed in it. Sitting on her throne luxuriously, she felt important, and that was something, outside of the group at Angel Investigations, that she hadn't felt in years. From "Queen C" to "Princess", and although the title was a step down, everything else was a step up. More than ever, Cordelia felt alive. And for the first time, she had felt deserving.

So she would walk around her apartment, occasionally brandishing a brush or a remote control and pretending that she was someone important again. She would speak to the coat rack and the lamp as if they were her loyal subjects. She would smile as she imagined what Dennis must think of her, and blush when he showed her by moving a doll across the room and bowing it before her.

"Thank you, Dennis," she said, smiling. For that one moment, it was almost like it was real. But as the doll moved back to its original position, and she could hear the sirens blaring streets away, she was brought back to the reality that she was not royalty here. She would never be royalty again.

Each night, she would somberly undress, hanging her outfit back up on the cloth hangers and running her fingers over the coins one last time before closing the door. She would remove the earrings, bracelet and necklace and place them back into her jewelry box in the drawer reserved especially for them.

And she would take off her crown, and hold it gently in her hands. She would stare at it for minutes, occasionally sitting down and becoming entranced in the gleam of the jewels. Putting it away was the hardest part; in a sense, it felt to Cordelia like admitting defeat. But each night, it went back into the box, and back into the closet. And Cordelia went back to being just herself, and nothing more.

Cordelia. Alive. Coat.

Man! challenge in a can Man!