Charlie was going to stop her on her way to the cathedral. He was going to do it today. His resolve was set; there was no stopping him.
“Tall decaf cappuccino please!” he sputtered excitedly to the clerk. This was not what Charlie normally ordered, but he was so nervous today that he forgot to order his usual.
Charlie tapped his foot nervously while he waited for his drink. It didn’t matter what kind of drink he had, as long as he got to take that beautiful girl out to coffee after he spilled it on her. But what if she didn’t like coffee? What if she didn’t like him? Well she didn’t even know him! How unfair of her not to like him when she didn’t know him!
“Here’s your order, sir.” The clerk put the cup on top of the counter. Charlie reached for it distractedly and knocked it all over the clerk. She jumped back and screamed.
“Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry! Can I help you? I’ll buy you another one! What can I do?” Charlie’s face burned hotter than the coffee he had spilled.
“It’s fine, it’s fine,” she waved him away, her eyes a bit watery. She ran into the back to change her apron.
Charlie turned and ran out of the shop without his coffee. “Sorry!” he called over his shoulder as he fled.
“You did what?” Lucas gasped as Charlie recounted the story to him. He sat with his head hung low, not even able to look the young boy in the eye.
“I spilled it all over the girl in the coffee shop,” he admitted soberly.
“And you didn’t even ask her out?” Lucas scoffed. “Obviously she was your true love!”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Lucas. I don’t even know her.”
“You don’t even know the other girl, either. You don’t even know her name!”
“Well that’s what I’m trying to do! I’m trying to get to know her.”
“Maybe that’s not something you can force. It just has to happen naturally.” Lucas offered.
“No.” Charlie declared. “Some things you have to put effort into in order to get them. And love is no different.”
“So what are you going to do now?”
Charlie sat still for a moment. “Try again.”
Rebekah was under the spell of the painted man, and she did not know how to break it. This could not be good. She had learned to never let anyone have power over her, to never reveal anything to anyone else. People could not be trusted; they were only out for themselves. The shadows of judgments and disappointments darkened her life.
But not with the painted man. This man was different. He didn’t care what other people thought of him, and he didn’t think much of them, either. He was stronger than all of them; if anyone did something to upset him, he would make them pay. He was strong and capable and handsome. He would not let her down; he would protect her from the people who might hurt her.
“Maybe he will ask me to marry him,” she thought to herself. She whispered it over and over again, enjoying the flight of butterflies the thought set off in her stomach.
And so she went to visit him. Everyday, she sat at his feet, hoping he would ask for her hand. And everyday he regaled her with stories of his triumphs and of his glorious future. He often hinted at a woman in his future, but never mentioned anything specific. Rebekah’s heart leapt every time he alluded to a wife.
“Perhaps he is trying to tell me something!” she thought. “Perhaps he is too shy to admit his love for me, so he wants to subtly tell me of his feelings.”
She fell asleep at night dreaming of her first kiss. She dreamt of his proposal and her wedding day. She dreamt of the glorious future she would have with him, living in a cabin in the woods, his prize game mounted on the wall. Every night Rebekah continued dreaming of this, despite her better judgment.
“Tea?” Polly poured the imaginary liquid into Charlie’s plastic cup.
“Thank you!” He pulled the cup to his lips and pretended to drink. “Mmm!” he sighed deeply. “Delicious.”
“It is not!” Collin whined. “There’s nothing there!”
“You just have to pretend,” Lucas informed him. “Use your imagination.”
“He doesn’t even have an imagination!” Polly stuck out her tongue at him.
“Just because I spend my time in the real world thinking about real things! Unlike you two fools, who spend your time playing games!”
“There is nothing wrong with imagination, Collin,” Charlie said. “It’s good to dream about things; it’s good to think of things that don’t exist. Maybe if you dream about them, they will exist one day.”
“What kinds of things do you dream about, Mr. Charlie?” Polly asked him.
“Me? Oh, well, I like to dream of fairy tales and true love,” he said. “I like to dream that maybe there is such a thing as love in this fairy-less world.”
“Maybe there is such a thing as fairies too!” Polly squeaked.
“And monsters and gremlins and beasts!” added Lucas. Collin rolled his eyes.
“And some magic that can make a woman fall in love with you,” Charlie sighed.
Polly, Collin and Lucas looked at him as if he were crazy. Charlie sipped his imaginary tea.
“What kind of mask do you want?” the painted man asked his client.
“I want to look beautiful,” the woman gushed. “So beautiful that everyone will see that I am important. If they think I’m pretty, they’ll think I’m valuable, and if I’m more beautiful than anyone else, then they can never get tired of me. They’ll never trade me off for someone better.”
“Yeah, yeah, lady, I just need to know you want to look pretty. Keep your insecurities to yourself.”
Rebekah sat in the corner by the fire, listening to their conversation. The woman hadn’t even noticed she was there. Rebekah lifted her hand subconsciously to her face, feeling the fake flesh. Was it beautiful? Did the painted man think she was pretty? Pretty enough to marry?
What if she wasn’t? Maybe she should get a new mask, even prettier than this woman’s. A beautiful woman, no man could resist.