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Princess Cordelia Presents

Chapter Text

Anne blew a loose hair from her eyes and glanced around her at the smiling faces of the party attendees. There was glitter and confetti all over the grass, sparkling in the late afternoon sun, and streamers of rainbow colors thrown haphazardly through tree limbs above. Half-empty pink cups lay abandoned on the refreshment table as adults and children alike stood in the shade of the giant oak tree, all eyes on Anne.

Or, as she was known in these parts, Princess Cordelia.

The Princess sat down on the grass and motioned for the children to join her. They all clambered to get as close as possible as she began to weave the tale of her ascent to the throne. A tale of daring-do and dragons, of false identities and maidens fair. A tale of wonder and romance - a tale which did not reflect Anne’s life in the slightest. The children listened with rapt attention, however, never once stopping to imagine it may not be real. The Princess in front of them in her satiny dress with puffed sleeves the color of the sky and a crown shining with azure jewels would never lie to them. She answered their questions in turn and made them gasp in surprise when she recounted the time she challenged a knight to duel without realizing he was her True Love in disguise.

No, Anne Shirley-Cuthbert did not live a life of fantastical proportions, but for a few hours a week she could pretend that she did - just as those children could. Princess-For-Hire was by far the best summer job she had ever had and, honestly, she never wanted it to end. She had never thought she would get paid just to have an imagination and entertain the masses with it! Okay, so, her audience was mostly children, but who better to be completely engaged in the story? She would often get compliments from parents as well, but they, of course, had long shed their naïveté and sense of wonder. Adults mostly wanted to ask about her costume (handmade with help from Diana and Cole) and how she had the energy to keep up with their kids during games (lots of coffee).

Anne sat in chair to the side of the yard enjoying a slice of cake the birthday girl’s mother had thrust into her hands with excited thankful words and watched the kids open presents. Her job was technically done, but parents always asked her to stay as long as she wanted - “the kids just ADORE you!” - and she did very much enjoy birthday cake. She scraped icing off her plate with her plastic pink fork and placed it on her tongue, a sweet burst of lemon hit her and she closed her eyes to savor it. When she opened them, the fork still in her mouth, she saw a young man about her age staring at her.

For a moment, she was transfixed by the lock his gaze had on hers. A dark hazel peered into her blue, his lips turned amusedly towards her as if they shared some sort of inside joke which they definitely did not! Anne felt her cheeks heating up and yanked the fork out of her mouth, her eyes moving quickly back down to the cake on her plate. She knew he was still staring despite her downcast gaze and staunchly refused to glance up until she was sure he had walked off in search of his child or younger sibling, whomever he was here with. Majority of the time, adults simply ignored her while they chatted with other parents. They were usually at least six years older than her as well, having moved on from university classes to the nice house and decent job portion of their lives. They weren’t working children’s parties on the weekend and writing English papers during the week in a studio apartment rented cheaply from their best friend’s wealthy aunt. Having strangers act so curiously around her was not something she was used to, even as a performer.

Without all the glitter and hairspray (and the occasional wig), Anne considered herself unworthy to be stared upon. Her hair, though considerably darker than it had been in her youth, was bright auburn and still flat as a board. She didn’t consider her shape to be enticing either. Unlike her curvaceous best friend Diana, Anne felt childish in her everyday clothing. She was of average height with limbs belonging more to a giraffe than a twenty-two year old woman and a hip to waist ratio that was barely two-to-one. The princess gown helped with its many tulle layers and corset binding, which Anne was glad to be able to hide behind every once in a while.

She heard a muffled creak next to her chair and her eyes went wide as she dared a side glance. The stranger had sat down beside her! The absolute gall of him to stare at her as if her appearance was somehow humorous and then pull up a chair! Some part of Anne’s brain (the more logical part that sounded quite a bit like Diana) supposed he was sitting beside her because they were possibly close in age, but the currently irritated part of her was unfortunately in the forefront.

Anne had just begun formulating a perfect HOW DARE YOU opener, when a small child ran over to the man.

A shout of “Uncle Gilbert!” rang out as the little girl embraced him. Anne watched as the man laughed and pulled her into his lap, asking if she was ready to leave. She felt her anger soften as he adjusted the ribbons on the girl’s braids and she turned away quickly, feeling bad for staring in the same way she had been irked at him for doing earlier.

A gasp suddenly came from the girl as she realized who she was sitting next to, and Anne overheard her whisper to her uncle asking if she could say goodbye to the Princess.

“Don’t you think she’s beautiful?” The little girl whispered again, “She’s tough, too. She’s got a sword ! Do you think she’ll let me hold it?”

Anne smiled and turned to the chair then. Her “sword” was really just a small, dull dagger attached to a chain on her hip, but it definitely helped her popularity with little boys and girls who wanted more excitement in their princess stories.

“This blade has been blessed by a fairy,” she said, watching the little girl’s eyes get wide, “if you aren’t worthy it’ll burn you upon contact. Do you think you’re ready?”

The child glanced up at her uncle, who nodded down at her.

“I think she is,” he locked eyes resolutely with Anne and for a moment she forgot what she had said in the first place, “Lizzie is actually a very powerful sorceress.”

He winked at her above the girl’s head and Anne choked slightly on her next sentence as Lizzie nodded affirmatively to his statement.

“All-all right, then,” Anne unhooked the sheath from the chain and placed it in the girl’s open hands, “be very careful. It seems harmless, but that’s how all magic appears.”

Lizzie’s uncle ( Gilbert , Anne’s brain prompted) took the blade out of the cover for her and placed it handle-first in her palm, then he let out a small breath, “look, no burns!”

Anne appreciated his dedication to the story and wished more adults were open to the magic of a simple play of pretend. She watched as Sorceress Lizzie gripped the handle and smiled when her hands remained unscathed. She asked Anne about the jewels on the handle ―glued with expert care by Cole on a late night costuming binge―and Anne told her a quick tale about an evil witch who hoarded gold to melt for spells. The jewels were the power Princess Cordelia had snatched from the witch, condensed into gems to be protected for the good of the kingdom.

Parents were beginning to pack up their kids and Gilbert handed the knife back to Anne, telling Lizzie to say her goodbyes. The little girl reached for one of her bows and placed it in Anne’s hand.

“It’s magic!” She whispered. Anne smiled and gave her a hug, the girl seeming to disappear in her voluminous pastel skirts for a moment.

The pair began to walk away when Lizzie started nudging her uncle back. He let go of her hand and turned to Anne, running his fingers through his dark curls for a moment. He seemed a tad sheepish now as he stepped toward her.

(Anne ignored the way this gesture made her heart yammer in her glittered bodice.)

“I’m Gilbert, by the way,” he began to reach out a hand for her to shake, then smirked at her and retracted it to cross over his chest instead, bowing deeply at the waist. Lizzie laughed at him and Anne resisted the pink spots forming on her cheeks.

“I’m actually Anne,” Anne smirked back at him―two could play this game, after all― and lifted her skirts to curtsy, “with an E.”

Chapter Text

“Oh, Diana, it was so embarrassing!”

Anne flopped face first into the pillows, Princess Cordelia’s gown lying rumpled on the floor by the bed. Diana patted her friend’s back encouragingly as Anne let out a frustrated sigh.

“you know Mrs. Lynde is widely regarded as the best baker amongst the mothers,” Anne looked up at Diana, wide eyed, “I’m absolutely positive that I moaned in delight when I put that forkful of icing in my mouth!”

Diana gave her a sympathetic smile, despite not truly understanding the situation at hand. Her friend had come into the apartment yammering on about how she’d embarrassed herself—“BIG TIME!”— and had yet to get to the point. But Diana was anything if not patient with Anne. She helped Anne undo the laces on her gown and then held her upright while she stumbled out of the skirt. Diana handed Anne a large T-shirt to slip on and waited once more as her friend babbled incoherently about cake.

“He was staring at me the entire time!” Anna emphatically flapped her legs against the mattress and flipped over to her back, Diana looking over her in concern (and slight confusion).

“I’m sure he heard the noises I was making, but the cake was just so good !”

Diana hesitated, “So, you met a guy at a children’s party?”

Anne brushed her mused hair out of her face, but didn’t look at Diana, “It wasn’t like that.”

“It kind of sounds like it was...” Diana trailed off at the abashed look on Anne’s face.

Anne huffed for a moment, her cheeks pink, before rolling on her side away from Diana. She supposed that Gilbert had been attractive in a classic sort of way, and he had made her laugh... mere minutes after making her beyond irritated. She knew she could easily find out more about him if she wanted— Mrs Lynde was known for her gossipy nature and it had been her daughter’s party, after all. But did Anne actually want to pursue anything? She would probably never see him again, never have to hear him laugh at her or see his dumb smirk. He had joked with her for sure— Cole might have called it flirting—but that didn’t mean anything. He was being friendly because they were the only people there who weren’t children or middle aged parents. Guys never looked twice at Anne, so there was no reason to suspect this time would be different.

Still. Something continued to tug on her optimism.

“I guess Gilbert was kind of cute,” she mumbled from her side of the bed, “but it would be better if I just forgot about him.”

“Did you say Gilbert?” Diana promoted, “As in Gilbert Blythe?”

Anne glanced over her shoulder, narrowing her eyes at her best friend, “I didn’t get his last name.”

“Was he really tall? Black curly hair?”

Anne turned her entire body at the description, confusion evident in her voice, “how did you know?”

“He and his roommates moved in down the hall last week!” Diana smiled down at her, “I ran into them in the hallway.”

Anne shook her head. No. That was too much of a coincidence.

“You’re lying.” But even as the words were leaving her lips she knew Diana would never lie to her.

Diana rolled her eyes. Here was a chance from fate! A chance her friend would normally be excited about if it concerned Diana or Cole, but since it was about Anne herself the chance was dismissed. Diana hated how her beloved friend continued to doubt herself. She thought Anne beautiful in an unconventional way, a way that she was sure someone would find appreciative. Anne was full of fiery spirit and boundless imagination and there was so much to love about her.

“His roommates are a gorgeous couple with an adorable little girl!” Diana provided, continuing to ignore the shocked look on Anne’s face, “I guess that’s who Gilbert took to the birthday party.”

“They live...down the hall...” Anne repeated, her eyes slowly closing.

“Apartment 203.” Diana prompted, “Maybe we could bring over a housewarming gift.”

Diana continued talking, ideas of brownies and offers to babysit tumbling forth, but Anne had already checked out of the conversation. Just when she had pledged to forget her awkward encounter, fate decided to play her hand. This was typical of Anne’s life to play tricks on her, but usually it was in the form of a tragedy. She couldn’t determine whether or not this time would end up a blessing. Sure, she had experienced some disasters in terms of dating, and had since made a vow that she would never date anyone she had grown up knowing. Especially not boys who teased her relentlessly in junior high and then suddenly decided she was worth pursuing in senior year just because she’d gotten kind of pretty (ahem, Billy Andrews) or men who held her on too high a pedestal and felt cheated when she fell from grace (poor Roy Gardiner). Who was to say her new neighbor would be any different?

“Anne,” Diana poked her shoulder, “ Anne … I know what you’re thinking, but if you don’t try things then you’ll never know how they turn out.”

Anne sighed, “It’s not like we really know each other—”

“Exactly!” Diana bounced a little on the bed, “That could be just what you need! Someone who doesn’t know your past.”

Anne rolled her eyes, but couldn’t help smiling at her friend’s enthusiasm, “I was going to say that since we don’t know each other, I could more easily ignore him.”

But what was the fun in that? The thought broke through once more that maybe Diana was right. She could at least try to make his acquaintance as a friendly neighbor. And if she happened to entertain other possibilities later, than so be it. A good housewarming gift would be the perfect start to regaining her agency in the situation. It would be up to Gilbert to reciprocate after that, and, she told herself, it would be totally fine if he didn’t. Diana couldn’t continue to goad her if she failed as long as she tried, right?

There was a part of her, the part that birthed Princess Cordelia, that wished for a more romantical ending. Anne pushed this part of her aside as Diana tugged her out of the bed and into the kitchen, talk of baked goods back into the air. There was time to think about romance later, right now Anne was more focused on convincing Diana they should make a few of Marilla’s famous tarts instead of Diana’s more infamous brick-hard brownies.

Chapter Text

Gilbert had stepped on three different plush animals on his walk to the kitchen that morning. The first one, a bear wearing an olympics t-shirt, startled him awake as it began to play an abridged version of the national anthem under his foot. He hummed a few bars of it down the hallway and gathered up the animals in his arms as he walked. It was Monday, which on a normal day would see him waking up at five to be ready for his six o’clock anatomy lab. However, when he’d blinked away the sleep this morning he noticed an email from his professor canceling class for the day, and promptly went back to his dreams.

It was nice to be able to wake up and have a meal with his family, something he didn’t normally get to do with classes in the mornings and an internship in the afternoons. Mary and Bash always saved him dinner in the evenings if he didn’t make it home in time—and he often didn’t thanks to the city’s disaster of a train schedule.

He tossed the fuzzy toys to Lizzie at the end of the breakfast nook and slid in next to her, his eyes glued on the stack of pancakes sitting in the middle of the table. Mary sat across from them hemming about something in the school newspaper and absentmindedly stirring her coffee; Bash was frying bacon in the kitchen. All was right in the Blythe-Lacroix household.

“Can you believe that Mrs. Lynde?”

Mary set down the newspaper in a small huff, “she wants to regulate this bake sale like the military! Who cares if we have two kinds of brownies?”

“She’s just worried yours will be better, love” Bash said, settling down next to her and placing a steaming pile of bacon on the table, “you know she can’t handle someone outshining her.”

Gilbert reached out a fork for a pancake and listened to them chatter about PTO duties a bit more. Mrs. Lynde had been a pain in Mary’s side since Lizzie started school, always providing her probably well-meaning, but usually offensive comments about parenting. The bake sale was the coming Friday and Mary was planning on making her special ooey gooey brownies, which she had promised to save a few of for the family, but Mrs. Lynde apparently brought brownies every year to the sale and she’d asked Mary to switch to lemon bars.

It didn’t seem to Gilbert that Mary was planning on listening to the other mother, however, as she and Bash went over the week’s grocery list. Bash’s question of “Do you really need that much chocolate?” was only met with a harsh look before he quickly scribbled it down on the paper.

“Mrs. Lynde makes good cake!” Lizzie supplied, her fork in the air and a piece of bacon in her other fist, “but I think your brownies are probably better, mommy!”

Gilbert nodded in agreement, remembering how good the birthday cake had been at the party Lizzie had attended over the weekend. No one could say Mrs. Lynde didn’t go all out for her children. A bounce castle, boxes upon boxes of pizza, and a party princess had rounded out the event. It had taken him ages to get Lizzie out of the bounce castle and then she’d gotten distracted by the princess...

The princess.

Anne.

Gilbert had cursed himself later for not getting more information about her. He wasn’t known to be very forthcoming with women, but if ever there was a moment he felt he could ask for a phone number it was then.

And he’d just let the moment go.

 

He’d thought about asking Mrs. Lynde, but he couldn’t handle the gossip that might come with that conversation. Lizzie had a birthday coming up, though, and maybe he could use that as excuse without Mrs. Lynde thinking anything else of the subject. She didn’t have to know that they were actually just taking Lizzie to the zoo for her birthday.

A small lie wouldn’t hurt, he thought, and smiled into his last bite of pancake.

“What are you grinning about, Blythe?”

Bash’s eyebrows were raised at Gilbert from across the table, “you look like you’ve got a secret. To think, I thought we were brothers!”

Bash placed his hand on his chest in mock outrage as Lizzie giggled into her orange juice. Gilbert bit his lip a moment in thought. On the one hand, Bash and Mary were excellent at giving him advice when he needed it. But Bash was also excellent at teasing the hell out of him.

They were well and truly brothers, after all.

“Well,” he pushed some hair out of his eyes and tried not to look directly at Bash’s curious-cat grin, “I might have met someone.”

Mary quirked an eyebrow at him before glancing at her husband, whose grin had somehow managed to grow three considerable sizes, “Sebastian. Behave.”

“I am appalled. I am always on my best behavior!” Bash shook his head disapprovingly, but the grin stayed in place as he leaned over to Gilbert, “Where did you meet this person? You never go anywhere!”

Gilbert opened his mouth to respond, but was beaten by Lizzie, who shouted through a jaw full of pancakes.

“He’s in love with the princess!”

Bash and Mary exchanged a confused look.

“What on earth is she talking about, Gilbert?” Mary prompted, wiping away bits of her daughter’s stray chewed pancake from the table, “A princess?”

Gilbert shook his head, “She’s not an actual princess

“Yes, she is!” Lizzie gasped, “she let me hold her magic sword!”

Bash gave Gilbert a look that was one part confusion and one part I’ll-handle-this and turned his attention towards his daughter, “Liz, you should go get ready for school. You’re still in your pajamas!”

 

As soon as the little girl was done huffing her way down the hallway, surely mumbling about missing out on grown-up things, Bash’s grin was back in full force.

“Explain.”

Gilbert gave out a small laugh before explaining that the Princess that Lizzie was so besotted with was actually a girl named Anne in hoopskirted ball gown. He told them how she’d entertained the children at the birthday party with fantastic tales of her character’s magical kingdom and how by the end even he was almost believing the fantasy. Lizzie had dragged him over to talk to her initially, but even before then he had been working up the courage to approach her to compliment her storytelling (he assumed it might be uncouth to also mention that he thought her hair reflected nicely in that sunny afternoon). He did, however, make the mistake of telling Bash and Mary this thought as he recounted how nice she’d been to Lizzie.

“And then I completely blanked on actually finding out more about her as opposed to her Princess alterego,” he finished dejectedly, stabbing the last bit of his pancakes, “I was too distracted by the sun glowing behind her hair, I guess.”

“The boy has become a poet after meeting this girl once!” Bash laughed, “You are definitely doomed, Blythe!”

Mary, who had been sitting silently in thought as Gilbert talked (unlike her husband who chose to interject at every pause his friend made in the story), looked pointedly across the table, “you said her name was Anne?”

Gilbert nodded, “I didn’t get a last name, though, so I don’t know how to find her short of calling Mrs. Lynde.”

“Thankfully, you won’t have to call that woman.” Mary forward to pat his hand, a small smile on her lips, “I don’t think you’ll have a problem finding someone who lives across the hall.”

Gilbert opened his mouth to respond, but could find nothing to say that would be comprehensive. Was Mary implying Anne was his neighbor? They had just moved in right before the spring school semester, but surely he would have run into her before, right? Well, probably not, in actuality, he thought. Bash’s words of Gilbert never leaving the apartment floated back to him. He only left for class and his internship at the medical centre, both of which started very early in the morning. Perhaps he should have started saying yes when his colleagues invited him places and maybe then he would run into people other than the nasty man next door who always let his dogs defecate on the welcome mat during their 5am walks.

When Gilbert failed to form a proper response, Mary continued, “When we met our neighbor the other day, that young woman named Diana,” she prompted to Gilbert, who nodded in remembrance, “she informed us that she lived with two roommates. This morning, when I was downstairs getting the mail, I ran into the other two a young man named Cole and a redhead named Anne.”

Bash chose this moment to let out a huge snort and his wife gave his shoulder a shove as he began to laugh, “the whole time she was right in front of your eyes!”

He quieted down at the look on his friend’s face and pushed himself up from the table. Gilbert sighed, ready for a berating, as Bash came around to the other side of the table and placed his hand on the younger man’s shoulder.

“Look, brother,” Bash poked Gilbert’s chest with his other hand, “this is the universe giving you that second chance! God’s out there making it easy for you.”

He gave Gilbert’s shoulder one last pat before turning and gathering up the dirty dishes. Mary got up as well, muttering about Lizzie having not come back yet from her room. She gave Gilbert a small, knowing wink as she passed him and set about trying to locate the bus schedule so they wouldn’t be late for school.

Gilbert was left to sit and ponder exactly how not easy this situation would be. What if she didn’t remember who he was? She’d remember Lizzie, surely, but had he made enough of an impression? Or had he effectively scared her away by his terrible rendition of flirting? And he had been flirting, he’d admit to it now despite what he had claimed when Lizzie (a seven year old!) teased him on the way back from the party.

There was no sense in not trying, though, he decided. He’d ask Mary if she knew their apartment number and introduce himself as their new neighbor―apparently the rest of his family had already met them, so it only seemed fair. Perhaps the girl he hadn’t been able to get out of his head since Saturday would even be the one to answer the door. It was possible they’d end up not getting along, but he was sure there had been something there and that it was worth pursuing.

 

It wasn’t every day that you met a princess, after all.