Elizabeth Bennet looked at the clock for the fifth time that evening. It can’t be only eleven. This party will never end. And to think that I looked forward to it! Then she turned her gaze to her sister Jane. Apparently she was much more pleased with the evening. No wonder, she had spent most of her time with that gorgeous Charles Bingley, her boss’s wealthy friend. Now, not only did Elizabeth find herself alone, but she was also obliged to bear her workmates’ hostile looks. She had brought her sister, a “stranger”, to the magazine’s party and that stranger had stolen the man everyone was forming designs for. And, considering how handsome Charles was, she couldn’t really blame her workmates.
Then she looked at her boss, the rich and powerful William Darcy…hmmm and very handsome too. His eyes were on the clock and he seemed in exasperation as well. That could hardly cause anyone’s surprise. Everyone knew that he hated these parties. He did very little to conceal it, always sitting by the window with his drink and never speaking to anyone he was not very close with. This particular evening only Charles, his sisters Caroline and Louisa and the latter’s fiancÚ had heard his voice. Well, he could not have chosen worse company for the evening, I almost pity him! Both Charles’ sisters were very pretty but as Elizabeth very well knew, they were also disagreeable and snooty and mean and…a very long list was formed in her mind. As for Tony, Louisa’s fiancÚ, he looked remarkably stupid.
By midnight Elizabeth thought that she had fulfilled her duty towards the magazine and approached her sister in order to beg her to leave. Darcy had probably the same plans and he had reached his friend as she went near her sister. He had really intended not to speak loudly, but his deep masculine voice did make its way to Elizabeth’s ears.
“Charles, I am leaving this moment and so are you.”
“You may do as you please, but you cannot possibly separate me from my angel so soon!” he replied smiling towards Jane. “Why can’t you find a distraction as well?”
“Well, it seems that there are no other distractions in this room, Charles. Your sisters have already left, taking your car with them and I am to get you safely home.”
“The nanny role doesn’t suit you, Darce.”
“I cannot say the same for you. You carry your spoilt- boy part to perfection!”
“I am not leaving, so find yourself a woman and let me return to my flower.”
“There are no women for me in here.” He stated.
“O, come on. Look at that woman next to my angel. She’s got something doesn’t she?”
“Whom do you mean?” He turned and looked at Jane and Elizabeth. “Elizabeth Bennet? For God’s sake, Charles, don’t tell me that you think her beautiful?”
“She is not like my goddess, but she’s quite pretty, is she not?”
“She is not at all to my taste. And, unlike you, it takes much more than a pair of fine eyes to distract me.”
“Christ, Will, I didn’t ask you to marry her, I told you to talk to her.”
“Are we leaving?”
“Just an hour. Give me just an hour. Please?.”
“I’ll go to the terrace for some air and when I come back, we leave.”
“You are a wonderful nanny Will, thanks. Now, I must be returning to my rose.”
Darcy’s features were lightened by a smile, just for a moment.
“Do you know the name of your rose?”
Charles started coughing.
“I thought so.” He left the room so that no one would hear him laugh.
William walked to the terrace. It was a very cold night. It almost looked like it was going to snow although it was only October. She likes cold nights was his immediate thought that brought a smile on his face. It disappeared when he heard steps approaching. Thank God I was not thinking aloud. Why can’t they leave me alone?
A very familiar voice spoke:
“Not to your taste? Now, Mr. Darcy that was rude.”
William did not answer but instantly took her in his arms. He began kissing her, gently at first but then he grew more and more passionate as the longing of the entire night took hold of his better sense. Elizabeth tried to protest.
“Will, I am trying to stay mad at you and you…oh, Will, no… you are certainly not helping me.”
He released her, although it took him all his self-will to do so, amused to see the slight disappointment in her eyes.
“Eavesdropping again? What am I going to do with your bad journalistic habits?” he asked caressing her chin.
“I am very sorry to say that I was not eavesdropping. You have a wonderfully loud voice, you know. Charlotte and the girls are having a good laugh at me back there and I just left them after declaring that I totally despise you.”
“Well, now they are not going to suspect anything.”
“Don’t tell me that you planned to humiliate me in front of my colleagues so that you won’t spoil the rich bachelor’s image!” Elizabeth could not account for the sudden anger she felt, but she could do nothing to control her outburst.
“Of course not! You know me well enough to think me incapable of this, I hope.” His tone was deadly serious. “And I thought that you wished the concealment as much as I did.”
“Don’t panic! I have no intention of inducing you into matrimony. Although I cannot say the same about your dear Caroline.”
“Now you are jealous of Caroline? What’s next?”
“I do not want to continue this, William. It’s late and we’re both tired. Let’s return to the party.”
Elizabeth felt something in her stomach. Maybe I have taken it too far tonight. Why did I have to mention that shrew? Please, Will, don’t look at me like that.
“No?” she asked hesitatingly.
“No,” he stated. “It is the first hour we spend by ourselves this week and the idea of parting mad at each other just doesn’t suit me.” He smiled. Elizabeth smiled back, and did her best to conceal a sigh of relief. His fingers moved from her chin to her cheeks and their eyes locked. Oh, her eyes! They were fire and danger, soul and spirit, adventure and safety, desert and oasis. But he also had the strange feeling that he was at home when he was looking in them, which could be for hours, forever in fact.
He kissed her again and again and they were both lost in their passion and desire. They parted just when he began to feel that his self-control was vanishing. When he leaned in to whisper something in her ears, his voice was hoarse with desire:
“I want you. Tonight.”
“Oh, Will, we can’t. Jane’s staying at my place tonight.”
“Come to my place, then.”
Elizabeth cursed her luck. During their secret three-month relationship, he had never invited her to his place, always finding some silly excuses that vexed her. And now that her wish to be in his home could come true, she had to decline the offer.
“I can’t leave her alone. Not tonight.” The regret was evident in her eyes.
Darcy knew he had better conceal his disappointment, although he hardly knew how. Parting with Elizabeth became more difficult every time and he didn’t wish things to become too serious. Elizabeth had better not realize how much of his happiness depended now on her spending the night with him. He did his best to smile.
“I am glad you do. So, we’re getting back?”
“Anxious to get rid of me?” he feigned a hurt look.
“You are so sure of yourself that you can never sound convincing.” She laughed at him.
She’s making fun of me and I like it! Well, that is unusual. Darcy, beware: this woman is changing you. He became serious.
“Is anything wrong?” she asked with some surprise. “No, nothing at all. We should be returning.”
“See you on Monday, then?”
“Still not free for lunch on Sunday?”
“No. I am going to my mother with Jane and Charlotte.”
“To Hertfordshire, that’s right?”
“Yes. Are you so interested in my whereabouts?”
“No, of course not!” he answered a bit too pointedly.
What’s wrong with this man? One moment he is funny and tender and loving and the other he builds walls between us. Elizabeth’s troubled thoughts reflected on her face but Darcy chose not to notice it.
“See you on Monday, Elizabeth.”
“Have a nice weekend.”
Elizabeth could not sleep that night. She tossed and turned but the feeling of dissatisfaction didn’t let her find some rest. So, after an hour that seemed like a day, she got up and headed to the kitchen. Some milk would be just the thing for her troubled state of mind. It would make her feel like when she was a child and her dearest father brought her a cup of milk every night, before she went to bed. Oh, it seemed ages ago…
But before she could bring the image of her beloved father before her, she was obliged to come back to reality. Jane was sitting in the kitchen and the look on her face was anything but happy. Elizabeth sighed. Her sister had been melancholic for too long a period. She had hoped that their evening at the party would do her some good. The smiles that were brought on her lovely face while she was talking with Charles were very promising. But now, her big blue eyes were full of tears.
“Jane, darling, what is the matter?”
Jane startled. She had not seen her sister enter. She tried to hide her tears and smiled faintly.
“Nothing, Lizzy. Just couldn’t sleep.”
“Oh, Jane, come on. I can see that you are unhappy. Talk to me. Open up. We can sort this together.”
“Lizzy, you have problems of your own and…”
“I have not,” laughed Lizzy. “I have the perfect life.” And a perfect boyfriend who is probably ashamed of me. And he is not romantic. And he has never said that he loves me. He doesn’t love me. I must end this on Monday. Yes, on Monday. This time I will. I can. I will not yield to impulse. I am a strong woman. I won’t repeat the mistakes of the past. Not like the previous week that we ended up at my house and we…
But Jane was already speaking:
“…and even if you really had not any problems, why should you trouble yourself with mine? I am a grown woman and I am behaving worse than a teenager who got dumped by her boyfriend.”
“You are a wonderful woman who gave up everything to marry a total…”
“Please, Lizzy do not speak ill of him. We spent twelve years together. I have been happy by his side. Abusing him does not help at all.”
“It always helps when I get dumped,” murmured Elizabeth.
“Lizzy, he did not dump me. I decided to leave him.” Jane’s voice was trembling and Elizabeth sensed she should try to stay calm. But she had a fiery temperament that always betrayed her in cases like that. So she shouted:
“Jane, he has been cheating on you!!! He has taken the best years of your life! He did not let you go to university, though you were far cleverer than him… than anyone in your class, in fact. He refused to have children. Now, I can see why! He was always jealous. You lost contact with your friends, you lost your life, do you understand me? Don’t deny it. Denial can mask the pain, but it cannot heal the wound.” She stopped to take breath and she looked at her sister. Jane was crying uncontrollably by now, and she kept murmuring: “Jason did love me. He really did…”, but Elizabeth sensed that she was finally letting go. She continued:
“And now, that he has ruined your personal life and the prospects of a career, he got bored! He wanted a mistress! And he demanded that you reconcile yourself with the situation! He refused the divorce and now that you managed to get free, he threw the blame on you. He left you penniless and disgraced and you refuse to abuse him?” Elizabeth might be hot-blooded at times, but never in her life had she spoken so harshly. She was crying along with Jane, as if they were taking out the sting together, but she found the courage to continue, in a tone full of pain and anger:
“Look at you! You have had a nice evening, you were admired by that charming man and now you come back and cry about Jason! All your life is turning around that monster!”
“Charles reminded me of…” Jane’s words were barely comprehensible as her sobs prevailed.
“Jason of course! Everything reminds you of Jason Younge! And do you know what the worst of all is? You still love him! After everything that he has done to you, after all those terrible things he has said about you, you still love him!”
“No!” cried Jane with such a loud voice that Elizabeth had never heard before. “You may be right about everything else, but I do not love him anymore. And this is the worst of all!”
“What?” Elizabeth sounded very surprised.
“The worst of all, Elizabeth,” Jane continued in a much calmer tone—as Elizabeth had shivers: Jane never called anything but Lizzy—“is that I cannot love him anymore. I cannot love anyone anymore.” Jane’s voice was deadly serious and cold. She had stopped crying. Elizabeth now regretted having started what seemed like the most painful conversation in her life. Jane however did not notice her sister’s pale face and continued:
“I met Charles and we had a very nice time. We have much in common. He’s interested in the stories I write. He asked my phone number and I gave it. If he asks me on a date, I will probably say yes. But I feel, no, I know that I will never be able to love him. Or anyone else. A part of me is dead, Elizabeth. I cannot love. I do not believe in love. Not anymore.”
Elizabeth could not believe what was happening. He has ruined her, she thought. Forever. He wanted to hug her, to comfort her, to tell her that everything would be fine, that they would find true and everlasting love and that they would live happily ever after. But she didn’t. She thought of her parents. Then of Jane. Then of her own life, of all her boyfriends, of William. The man she thought she could share her thoughts and dreams with. The man she hoped she could love. She remembered his panic every time he thought that someone was suspecting their affair. Christ, as if there was a reason! He was not engaged or married or dating anyone else. She remembered his words this evening. Disappointment and bitterness filled her. The tears had disappeared, or were rather replaced by something like coldness. And she could say nothing. She could not help her sister as she could not help herself. Finally she whispered:
“Never call me Elizabeth again. I hate it when coming from your lips.”
Jane only nodded and Elizabeth returned to her room. Without having any milk and without finding the sleep she needed badly.
In the guest room, Jane felt drained, empty and exhausted. She put on some music. She recalled her sister’s angry, and then shocked face. She remembered the pain in her eyes. I shouldn’t have done this to her, she thought. She seems stronger, but she cannot bear the pain. Lizzy is all I have now and I have to protect her. That was her last thought before surrendering to sleep. The CD player was still on:
Memory, all alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again*
*Memory from the musical “Cats.” Music: Andrew Lloyd Weber. Lyrics from Elliot’s Old Possum’s book and his unpublished writings
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