AS ROCK 'n roll music blasted through the school's tinny P.A. system, couples on the polished dance floor feverishly twisted and gyrated to the rhythms of the drums and riffs of the electric guitars. Some of the more outlandish dancers fancied themselves worthy of American Bandstand. Others believed their superiority was based on their current level of education and social background rather than dancing acumen. Then there were those that didn't care about either of these things. They were there just to have fun on a Friday night out through friendly dancing and the hope of making new acquaintances.
Elizabeth Bennet was enjoying her first social mixer. Her older sister, Jane, was a sophomore at Longbourn College, a small private girls' liberal arts school. Jane had attended a few of these socials before. She invited her sister, Elizabeth, who was almost eighteen and a senior in high school, to come with her this time as a treat. Their family lived nearby in the town of Meryton and Elizabeth was going to spend the night with Jane on campus in her dormitory. Mixers allowed students of the numerous small colleges in the area to meet other college students, particularly of the opposite sex. One of the more notable schools drafted for this particular mixer was the nearby Ivy League school, Princeton University. Princeton was known as one of the most prestigious universities in the country, but it was also known to attract the kind of men who were smart, handsome and - most importantly - wealthy. Men the girls of Longbourn strived to meet.
Standing beside each other against a wall, the two sisters sipped their Cokes and soaked up the lively atmosphere of the mixer. Jane, a consummate beauty, was the essence of simplicity and elegance with her long, naturally blonde hair worn in a flip style. She wore just a hint of pink lipstick and black mascara, accentuating the color of her sky blue eyes. Wearing a gift brought back from Bermuda by her family's dear friends, the Gardiners, she was dressed in a plaid skirt and matching pink cashmere sweater set. Completing the outfit was the pearl necklace she received as a high school graduation present the previous year. Her sister, Elizabeth, was almost the complete opposite. Her wavy, long chestnut colored hair was worn sweetly tied back with a trailing white ribbon. Large, blue eyes framed by thick dark lashes made her eyes all the more distinctive. Petite compared to Jane, Elizabeth wore her favorite red cotton dress; its long sleeves and Peter Pan collar were simple, but outlined her girlish figure nicely.
Lizzy, as she was affectionately known by her friends and family, tended to find the humor in and about everything around her. Her eyes traveled over the cavernous room, taking in the exuberant dancing of the young couples on the floor, and she laughed to herself as she thought how ridiculous some of them looked, especially the young men. I wouldn't be caught dead dancing with one of them! She smiled inwardly at the thought. Unless, perhaps, he was handsome enough to tempt me. She laughed again to herself, reminded of a particular passage in a book she had read recently in her English Literature class.
On the opposite side of the room, a tall, handsome, yet sullen looking young man was standing up against the wall, wishing he were anywhere but here. Mixers like this were not to his liking. He felt uncomfortable dancing with people he didn't know, and even more awkward striking up mindless conversations with giddy schoolgirls who were looking for their MRS degrees. MRS was a pseudonym given to the women who wanted nothing more than to meet a man in college and marry him quickly and have babies. Now he, Will Darcy, was stuck because his friend, Charles Bingley, talked him into driving over here tonight. Charles' sister, Caroline, a junior at Longbourn College, talked her brother into coming to the mixer with his friend. Will tried his best to avoid the unmistakable looks from the young women who were making it obvious they wished he would ask them to dance. At a mixer like this? Never! Who ever heard of this place, anyway? Longbourn? I'd rather be home in my room at Princeton! He turned his back to the dance floor, feigning interest in the old, moldy portraits on the wall behind him. The revered likenesses of many a spinster headmistress no doubt. He rolled his eyes sarcastically before turning around at the sound of his name.
"Darcy, you must come and dance," said his friend Charles, approaching him out of breath from dancing. "Isn't this music sensational?" Charles enthused, "I love this new sound that's come over from Britain. What's their name, the Be - the Beats - oh, something like that."
"Bingley, you know I don't feel comfortable dancing to this kind of music -"
"But you never try!" Charles cut him off. "How will you ever get comfortable if you don't give it a chance? Come on, Will, grab a girl and get out on the floor!"
"No, Bingley," Darcy began to say, "I really don't want - " but he stopped mid-sentence when his eyes were arrested by the sight of a lovely girl standing directly across the room from him in a simple dark red dress with a white bow in her long dark hair. Even with the width of the room between them he could tell she had rather large eyes and a wide expressive mouth. Something about her sparkled, drawing him in, as if hypnotized. Taking a deep breath, his heart pounding, he found himself crossing the room, making his way over to her. As he drew closer, he noticed the thoughtful look on her face as her foot tapped to the beat of the new song blaring from the P.A. system. He had a sudden incredible urge to dance.
Lizzy had just finished her soda and set the empty Coke bottle down on a table behind her. She carefully made her way over to the edge of the dance floor, trying not to bump into anyone in the crush. Jane had been asked to dance earlier by a nice looking young man and Lizzy tried to find her on the crowded dance floor. It wasn't easy in the dim light, but she thought she caught a glimpse of Jane just as the opening notes were starting on a fresh song, Click here to hear the song
One, two, three, four!
The beat was almost irresistible. Hmm, this sounds like a good song. Lizzy started tapping her foot. She thought wistfully how nice it would be to have a dance partner. As if on cue, she looked up and nearly gaped at the sight of Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome - and he was coming straight toward her! Taking in his towering form - with a head of dark unruly curls to go with it, she could see he had an aristocratic look about him. His back straight and head held high, she noticed under a straight nose was a chiseled chin and sensual mouth with lips that were, in Lizzy's opinion, very kissable. Conservatively dressed in a striped silk tie, white button down shirt, and herringbone sports coat, it seemed as if his dark brown eyes were boring right into hers, never leaving her face as he drew nearer. Fighting the impulse to turn around and see if he was looking at someone behind her, she stood her ground and waited. He stopped before her and reached out his hand.
"Will you dance with me?" he asked softly.
He was older and more distinguished than anyone she had ever danced with before. Yet, at the same time, he had an endearing, boyish look on his face as he asked her. Unable to speak, she nodded and took his hand. A sudden jolt at his touch and flutter in her stomach sealed her fate. His wide, broad smile lit up his face as he led her to the dance floor, showing off dimples that suddenly made her feel weak in the knees.
Darcy was not exactly sure what he was doing. All he knew was that he was dancing with the sweet, beautiful creature in front of him. Never in his life had he felt so free and adventurous. Euphoria washed over him, and he found the song exhilarating as they danced to its lively beat. Without speaking, their eyes met and never wavered as the words of the song cried out:
Well, she was just 17,
You know what I mean,
And the way she looked
Was way beyond compare.
Lizzy couldn't help grinning at him as they danced, Who is this gorgeous guy? He's so big and tall tall - and those shoulders! She couldn't take her eyes off of him as they twisted and turned, relishing their dance.
So how could I dance with another
Oh when I saw her standing there.
Darcy just kept moving to the beat of the music, oblivious to his own limbs. He had never danced so wildly in his life. His legs had a mind of their own; he didn't even have to think. What kind of power did this girl have over him?
Well, my heart went "boom,"
When I crossed that room,
And I held her hand in mine...
They danced together through the song, unaware that they had spoken not a single word to each other once Will had asked her to dance. They seemed to be under a spell. The song made them tingle; it was magical for both of them.
Oh we danced through the night,
And we held each other tight,
And before too long
I fell in love with her
Now I'll never dance with another
Oh, when I saw her standing there.
They kept up the fast pace of the dance, each matching the other's moves, enjoying the thrill of the moment. His eyes fixed on the white ribbon that flew around her wildly as she swung her head back and forth. It was coming loose, so he reached out and grabbed it just before it fell to the floor. She looked at him questioningly, but he simply smiled and pocketed the ribbon for safe keeping until the end of their song. I hope this never ends.
Lizzy was also hoping it would never end. She looked down at their feet, wondering. What will happen when it's over? I don't even know who he is. Suddenly she was feeling anxious. Will he try to kiss me? That butterfly feeling in her stomach returned at the thought. She chewed her bottom lip absentmindedly as she dared to look up in his eyes again, hoping to see what he was thinking. The thought of kissing him was exhilarating and scary at the same time.
At that moment the final notes of the song rang out, bringing their dance to an end. Lizzy came out of her reverie and their dancing slowed as the music stopped. Darcy took her hands in his and smiled down at her, breathing heavily from the exertion of the past three minutes.
"Would you like a drink? I'm parched," he asked.
"Yes, I'd love one." Grateful he had broken the silence.
He guided her over to the refreshments and grabbed a cold bottle of Coke from a cooler of ice, "Is this okay?" She nodded and he popped the cap off and handed it to her. "I hope you don't mind a bottle?"
"This is fine, I don't mind," she said, suddenly feeling shy. Darcy grabbed and opened his own bottle and they drank the cold fiery liquid in silence.
Abruptly he asked, "What's your name?" He'd been dying to ask this the whole time they'd been dancing.
"Elizabeth. How about you?"
"Will." He looked at her intently as he answered. He observed little things about her he hadn't noticed before: how shiny her hair was and the freckles on her nose. She wasn't very tall, barely coming up to his shoulders; and the hands wrapped around her Coke bottle were so small. All at once she seemed quite young.
Lizzy began to feel uncomfortable, aware of his scrutiny and realized she was freely perspiring from the vigorous dance. She wanted to go to the ladies room and splash some water on the back of her neck and face.
"Would you excuse me? I just have to go powder my nose. I'll be right back, I promise." She said with a big smile.
"Of course," her smile was reflected by his own. "I'll be waiting for you right here."
Lizzy went off to the ladies' lounge, leaving Darcy at the refreshment table watching her progress. She made her way inside and splashed some water on her cheeks and neck, grabbed a paper towel and gently blotted her face dry in front of the mirror. She brushed her hair to make sure it was neat, and remembered that her ribbon had fallen out and Will had kept it for her. She was smiling at her reflection, thinking dreamily of Will, when all of a sudden a loud, grating voice interrupted her thoughts.
"I don't know who you think you are, missy, but I hope you don't think anything is going to come of your dancing with Will Darcy."
Elizabeth immediately focused behind her reflection in the mirror and saw a tall, sharp-looking young woman looking intently at her. Everything about her was angular. She had very black hair in a stylish bouffant hairdo, and her eyes were huge with heavy black eyeliner and false eyelashes. Her bright orange sleeveless dress matched the orange bow in her hair. Her sticklike arms brought a cigarette up to orange lips that took a deep drag. She narrowed her eyes at Elizabeth as she inhaled and then exhaled the smoke in Elizabeth's face.
Lizzy had never been near anyone dressed so outlandishly, nor anyone who was so rude! Was this person talking to her? Surely there was some mistake.
"I beg your pardon, were you talking to me?" Lizzie said, trying to sound confident.
"Yes, I'm talking to you." The woman said, poking her in the chest. Lizzy took a step away from her.
"What do you want?"
"If you know what's good for you, stay away from Will Darcy. He's mine." Looking Lizzy up and down she added sneeringly, "You're not his type, anyway."
Confused, Lizzy asked, "Who is Will Darcy? I don't even know what you're talking about."
"Just who do you think you've been dancing with?" the woman asked.
Then Lizzy realized. Will. He said his name was Will. He must be whom this weird person in orange is talking about. Lizzy couldn't believe that this horrid woman was the type of person Will would go out with.
"What of it? If he's yours, then you don't have anything to worry about."
The young woman seemed a little put off by this comment, but carried on, "Well, that's true, but sometimes, men have needs..." She said vaguely, "There's only one thing he would want from a girl like you."
Elizabeth was starting to get a little angry at this vulture accosting her. What does she mean by a girl like me?
"And just what type of girl am I?" Elizabeth's courage rising, head held high.
Orange woman gave her a condescending look, raised an eyebrow and smirked. "What does every man want? He knows I'm saving myself for our wedding night," she smugly admired her long, polished fingernails. "Naturally he'll look elsewhere to get his kicks before then." Elizabeth saw the look of triumph on the woman's face as her petty dig hit home.
Elizabeth was humiliated and embarrassed. Was that all it was? She kept her anger inside, not wanting this awful woman to see that her remarks had any effect. She had to find Jane and get out of there. All she wanted to do was to get away from this witch and forget all about Will's soulful brown eyes. He's engaged to her? Thank God, I didn't kiss him or anything. What a jerk! Lizzy shook her head as she bolted from the Ladies' Lounge. And he seemed so nice.
Her only goal was to find Jane and get out of there. She made her way to the dance floor, looking for her sister. There was a loud, booming song on the P.A. and everyone was dancing. The floor was so crowded that it was nearly impossible to find Jane. She was scanning the crowd when she felt a warm hand on her shoulder and a voice in her ear.
"Hey, there you are, I was looking for you." She turned and there was Will, smiling down at her, his eyes warm and friendly.
Elizabeth looked up at him with a disgusted air.
"What's wrong?" he said immediately, a look of concern on his face. "What happened?"
"Just stay away from me!" Visibly upset, she turned and ran off into the crowd, leaving him standing alone on the edge of the dance floor. Dazed, his eyes followed her, and he saw her grab the shoulders of a blonde girl as they exchanged words. Both girls quickly left.
"What happened?" Will said aloud. He was amazed and confused. He couldn't believe that everything had gone so well and then all of a sudden, she told him to stay away from her! I thought something special had happened between us. He'd been looking forward to getting to know her better and dancing together for the rest of the night. He could only wonder what he'd done to scare her off. He walked back dejectedly to the same wall where he'd stood earlier, and tried to remember every detail of their engaging, yet brief dance together. "Elizabeth." He immediately remembered something and reaching into his right pocket where he felt the softness of her white ribbon between his fingers. He pulled it out and held it before his eyes, studying it.
Now I'll never dance with another
Oh, when I saw her standing there
Oh, since I saw her standing there
Yeah, well since I saw her standing there*
*The Beatles, "I Saw Her Standing There" - performed by The Beatles, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. (c) 1963 Northern Songs. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured.
"Charles, you know I don't dance." Will said to his best friend.
"Except for that one time -"
"I don't want to discuss it. That subject is off limits." Charles nodded, giving in easily to Will's dismissal. It all started last year after "The Incident," as Charles privately thought of it. He knew something had happened to his friend and roommate at a mixer at his sister's school, Longbourn College, but Will refused to discuss it. Charles suspected it had something to do with a girl that Will liked - a girl who wore a white ribbon. Charles had seen Will on numerous occasions secretly fondle a long, satin-finished white ribbon that looked just long enough for a girl to wear in her hair. Charles noticed the covert way Will would take it out of his pocket when he thought no one could see. He never let on that he knew about either the ribbon or Will's fixation with it.
Despite Will's dislike for the activity, they found themselves at another dance. This one was hosted by Princeton University. Ivy, their undergraduate eating club, was hosting, and Charles and Will were there stag; both were unattached and "liking it that way, thank you very much." Charles had extended an invitation to his sister, Caroline who was ecstatic, and made no bones about it. She remained intent on linking her name with Will's someday. Charles didn't have the heart to tell her it would never happen. He was convinced that Will's heart was already lost - to someone else. Just who that person was he didn't know, but he suspected she went to the same school as Caroline. He knew better than to bring up the subject with her, she would never help him find out. When it came to Will Darcy, Caroline was a heat seeking missile, and Will was her target. He promised Will earlier in the evening that he'd somehow try to keep her occupied, so that she wouldn't be all over him for the duration of the dance.
"Here she comes again." Will said through his teeth.
"I'm sorry Will. I thought I got rid of her with that Sidney chap, you know the funny one, who's always joking and has the brother that talks about their shore house all the time?"
"Right." Will braced himself for the onslaught.
"William!" Caroline came sauntering up to them, saying Will's name in a sing song voice. She ignored the pointed look her brother gave her and latched onto Will's arm.
"Will, you simply must dance with me!" her bony fingers grasped his arm even tighter, as she looked up into his eyes and batted her long, false eyelashes. William, repressing a shudder, looked at her and found himself doing a double take. One of her eyelashes was coming loose, waving precariously at him with every blink.
Speechless and mesmerized by this novelty, Will wasn't sure what to do. Ever the gentleman, perhaps Charles would know how to tactfully alert his sister, since she was quite oblivious to the problem. "Um, Charles...ahem...perhaps you could...?" He shot her brother a beseeching look for help, only to find that Charles was looking in the other direction. This was just the kind of situation Will hated to be in. He called again and loudly cleared his voice. Still nothing, while Caroline continued to hold him in her death grip. Finally he gave up trying to get Charles' attention politely and gave him a strong nudge in the ribs with his free elbow. Charles, lost in thought, had been tapping his foot to the music and watching a pretty blonde on the dance floor. Will's nudge got his attention. He glanced over at them with a look of annoyance on his face. Will motioned with a slight nod towards Caroline, still smiling up at him unsuspectingly. Charles followed the direction of Will's eyes, and let out a derisive snort.
"Caroline," he began, while trying not to laugh, "I think, perhaps, you should go powder your nose." She smirked and gave him a dismissive look.
"Silly Charles, since when do you care about that sort of thing?" She turned back to Will and fluttered her eyes up at him again. Sudden realization set in. It was obvious from the frozen look on her face that she was now aware of the "problem." With a gasp and look of horror on her face, she quickly put her hand over her eye and excused herself with her head bowed. An orange blur rushed off to the ladies room. Charles couldn't help chuckling, patting Will on the back.
"You're in luck Will! That should keep her off of your back for at least a few more minutes."
Will smiled, shaking his head. Yes, the look on Caroline's face had been priceless.
A moment later, after making sure Will didn't mind being on his own, Charles made a beeline for the dance floor in search of the attractive blonde he had been admiring. Absentmindedly he adjusted his silk tie and squared his shoulders while scanning the floor. Where did she go? He went over to the refreshment table remembering that she was wearing a pink sweater with a pearl necklace and a whitish looking short skirt. Appreciative of its length, he smiled at the recollection of a pair of shapely legs. Just as he was about to give up and return to Will, he heard a quiet "Oh no!" and a small clatter on the floor in front of him. He looked down and saw a small compact mirror that had fallen to the floor. He bent and picked it up. When he looked to see whom it belonged to, his eyes were directly level with a pair of well-formed legs in sheer stockings. Moving his eyes upwards, he saw a whitish skirt and a fuzzy pink wool sweater. Still kneeling, a slow grin appeared on his face as he looked up into the angelic eyes of the owner of the mirror.
"I believe this is yours?" he said charmingly as he smoothly stood up, now face to face with his beautiful blonde quarry. He flashed her a dazzling smile.
"Y-yes, thank you." Obviously embarrassed, she lowered her eyes as he handed it back to her.
"I hope it's not broken," he said. She opened the compact and looked at the mirror. It was unbroken. She quickly looked back up at him, a big smile lighting up her face.
"No, it's fine." She was visibly relieved.
"Good, I'm glad. Someone as beautiful as you should never own a cracked mirror." She blushed and again cast her eyes down demurely at his blatant compliment.
"How about a dance?" he said. Not taking no for an answer, he took her elbow and started moving her towards the dance floor. She looked a little flustered at his boldness but nodded and let him take the lead. A new song was starting, something slow and romantic.
Charles took the beauty in his arms and the words of the song floated over them as they began to dance.
If I fell in love with you
Would you promise to be true?
And help me understand
'Cause I've been in love before
And I've found that love was more
Than just holding hands.
They looked into each other's eyes, locked into the moment. She is an angel.
Jane Bennet never expected to fall in love that night, but she did. She smiled dreamily up at him, thinking his were the bluest eyes she had ever seen. His wavy golden hair was a little long, but she liked the way it looked on him, imagining him with a surfboard under his arm. She admired the cut and softness of the navy wool sports coat that hinted of the athletic physique beneath. Very elegant. He was one of the handsomest men she had ever danced with. She smiled inwardly, as he held her a little closer. Her stomach did a flip, and she felt like giggling. Yes, definitely. He was the handsomest man she had ever danced with.
If I give my heart to you
I must be sure
From the very start
Will love me more than her
Charles Bingley was smitten again. He'd had his share of girlfriends in the past. A few had broken his heart - he'd probably broken a few himself. He was forever falling in and out of love. His last break up had been just the previous month - a summer romance that ended Labor Day weekend. He wondered. Would this time be different?
As they danced slowly together, the words of the song escaped him, but the melody was lovely. He couldn't take his eyes off her. She had model good looks with flawless skin, a straight nose, and smooth, even lips washed with a hint of pink. Her light eyes complimented the paleness of her skin, and her blonde hair framed her face becomingly, soft bangs brushed across her forehead, barely skimming her brows. This was special. He could feel it. He pulled her closer to him, her head dropping to rest upon his shoulder. He breathed in the clean scent of her hair, and spoke into her ear.
"What's your name?" he asked.
Jane's spine tingled as his words tickled her ear.
"Jane Bennet." She pulled back to see his face, "What's your name?"
"Charles. Charles Bingley."
She giggled, "Is that like Bond, James Bond?" she asked, provocatively raising one eyebrow.
Charles laughed back, "Anything you want, baby." Grinning, he twirled her around in one big sweep, never taking his eyes off the luminous blue eyes shining up at him. She threw her head back in delight, laughing aloud. Other couples looked over curiously in their direction but he didn't care. The sound of her laughter was music to his ears.
So I hope you'll see that I
Would love to love you
And that she will cry
When she learns we are two
If I fell in love with you*
After that dance, they continued dancing together for the next several songs. Charles was captivated, unwilling to let her go, and Jane felt that she was being swept off her feet. They immediately clicked and found they had a lot of the same likes and dislikes. Both of them were Beatles fans, and neither cared for the Rolling Stones.
"My youngest sister, Lydia, is a Beatlemaniac," said Jane. "She's the real Beatles lover in the family. She's madly in love with Paul McCartney."
Charles smiled in understanding. "How many are there in your family?" he asked.
"Five girls, can you believe it?" she said, smirking. "Our poor father is hoping we all elope!" She immediately blushed, not believing what she actually said.
"I have two sisters myself. One is married, and the other one is not. In fact, she's here tonight, she goes to Longbourn College."
"Really? My sister, Lizzy and I go there too!" Jane was delighted and all questions, "Who is your sister? What year is she?"
Charles hated to admit who his sister was; he suspected she and Jane did not frequent the same circles. He could just tell by looking at Jane that she and Caroline were not the same type. Whereas Jane was classic, beautiful in her simplicity and grace, he couldn't say the same about his sister, Caroline. To sum her up, Caroline was gauche, gaudy and greedy.
"Umm..." he hesitated. "Caroline Bingley, do you know her?" he asked, nearly wincing.
Jane didn't hesitate, "Of course! Caroline, yes I know who she is. I don't really know her very well, but she seems very nice." Jane appeared to think for a moment, "She's a senior, isn't she?"
"Yes." Charles smiled, genuinely pleased that Jane didn't seem to mind that Caroline was his sister, after all. "Yes, she is supposed to graduate this spring." She nodded encouragingly, "What about you and your sister?" he ventured.
"I'm in my third year, and Lizzy is a freshman." She smiled, thinking how glad she was that Lizzy decided to join her at Longbourn. "She's here with me tonight," Jane said looking around. "Somewhere." A look of worry came over her features at the realization, "Oh my goodness! I hope she's okay." Jane bit her bottom lip, "I completely forgot about her!"
Charles noticed her worry, "Do you want to look for her? I'll help you!" she looked up at him gratefully.
"Thanks," she said with a big smile. "That would be great!" She described her to him and they began to look around for Lizzy. They found her right away, observing the dancers with an amused look on her face, arms folded, tapping her foot to the music.
"Lizzy! I'm so sorry, I've completely ignored you!" Jane exclaimed as they rushed up to her. Jane looked over at Charles and then to her sister, "Can you forgive me?"
Lizzy looked at Jane warmly, "Of course, silly! I've been watching the two of you for quite a long time." Lizzy turned to look at Charles. "So, are you going to introduce me to your new friend?"
"Oh of course, where are my manners!" Jane exclaimed embarrassed, "Lizzy, this is Charles Bingley. Charles, this is my sister, Elizabeth Bennet." And then she added fondly, "But we all call her Lizzy."
"Very pleased to meet you, Elizabeth Bennet." Taking her hand, "May I call you Lizzy?" asked Charles gallantly.
"Yes, of course, I'd like that," Lizzy replied. She was happy for Jane. This new fellow she had been dancing with seemed very nice and pleasant - and not too bad to look at either. The threesome talked a little while longer and after Charles asked Lizzy how she liked college life so far he was hit by a sudden thought.
"You know, I have a friend here that you should meet."
"Oh, who's that?" Jane asked, smiling curiously. She'd love for Lizzy to meet someone nice. It was high time her sister got over the boy she met last year when she visited Jane at Longbourn. Lizzy had been so troubled that Jane was afraid that it would dissuade Lizzy from choosing Longbourn.
"I'll go get him and bring him back." Charles eyes lit up at the thought of finally getting Will to meet someone new. Maybe Lizzy would be just what he needed to get him over the "ribbon girl." Jane and Lizzy nodded in assent, and Charles left them to find Will.
Charles made his way to where he had last seen Will in the sunroom off the back of the house, and found him talking to Collins, a newer member of the Ivy Club. Collins was a stooped, geeky sophomore proudly attired in his Princeton orange and black rep tie. Proud of the fact he was now a member of one of the oldest eating clubs at Princeton, Collins was wasting no time in getting to know one of Ivy's former club presidents, Will Darcy. Will's demeanor said that he wished he were anywhere but talking to Bill Collins.
Will nodded at Collins, only half listening, as he droned on. As Charles approached Will breathed a sigh of relief.
"Er, Will, can you come with me? I want you to meet someone." Charles gave Will an imperceptible wink and nod of the head indicating he should ditch Collins.
"Sorry Collins, I've got to go." Collins pushed his glasses further up on his nose, and barely got out a word of regret before Will was gone with Charles.
"I've been dying to get away from him for the past half hour." Will said in a low voice as they made their getaway. "I swear he must use an entire tube of Brylcreme on that head of his." Will grimaced, wiping his hands with his handkerchief, unconsciously trying to wipe away the image of Bill Collins' greasy hair. As Will put the handkerchief away in his breast pocket, Charles laughed.
"You'll thank me even more, when you see just whom I'm introducing you to." The cheerful Charles spoke with an air of mystery that activated William's antennae.
"Hold on. You're not trying to set me up with someone are you?" his eyes narrowed as he stopped and surveyed Charles.
"Will, I have met an angel!" Charles gushed. "I've been dancing with her for the past hour. I'm in heaven and she has a younger sister." His brows raised significantly, "She's very pretty as well. You have to meet her!"
"Oh, no, Charles. Not this again." Will shook his head, "I have no desire to be your wing man!" Will wouldn't budge, flatly refusing to go any further into the room. He adjusted the shirtsleeves under his jacket as he spoke to Charles in his haughtiest of tones. "I refuse to spend the rest of the evening tied down to the undoubtedly acne ridden and overweight giggly little sister of your angel." Will's sarcasm was in full throttle. "Sorry, Charles, you're on your own this time. I wouldn't be caught dead standing next to her, much less talking to her."
Charles's eyes widened and he gulped, turning red with embarrassment. Jane and her sister, Lizzy were standing right behind Will. They had obviously heard the entire, shameful tirade. Jane's expression was one of hurt and confusion, but Lizzy was absolutely furious, eyes blazing!
Noticing Charles's discomfort, Will turned, looking over his shoulder to see what Charles was looking at. There she stood. He was hit with the shock of his life. Elizabeth! Intense joy swept through his body. She's here! He saw the look in her eyes, and for an instant his heart stopped beating. And she hates me.
*If I Fell - performed by The Beatles, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney (c) 1964 Northern Songs. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured.
She hates me.
Will was thunderstruck. It had been eight long months since he had last seen her. The girl who's memory he had unaccountably treasured. He had whiled away countless hours daydreaming, staring at her ribbon, keeping it with him always - the only memento of that magical dance between them. He had spent his nights fantasizing of the moment when he would see her again. How many scenarios had he had built up in his mind of meeting his dream girl again? Each one always ending the same way: holding her in his arms, he would gaze deeply into her eyes and kiss her sweet lips. Never had he imagined their reunion to be like this!
To Will's horror, those lovely eyes were now stormy and throwing daggers at him. With her mouth set in a straight line, and her hands on her hips, her posture left no doubt that she had heard everything he said. Overwhelmed by the unexpected surprise and confusion of seeing her, he looked over at Charles for confirmation. Was this really happening? His head was reeling. He then followed Charles's shocked eyes and noticed the girl at whom he was looking. Bingley's angel. William couldn't help but think this is not how their long anticipated meeting was supposed to happen. Perspiration forming on the back of his neck, he tried to think of something - anything to say. There must be some way for him to apologize, to tell her he didn't mean it. Certainly not about her. As desperately as he wanted to say something - he couldn't. His tongue suddenly felt too big for his mouth. He turned to Charles, in need of his friend, but Charles was dumbstruck as well. Will's throat went completely dry. Unable to speak, all he could do was remain silent. Better that than to choke out some form of gibberish. He wanted to reach out to Elizabeth but her eyes said no.
Elizabeth couldn't believe her bad luck. She wanted to scream, it's him, it's him! Here she was, finally having a good time out with her sister - at Princeton. Princeton! It was excruciating. A party, in a gorgeous setting - a mansion no less, and who does she run into? The one person she hoped to forget and never see again: Will Darcy. The name had been ingrained in her head since she left him at the Longbourn mixer almost a year ago.
Looking back on that night, she wondered if she had done the right thing by running away from him. His eyes had been so sad, so wistful, the last time she had seen him. In hindsight, running away seemed childish. Often, when she dared to think of him, she regretted having fled. Thinking about it only brought back bittersweet recollections of what had turned out to be the most perfect moment of her life. She couldn't help but think of his deep brown eyes and towering height. Those broad shoulders and perfect lips. Ever since that dance, he had been her favorite daydream. Upon hearing his spiteful assumptions she bitterly reflected on what a fantasy world she had been living in, pretending he wasn't engaged. That it was she who he really loved, she was the one he wanted to kiss. Foolishly she'd let her imagination get away from her.
Hearing his prejudiced comments on younger sisters made her blood boil. He is a jerk! She was so angry she couldn't help herself. Doing what any other self-respecting, intelligent, grown-up, college girl would do - she told him off!
"How dare you! You - you," she searched for something scathing enough to say to him. "You snob! Who do you think you are with your preppy collegiate look and expensive tie!" Jane tried to stop Lizzy by putting her hand on her shoulder, but Lizzy was on a roll and shrugged it off. "What makes you so great, Mr. High-and-Mighty? You arrogant, presumptuous - "
"Lizzy!" Jane hissed, aware of the small scene they were creating. Lizzy was surprised at herself that she lit into him so fiercely. One side of her was angry, the other hurt. All the feelings and emotions she had been holding in for the past eight months, her secret fantasies were crashing down around her. She was devastated that he wasn't the nice boy of her cherished memories and daydreams.
Will's eyes reflected his surprise at her outburst. My God, she's so angry! He was speechless, too dazed to do or say anything. He had never been on the receiving end of this type of tirade. With a final frustrated stomp of her foot and one last look of anguish, she quickly turned and fled from him - again!
There she goes! She's always running away from me! Exasperated, Will ran his hand through his tousled curls and made a move to follow her, "I've got to go after her, I can't let her go on thinking the worst about me." Charles stopped him with a calming hand on his shoulder.
"Will, I don't think you should follow her." Warily eyeing Charles, Will stopped.
"But I've got to, I can't let her think - "
"Leave her alone, let her sister - let Jane talk to her." Charles said, looking at Jane.
Angrily brushing the tears from her eyes, Lizzy ran down the front walk of the large brick mansion, pushing through the old wrought iron gates in front. She leaned against the brick wall that surrounded the property and tried to catch her breath while waiting for Jane.
Jane, silently watching the two young men, was confused. How could this man say such cruel things about someone he didn't even know? In Jane's opinion Lizzy was the most wonderful human being on Earth. It shook her to think of the unkindness shown to her little sister by this self-important friend of Charles. And, what was Lizzy's reaction to this all about? She had never seen her sister react so rudely before, and with such passion! Had they met before?
Charles looked uneasily at Jane, her thoughts apparent on her face. He turned again to Will with a worried expression. Charles was torn, he just met the most wonderful girl and she was about to walk out of his life! As Jane made to leave, he stopped her with a cry.
"Jane, please wait. Let me come with you?" She saw his eyes imploring her to let him come with her and she acquiesced.
"All right." She hated to leave him this way. She still wanted to see Charles again. She liked him. Walking beside her, Charles placed his hand gently on her back, glancing back at a sorrowful Will, tacitly letting him know he'd try to salvage what he could. When Charles and Jane entered the center hallway before the front door, Charles stopped her.
"I'm sorry about my friend. I know he didn't mean it," he apologized. "He hasn't even met your sister. He had no idea what she would really be like. He hasn't been himself lately, he's been very irritable." He tried to find some understanding in her eyes, but she prevented him by looking down at her shoes. She wasn't ready yet to completely forgive his friend. "Believe me, he's usually a great guy, he wants to apologize. Do you think your sister will listen to him and let him say he's sorry?"
Jane was struck by his regretful tone and could no longer resist. She looked into his big blue eyes and wanted to believe him, but this was her sister they were talking about. She didn't think it would be a good idea to let Lizzy talk to Will right now. She knew what Lizzy could be like when her feelings were hurt, and on top of that - angry? Definitely not a good idea.
"I think the best thing to do is to let me talk to her," she said finally. "I believe you, Charles." She smiled slightly. "I've got to go now, she's waiting for me." Waiting for him to make the next move, she didn't know where to look.
"Jane, I want to see you again." Charles said, taking her hand, "Can I call you?"
"Yes" she said casting her eyes down again, looking at his hand holding hers, "I'd like that." She looked up and smiled. "You can reach me through the main switchboard at Longbourn."
Charles beamed. "I will. I definitely will!" He wanted to kiss her, but wasn't sure if he should or not.
"Well..." Jane finally said. "I better go, Lizzy's probably waiting." She turned around to open the heavy front door.
Charles found his nerve and reached for her shoulder, stopping her. Bending down he gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. "I'm glad we met, Jane. I'll call you." He nodded, as if needing to convince himself. "I promise." She nodded shyly, and ran down the front walk towards the street, looking for Lizzy who was standing just outside the front gate.
"Here I am." Lizzy stepped out of the darkness next to the wall she'd been leaning up against.
"Lizzy, are you all right? That was awful!" Jane immediately put her arm around her little sister and pulled her close for a hug.
"I'm a little better, waiting for you helped to clear my head. I can't believe the things he said, what an arrogant - "
Jane's remonstration cut her off, "Now Lizzy, wait a minute. Charles explained a few things to me." Lizzy rolled her eyes, Jane always believed the best in everyone. "His friend, Will, had no idea who you were, he hadn't even met you yet. He couldn't possibly have meant those things about you." Lizzy privately agreed with Jane on this point, but didn't want to admit it. "He wants to apologize." Catching Lizzy's eye she smiled. "See? He's not that bad."
"You're wrong, Jane," Lizzy said stubbornly. "He may not have meant those things about me in particular, but they were pretty mean things to say about anybody, whether you know them or not." She fumed when she thought about it. Acne? Overweight? I could kill him! What does he know anyway? My skin cleared up ages ago! She pouted and sighed. "Besides," she said quietly, "he has met me before."
"What?" Jane couldn't help but be surprised her sister had kept this from her. "When did you meet?"
"Last year." She looked into Jane's eyes meaningfully. "Remember the mixer at Longbourn you let me come to?"
Jane covered her mouth in horror and understanding. "Oh no, not the boy?"
Lizzy nodded, "Yes. Will Darcy." She closed her eyes, wishing she could forget the look on his face just now. Why did he have to be as cute as ever? His hair was a little longer, but it only succeeded in making him look even more attractive. She wasn't sure if he recognized her or not. She thought about the way his eyes widened when he saw her. Was that alarm, or recognition? If he recognized me, why didn't he say something? Lizzy answered her own question. Because you didn't let him, stupid! She realized that wasn't the only reason and abruptly spoke up, "I bet you didn't know that he's engaged either."
"Yes." Lizzy grimaced at the memory of her encounter with the witch in the ladies lounge at Longbourn last year. "She goes to Longbourn, too. She's absolutely awful. Her name is Caroline Bingley." Realization dawned on her. "Is she your new friend Charles's sister?"
Jane's eyes widened. Charles and Will are close friends, and Will's engaged to Charles's sister? Why didn't he mention it? "That's odd," she said aloud.
"No kidding," Lizzy folded her arms in front of her. "They deserve each other!" Lizzy hoped that if she stayed mad the truth wouldn't hurt so much.
"No, I mean that I don't understand why Charles didn't mention it. Why did he want to introduce you to Will if he was engaged to his sister?" Jane was puzzled. "It doesn't make very much sense."
Lizzy was tired. "Oh, Jane, it doesn't really matter. Let's just get out of here and go back to Longbourn. I am thoroughly sick of Princeton University!"
Jane nodded in agreement. They walked thoughtfully, arm in arm, down Prospect Avenue to their Volkswagen Beetle. One sister wished with deep regret that she had never come to Princeton, her cherished memories lost in one heartbreaking moment. The other sister savored the memory of a pair of twinkling blue eyes and the feeling of a soft kiss on her cheek. I hope he calls.
Will was thoroughly disgusted with himself. How could he have given in to Charles and let Elizabeth run away like that? He cracked open another beer, remembering the angry and hurt look upon her face. She can't possibly think I was really talking about her, could she? He considered what Charles had told him about her. A freshman at Longbourn? If she was a freshman now, she was still in high school when we met last year. His first reaction was one of horror and he shuddered at the idea. She's too young for you, Darcy. He drained his beer, trying to shake the image of her. As the warmth of the alcohol began to envelop him, it had the opposite effect of what he intended. He thought admiringly of her fiery eyes and her long shining brown hair. Soft threads of auburn and gold glimmered in the dim light of his memory, while a pair of sparkling sapphires flashed before him, surrounded by sooty lashes. He now found himself warming to the idea of her age. It didn't seem so important after all.
Charles's sister, Caroline came bobbing over to them as he absently reached for another beer. She had obviously had a few too many drinks as well.
"Will, you've been ignoring me all night!" She giggled in what she thought was a naughtily sexy voice. "That's not nice." Her behavior only made Will loathe her even more. She sidled up to him, leaning in closer, speaking in a conspiratorial tone.
"What was going on with you and Charles and those "girls" before?" She made no secret of her disapproval in her tone.
Will rolled his eyes. Great. Caroline must have seen the whole thing. But his curiosity was piqued, "Do you know them?"
"Vaguely," she eyed Will more closely. "They go to my school." She was careful to speak in a bored accent, she didn't want that little know nothing freshman getting her claws into her Will Darcy. "No one of any consequence." she continued disparagingly. "No money, no fashion, and certainly no breeding. Their family is nothing." Surely this would make Will think twice about his little dance with that 'nobody' last year.
It was a point of pride to Caroline that she never forgot anything when it came to Will Darcy. It was almost unheard of for Will Darcy to dance with anyone. He just didn't do it. Why, he hasn't even danced with me yet! Her eyes narrowed approvingly as she thought of the conversation last winter with that little minx in the bathroom. Hmph, I fixed her. She inwardly laughed at the memory of Elizabeth Bennet hightailing it out of there as fast as she could. Lightweight, she thought smugly.
Will observed Caroline's expression. What is going on in that devious little mind of hers? He couldn't fail to miss the self-satisfied look upon her face. Fortunately for Will, Charles came up to them at that moment.
"Ready to go?" he asked Will.
"Yes, let's go." Suddenly fatigued, he headed for the door, wishing at that moment he could go upstairs to his old room at Ivy, instead of trekking across Princeton's campus to the Graduate College, half a mile away.
Realizing their departure was imminent Caroline snapped out of her reverie and frantically turned to Will, tightly clutching his arm.
"William, you can't be serious! It's still early, let's have some fun!" she cried, looking up at him.
He pulled back involuntarily. Clearing his throat, Charles turned to her, aware of his friend's discomfort. "Caroline, Will's tired and we're all going home."
She was forced to realize they were not going to relent in their decision so she quickly changed tactics and tried to make the best of it.
"In that case, I need a ride back to Longbourn." She put on her most pitiful look. "My friends have already left without me." She conveniently neglected to mention that she told her friends to leave without her, angling for a better offer - from Will Darcy. "I was hoping I could get a ride with one of you." She turned to Will and smiled a little too sweetly. "You do have your Jag, don't you?" she batted her repaired eyelashes with an eerie catlike quality. William drove a Jaguar XKE roadster, but tonight, he and Charles had come together in Charles's new Mustang convertible.
Visibly relieved to have a bona fide excuse, Will explained to Caroline that he didn't have his car with him. Instead, Charles was prepared to drive Caroline back to her school in Meryton. As brother and - visibly disappointed - sister worked their way to Charles's car, William called out his farewells and began walking towards the main campus, en route to the Graduate College. Caroline made one last ditch effort.
"William, why aren't you coming with us? If you don't come Charles will have to drive back all alone." Ever cunning she thought this might convince him and perhaps she could even tempt him to sit in the back seat with her.
"That's all right, Caroline," Charles quickly stepped in, fully aware that William would probably prefer to be alone. "Unless you want to come, Will."
"N-no, no, you two go on," waving them off. "I'm going to walk." He began to head down Prospect Avenue, "I'll see you later, Charles. Good-bye Caroline." He turned and strode on, chuckling and shaking his head - he could hear the high pitched complaints coming from Caroline about Charles's new car.
"It's brand new, and it's already a mess! You are such a slob, Charles!"
There was a crisp feel in the air that October evening as he walked through Princeton's campus. A brisk twenty-minute walk to his rooms in the still silence of the night helped to clear his head of the chaos that surrounded him since he saw Elizabeth again. How ironic, the one girl he wanted to see turns up, and he manages to make the worst impression possible. He kicked at the dead leaves that rustled beneath his feet as he waited to cross University Place. Continuing on past the gray stones of the McCarter Theatre he climbed the final hill on which stood the ghostly Cleveland Tower, a tall gothic structure, silhouetted in the moonlight. Passing by the handsome stone walls of brown and gray that made up the rest of the Graduate College campus, Will continued on his way, minutes from the sanctuary he craved.
Deep in his thoughts, Will continued to ponder this evening's horrors. Not only had he managed to ruin his chances with Elizabeth, but adding to his misery, the one girl he emphatically didn't want to see, managed to throw herself at him every chance she got. Why couldn't he tell Caroline to stop bothering him once and for all? His thoughts returned to Elizabeth. Why couldn't you understand? Why did you run away again? Distracted, he crossed the quad and climbed the stairs to the suite he shared with Charles. Alone and able to give in to his despair, he threw himself on the bed and flung his arm over his eyes, going over the entire episode, step by step. If only I could do it over! Why? Why, did I have to say those things?
Reaching over to his bedside table, he turned on the radio, tuning in the local radio station. He recognized the opening, rangy, guitar chords of the song playing. The Beatles again. They were everywhere these days. He knew the song well enough and closed his eyes, softly singing along.
Since she's been gone I want no one to talk to me.
It's not the same but I'm to blame, it's plain to see.
So go away, leave me alone, don't bother me.
I can't believe that she would leave me on my own.
It's just not right when every night I'm all alone.
I've got no time for you right now. Don't bother me.
Never before had the lyrics seemed so timely. It was as if they had him in mind when they wrote the song.
I know I'll never be the same if I don't get her back again.
Because I know she'll always be the only girl for me.
He sat up on his bed. It sounds like me! It's exactly how I feel! The realization hit him hard. His eyes fell on her white ribbon, resident on his bedside table. I can't get her out of my mind. Ever since we first met, I've felt she was the only girl for me.
Don't come around, leave me alone
Don't bother me
Don't bother me *
With determination, Will began to form a plan. With luck, Charles would play a crucial role in helping him get back into Elizabeth Bennet's good graces, thanks to her sister. I'll think of some way to get her back. Will's confidence began to grow. I'll make myself completely irresistible to her. He refused to consider the possibility of defeat.
*Don't Bother Me - performed by the Beatles, written by George Harrison (c) 1963 Northern Songs. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured.
"Lydia Bennet! Turn down that music this instance!" her mother called up the stairs to her unruly fifteen-year-old daughter. "I can't even think with all this noise around the house." She grumbled as she headed back to the kitchen, "My poor nerves!"
Jane and Elizabeth looked at each other and rolled their eyes at their mother's complaints. They sat at the kitchen table, helping in the preparation of dinner by peeling potatoes and trimming green beans. The girls traditionally came home Sunday evenings to have dinner with their family, usually staying to watch The Ed Sullivan Show before heading back to school. Since this was a long weekend, there were no classes on Monday and they were able to stay the night.
"I don't care who those Beatles are, or that Paul what's-his-name," their mother began, "what kind of name is Beatles anyway? They sound like insects! And their hair! What they need is a good haircut," she shook a big fork at the girls for emphasis. Jane and Elizabeth continued their work while Mrs. Bennet nodded her approval, "Whatever happened to that nice Pat Boone you girls used to like?"
Lizzy and Jane smirked, but kept quiet. They knew better than to disagree with their mother in one of her moods. Mrs. Bennet took dinner from the oven and placed it on a cutting board to rest; the delicious aroma of roast beef wafted throughout the house. She wiped her hands on her apron and then busied herself making gravy.
Lizzy saw an opportunity to change the subject, "Mom, did you hear that Jane has a new boyfriend?" She eyed her sister teasingly as Jane blushed and repaid her with a dirty look.
"A new boyfriend!" Mrs. Bennet gasped and turned around to look at her eldest daughter. "Who is he? Where did you meet him? Is he rich?" she asked breathlessly.
Jane narrowed her eyes and gave Elizabeth an "I'll get you for this" look, then, turning back to her mother she smiled. "His name is Charles Bingley. He's a graduate student at Princeton."
"Graduate School!" Mrs. Bennet finally breathed, "Oh, Jane, how wonderful! What is he studying?" she asked eagerly, "Medicine? Is he going to be a doctor?"
"No, Mother," Jane said patiently. "He's studying to be an architect."
"Oh, well that's good too!" Mrs. Bennet cooed, "A very fine career!" She turned back to her gravy, still talking. "Is he handsome?"
"Is who handsome?" Mr. Bennet walked into the kitchen, making his way over to the standing rib roast.
"Jane has a new, very promising boyfriend from Princeton. " Said Mrs. Bennet significantly as she slapped away Mr. Bennet's hand from the roast.
"Princeton, you say?" he turned to Jane, "I hope he's bright, and not just some rich playboy, eh?" he said poking fun at Jane good naturedly, "I don't want to have to get my shotgun out."
"Oh, Daddy." Even knowing her father was teasing, Jane blushed as she put the potatoes on the stove.
"What about you, Lizzy?" Mr. Bennet turned to his second eldest daughter to continue his teasing, "Any new boyfriends for you?" Lizzy looked uncomfortable - she didn't like thinking about boys. The image of Will Darcy's dark curls and broad shoulders had been on her mind much too much lately.
"Lizzy never has any boyfriends," said Lydia as she bounced into the kitchen. "When's dinner?" she asked, opening the refrigerator door looking for something to eat.
"Out of the refrigerator, young lady," admonished Mrs. Bennet, pushing Lydia aside and closing the door. "Dinner will be served in half an hour, and I don't want you eating anything before and spoiling your appetite!"
Lydia rolled her eyes and grabbed a string bean to munch. "So, Lizzy, don't forget, you said you'd drive me to Korvettes tomorrow." She leaned against the kitchen counter, "Their big sale is tomorrow and I want to get the Beatles' record "Something New." I don't have that one yet, and it's got "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in German. " Her eyes widened appreciably in anticipation of such a treat.
Lizzy eyed Lydia testily. She didn't appreciate the crack about her lack of boyfriends. "Yes, I know, I haven't forgotten."
As the evening progressed, the Bennet family sat down to dinner where, as usual, conversation was monopolized by Lydia, avid Beatlemaniac, who talked incessantly about the British phenomenon sweeping across the country. Around the large rectangular kitchen table sat the entire Bennet family: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet at either end with their five disparate daughters on either side of the table. Jane, the eldest and Elizabeth, the second, were highly regarded by all their friends and family. Jane, especially, had always been noticed for her beauty and generosity. While no slouch when it came to looks, Lizzy was more notably considered the wit of the family, taking after their father in that regard. Mary, a studious senior in high school and the most serious of the girls, hoped to be admitted to Bryn Mawr the following year. Kitty, next in line, was a year younger than Mary and, as she ensured everyone knew, a cheerleader this year at Meryton High School. Lydia, the baby of the family, and just turned fifteen, was the most boisterous of the family, and being the youngest, usually indulged by their mother. Mary and Kitty thought her a spoiled brat, and never hesitated to let her know it. Jane and Elizabeth were more circumspect in their criticism, saving it for those times they thought it would do some good. They were more apt to think that Lydia simply needed to do some more growing up.
As the conversation flowed around the dinner table, the subject of Jane's new boyfriend came up. All were eager to hear about him, and Jane told them what she could, even though she had only known him for two weeks. Charles had kept his promise to call her and they had been out on a few dates. Jane told her parents that he was a perfect gentleman - she didn't think they needed to know that he was a great kisser - as well as a gentleman.
The next day, Lizzy, Lydia and Kitty, who decided at the last moment that she wanted to go as well, set off in the Bennet's Rambler station wagon for Korvette City, a local inexpensive department store. After they parked and headed into the store, Lydia took off for the record department, yelling behind her, "I'll be downstairs!" and headed for the escalators. Kitty made her way to the teen's section, always on the lookout for bargains on the latest fashions, and Lizzy meandered about looking for a desk lamp and a throw rug for the dorm room that she shared with her roommate, Charlotte Lucas.
Lizzy finished her shopping, making note of the prices, but not purchasing anything just yet. She went looking for her younger sisters and found Kitty in a dressing room trying on a matching skirt and sweater set with a cotton blouse.
"Lizzy, what do you think?" Kitty admired her reflection in the mirror. "This blouse will be perfect to wear with my circle pin." No girl at Meryton High was seen without her gold, monogrammed circle pin worn with matching cardigan sweater and skirt sets.
"Yes, it looks very nice, Kitty." Lizzy answered, impatient to leave. "Now, hurry up and let's go, it's getting late. Look for us downstairs in the record department." She left Kitty in the dressing room and went in search of Lydia.
Lizzy noticed Lydia as soon as she entered the record department, talking to a salesman, if the nametag on the front of his jacket was any indication. Flirting is more like it. He towered over Lydia, with movie star good looks and hair worn long around his ears and neck, it was no wonder her teenage sister looked to be in raptures. His smile could be seen from a mile away. His dark suit had a modern look to it, with a black turtleneck and black leather pointed boots. How Beatle-esque. I guess that's one way to sell records.
Lizzy walked up to them, her eyes twinkling, "Lydia, did you find the record you were looking for?"
George Wickham had been thumbing through the latest batch of albums that had just come in. His boss had told him to make sure they were filed and out in the record racks as soon as possible for the customers, but his boss was gone for the rest of the day and George decided that it could wait. Today was busy and George didn't want to miss out on the rush. School holidays meant one thing: ripe, young high school girls - his favorite. He had an eye for the young ones, and his job at Korvettes's record department gave him the perfect opportunity to meet them. It was easy to chat them up, especially lately.
George had always been aware that he was good looking and he was able to parlay it to his best advantage. Getting a job was never a problem - keeping it was an entirely different matter. George was lazy, and without a college education, his job prospects were limited. He bounced from job to job, fired many times due to his laziness; not that he ever believed it was his fault. He was forever convinced that he had been maligned and the blame always seemed to come back to the Darcy family - Will Darcy, in particular. William's father, Mr. Darcy, had died three years earlier and with his death George's free ticket to everything stopped, or so he believed. He had told the story so many times he had nearly come to believe it himself, but it was far from the truth.
The bane of George's life was money - or rather the lack of it. He never seemed to be able to hold it. He had a penchant for poker, sometimes he was a winner, but oftentimes he was not. So far he had managed to keep himself out of trouble despite his poker debts, but there had been several close calls. He didn't want to be at the mercy of loan sharks if he could help it. His mind was often working up ways to make a lot of money, without having to really work hard at it. Unfortunately for him, he never really came up with anything very promising.
This job in the record department at Korvettes had lasted for almost two weeks. He was hired on the spot - as soon as he filled out the application and opened his mouth. He had a knack for imitating accents, and had lost no time in acquiring a slight Liverpool accent. He couldn't believe how well it worked. Inspired by his success, he grew his hair longer, bought the right clothes and voilà, Beatle look-a-like. The chicks ate it up, particularly the young ones. No matter that he wasn't from England, just a trace of an accent was enough to please these Beatlemaniacs.
Looking around the aisles of records in his department he espied a young girl, sporting the Beatle haircut, popular with so many these days. Ignoring the hair, his attention went straight for what counted, Hmm, nice chest. This one might be worth checking out. He sauntered up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder.
"Excuse me, luv, are you looking for something in particular?" It was his best Paul McCartney imitation.
Lydia whirled around, speechless. She couldn't believe her ears.
"Um...uh...um..." she couldn't get the words out. She stared into his handsome face, lost in the flash of white teeth and the sparkle of green eyes. He dazzled her with his best smile and repeated the question. He was frequently treated to this reaction.
She swallowed and tried again. "Wh-who are you?" Eyes wide with curiosity, she looked up at him.
"Name's Wickham, but you can call me George, if you want. I work here," he smiled down at her. She nearly swooned in his arms. Oh, this is too easy, George. His mouth twitched as he stopped himself from laughing.
"So, can I help you find something?" he asked again. She let out a sigh and answered.
"Yes, I'm looking for the Beatles record, "Something New." I don't see it out here, do you have it?" she gazed at him dreamily.
"Yes, I believe we do, come this way." He led her to an exhibit of Beatles albums and 45's at the end of another aisle. Miming expertise he looked over the display and found what she was looking for. "Ah, here it is, luv, is this what you were looking for?"
Lydia nodded eagerly and took the album from him as he offered it to her. "Thank you," she said politely. She hesitated for a second and then asked reverently, "Are you from England?"
George smiled at her, ready with his smooth answer, "No, but my mum was." Lydia accepted this unhesitatingly.
"Are you new here? I don't remember seeing you before." she found her nerve again. "I'm sure I'd remember you."
"I've been here for about two weeks." He grinned, "I would have remembered you too. " He reached over her head and leaned his hand against the record rack, effectively surrounding her. Enjoying the attention immensely she boldly looked up at him, grinning back.
A feminine voice interrupted them, "Lydia, did you find the record you were looking for?"
George guiltily backed away from Lydia in an instant. George quickly lost interest in Lydia. Hmm, who do we have here?
"Lizzy!" Lydia squealed in excitement. "I was just talking to George. He helped me find my record." She leaned over to Lizzy and whispered in her ear, "He looks just like Paul McCartney!"
Lizzy looked "George" up and down and voiced her disapproval, "Since when do you call salesmen by their first names, Lydia?"
"Oh, it's okay, he said I could." Lydia said guilelessly. She turned to George, "It's all right, George, Lizzy's my sister."
George stepped forward, forgetting to keep up his accent "I'm sorry, miss, we were just talking about records."
She arched one eyebrow, surveying him. Too good-looking - and too old for Lydia. Lizzy looked at his Korvettes nametag.
"So, Mr. Wickham, you work here in the record department." stressing his name, Lizzy voiced this as a statement, not a question.
"Yes," he offered her his most dazzling smile. This was one cutie he wanted to know much better.
Lizzy wanted to convey disapproval, but he was so darn handsome, it was hard to keep it up. They talked for a bit, introducing themselves further.
"I'm at Longbourn College, here in Meryton." She answered when asked if she was in school.
"Ah, yes." a new song played in the background as he spoke.
The best things in life are free
But you can keep them for the birds and bees
Now give me money
That's what I want
"I was in college myself. Princeton actually, but I had to leave, due to a death and financial reasons." He artfully cast his eyes down.
That's what I want, yeah
That's what I want
"Oh, I'm sorry." Lizzy couldn't resist asking, "What happened?"
George gave his pat story. "A very dear man to me, my godfather, actually, was paying for my college tuition. When he died before I graduated, his son convinced the executor of the estate to stop paying my tuition. Now I have to work my way through Forster Community College." So I'm bending the truth, sue me!
Lizzy was appalled and her sympathy aroused. "How awful for you! Wasn't there some kind of legal action you could take?"
You're lovin' gives me a thrill
But you're lovin' don't pay my bills
Now give me money
That's what I want
That's what I want, yeah
That's what I want
"Unfortunately, no." George replied dolefully. "Mr. Darcy didn't actually name me in his will. It was understood that I was to receive payment until my graduation but it wasn't actually put in writing."
"Darcy?" said Lizzy, surprised, "I know that name. I know a Will Darcy, he's at Princeton. Is he related to your Mr. Darcy?"
"William Darcy is the son I told you about." George looked at Lizzy a little warily, "Is he a friend of yours?"
Money don't get everything it's true
What it don't get, I can't use
Now give me money
That's what I want
That's what I want, yeah
That's what I want
"N-no, not exactly." Lizzy faltered. She wasn't sure what to think of Will, or how to describe him. "His best friend is dating my sister, Jane." She paused, "I can't honestly say that he is my friend," she said remembering his arrogance at the Ivy Club.
George was relieved. "I'm glad to hear that. Will can be ruthless, and he'll lie to get what he wants. I've always believed he was jealous of me, because his father loved me," he said reflectively. "I'm convinced that's why he stopped my tuition payments. He's also quite the womanizer. He can be quite dangerous, if you don't watch out." George looked at her intently, "I'd hate to think someone as lovely as you could be sucked into his lies."
Money don't get everything it's true
What it don't get, I can't use
Lizzy was shaken by George's words. Deep down she wanted to believe that Will was good, that somehow she had been wrong about him. In the past weeks, as Jane and Charles got better acquainted, Jane had nothing but nice things to say about his friend. After listening to George, though, Lizzy didn't know what to think about Will Darcy.
George continued, "The Darcys are a very wealthy family. William and his sister, Georgiana are now the sole heirs to the Darcy pharmaceutical fortune." He waited to see how this affected her. Lizzy was stunned. She had no idea. Pharmaceutical fortune?
Now give me money
That's what I want
That's what I want, yeah
That's what I want*
"I guess you know he's engaged to be married?" Lizzy nodded silently, this confirmation was the final blow. "It's been in the works since they were children. You know how it is with rich families." This was added a little too casually, but Lizzy was so wrapped up in her thoughts she failed to realize how inappropriate their conversation was. They had only just met.
At this point, Lydia was more than a little bored. Not only was she irritated with her sister for "stealing" George from her, but she was also monopolizing the conversation about some rich guy that she didn't even know!
"Lizzy, I'm going to buy my record now." Lydia's voice stirred Lizzy out of her thoughts of Will and Caroline.
"Oh, of course! You can get in the check out line. Kitty should be here any minute." Lydia gave George a soulful parting glance, not exactly wanting to leave her pretty sister alone with him, and shuffled to the register.
"Is Kitty another sister of yours?" asked George conversationally.
"Y-yes." Lizzy hesitated. Something didn't seem quite right about this handsome salesman, but she couldn't put her finger on it. While she believed his story about Will Darcy, she didn't know if it was such a good idea to reveal too much about her family. After all, she didn't even really know him.
"In fact, she should have been down here by now. I'd better go get her." Lizzy glanced over towards the escalators looking for Kitty. "Excuse me, it was nice meeting you."
"I enjoyed meeting you." Without a qualm he let Lizzy know he'd like to see her again, taking a step closer and looking her up and down appreciatively, "I hope we can meet again - why don't I give you a call?"
She wasn't sure if she wanted him to call her or not, which was reflected in her uneasy response. "Um, sure...you can reach me through the Longbourn College switchboard."
Realizing it was getting late she looked at him apologetically and gave him a half-smile, "Sorry. I really have to go find my sister." She backed off toward the escalators. With a last wave she turned to look for Kitty.
Later that evening, in her dorm room, Lizzy reviewed her conversation with George Wickham with her roommate, Charlotte. Charlotte listened as she went through the nightly ritual of setting her hair.
"Lizzy, if I were you, I wouldn't believe everything he said. You don't even know this George person." Charlotte dipped her fingers into the 'Dippity Do' hair gel, and smeared it on her hair before rolling up the large pink curlers.
"But Char, he really seemed like he knew what he was talking about. He even knew that Will is engaged to Caroline Bingley."
Charlotte shook her head. "I still don't believe that. From what you've told me about Will Darcy, how could Caroline Bingley be engaged to a honey like him?"
Lizzy privately agreed. She still couldn't get the image of Will out of her mind. He looked so noble and handsome, he couldn't possibly be engaged to that horrible witch. She sighed while lowering her head to her pillow, ready for sleep. Charlotte finished setting her hair, tucked the curlers under her curler cap and turned off the light.
"Good night, Lizzy. Who knows, maybe it's all a big mistake." Charlotte said, trying to reassure her friend.
Lizzy closed her eyes. Images of George and Will swirled before her. Thinking of Will only led to frustration. He's already taken. She tried to push him out of her mind. Maybe I should seriously consider George if he calls. Her ego could certainly use it. She punched her pillow a few times to fluff it up and drifted off into a restless sleep, full of unsettling visions of George Wickham and Will Darcy fighting over who would win her love.
*Money (That's What I Want) - Performed by the Beatles. Written by Bradford/Gordy (c) 1959, 1962 Jobete Music Company Incorporated, USA. Dominion Music Limited, 127 Charing Cross Road, London WC2. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured.
Will Darcy was modest about his good looks, never bothering to take them seriously. A quick glance in the mirror and comb through his hair and he was set. At the same time, he'd have to be a fool not to realize what a catch he was in the marriage market. More than just handsome, at the age of 22, he was also independently wealthy. Upon his father's death from a massive heart attack three years earlier, Will and his younger sister, Georgiana, had inherited the entire bulk of the Darcy estate including all its extensive business holdings. Since they had lost their mother twelve years earlier, brother and sister had no one but each other. Their closest living relative was their mother's sister, Catherine DeBourgh, a widow, who lived on the North Shore of Long Island at her estate, Rosings Park. Living with his aunt was her adopted daughter, Anne, who was nearly the same age as Will. Fifteen-year-old Georgiana was a student at a boarding school in Connecticut while Will completed his education at Princeton.
Having graduated with honors at Princeton and a Phi Beta Kappa key to show it, Will continued his education there in graduate school. As an undergraduate business major, Will chose as his post graduate field of study, Chemical Engineering. Will intended to use his degree by taking over the reins of the company his grandfather, Fitzwilliam Darcy, began and his father, George Darcy, continued. His father's successful operation of the company created a multi-million dollar pharmaceutical conglomerate known as Darcy Pharmaceuticals.
As Charles and Jane's relationship blossomed, Will's disappointment grew proportionately. He had not had one opportunity to see Elizabeth again. Jane and Charles were spending most of their time alone, in spite of the overt hints that Will had made to them about foursomes, hoping Jane would suggest her sister, Elizabeth. It had been a frustrating month for Will since he had last seen her. The Night of the Debacle, as he thought of it. What could he do to see Elizabeth Bennet again?
As the weather grew chilly, Charles wanted to invite Jane to his parent's house in Bedminster. The fall foliage was beautiful and he knew Jane would appreciate it in its glorious splendor. Charles's parents were not there as they spent most of their time in Europe. Charles's father was the United States' commercial attaché to Norway and his parents spent the majority of their time in Oslo, returning to summer in Bedminster. It was a short distance from Princeton, and Charles looked forward to time alone with Jane, away from her family and school. They had been on several dates, and he had met her parents, but he was ready for something more. As a gentleman he had no intention of seducing her by luring her into the backwoods of New Jersey's horse country alone with no chaperone, however much the idea appealed to him. He realized the next best thing would be to ask her to invite her sister Elizabeth to join them. He knew very well William wanted to see Elizabeth again, and perhaps getting them together at last would stop William's obvious hints about double dating.
Jane was thrilled at the idea of going with Charles to his parents' estate, and at the same time grateful that he had the sensitivity to invite Lizzy. Jane would have turned down his offer, had he asked her to come alone, however, Lizzy was hesitant.
"Jane... I don't know." She didn't like the idea at all, asking "Who else will be there?" She could already guess the answer, "Is Will Darcy invited? I really don't think it would be a good idea for the two of us to be in the same house for a whole weekend." She made up her mind. "I just don't think I can do it."
"Please Lizzy!" Jane begged, "If you don't go with me, then I can't possibly accept, it would be unseemly." She hesitated, brushing her long blonde hair, "I'm pretty sure William will be there, but I'm not positive." She winced, anticipating Lizzy's reaction, "I think Caroline might be there too."
"Oh, then that settles it!" Lizzy said sarcastically, "If Caroline's going to be there, then I have to go!" she rolled her eyes and looked at Jane as if she were crazy. "Why in the world would I want to spend a weekend in the country with that witch? Especially after what she did to me last year?" She folded her arms in front of her and stated dramatically, "I refuse to go!"
Two days later, as he drew near the house in Bedminster, Darcy ran his fingers through his unruly mop of hair in nervous anticipation. It was a clear Saturday morning and he raced along the hilly back roads in his Jaguar, bracing wind in his face, keeping him alert as he tried to plan what he was going to say to Elizabeth. I'm going to spend a whole weekend in the same house with her - this is my chance! He couldn't believe it when Charles told him Elizabeth would be coming too.
Lizzy found herself riding in the back seat of Charles's red Mustang convertible, roof down, wind in her face. She had to admit it looked like it was going to be a gorgeous weekend, at least in regard to the weather. The sky was a dazzling blue and the leaves on the trees were a bright gold, with patches of deep red and orange throughout. It was exhilarating to get out of town for a change. She almost looked forward to it, except for the fact that Caroline Bingley was going to be there along with her fiancé, Will Darcy. Lizzy scowled at the thought of the two of them together. This was going to be some weekend. Charles said Will would be coming in his own car. Apparently the house would be crowded; Charles's other sister, Louisa, and her husband, Ben Hurst, were also going to be there. Caroline had arrived the night before with the Hursts. I wonder why she didn't come with Will? Lizzy slouched in the back seat, thinking about how interesting it would be to actually see what Caroline and Will were like as a couple, trying to convince herself that she was over him. It just might be a real laugh.
Before long, Charles's car pulled into a hidden driveway with a small unobtrusive sign that said "Netherfield Farm". As they drove down the long driveway, lined on either side by split rail fencing, Lizzy noticed horses grazing in the distance. Most of the property appeared to be open fields and farmland. Jane's eyes widened as it dawned on her just how well to do the Bingleys must be. The thought was disconcerting.
"Charles, you didn't say your parents' place was a farm." Lizzy said, looking around in wonder, delighted at this discovery.
"Well, it's not exactly a real farm," he said modestly, "It's a horse farm. We breed horses, or rather, the couple that my parents hired to take care of the place when they're gone, breed and sell the horses." He reached over and squeezed Jane's hand, sensing her nervousness.
The mustang reached the house, a large fieldstone colonial, fronted by a white pillared portico, overlooking the graveled circular driveway. They got out of the car and stretched their arms and legs before entering the house.
"Charles, this is beautiful!" Jane was in awe. "I had no idea your parents had so much... property." Her voice petered out as she uneasily surveyed the view. Suddenly she felt very small and insignificant compared to this grand and stately setting. The foliage on the trees was at its autumnal peak, creating a striking vista as she looked across the Bingley's land - land that stretched far beyond where she could see.
Charles beamed meaningfully at Jane, "Thank you, I'm glad you like it. Let's all go in and get settled." He grabbed Lizzy and Jane's small traveling cases out of the trunk of his car and escorted them inside.
Upon entering, the first person Lizzy saw was Caroline. Descending the curved staircase, she wore a multi-colored, geometric patterned tunic, black pencil thin pants and high heeled sandals. A lit cigarette in a long, thin, black holder was held aloft in one hand as she stopped on the bottom step and struck a pose.
Lizzy hid a smirk.
"Charles! Here you are." Caroline called out in an affected accent. Quickly she scanned over the group, frowning, "Where's Will? Didn't he come with you?"
"He's coming. He preferred to drive his own car." Charles looked at his watch, "He should be here any minute."
Temporarily gratified, Caroline looked disdainfully at Lizzy and Jane. In sharp contrast, Charles made a point of making Jane and Lizzy welcome.
"Caroline, I'm sure you already know Jane Bennet and her sister, Elizabeth? I promised we'd treat them to a fun weekend." He gave his sister a warning glance with his words.
"Jane, of course. I'm sure we've bumped into each other on campus." Caroline condescended before turning to Lizzy. "I do believe I've met Eliza, as well. I seem to remember giving her some valuable advice not too long ago." She gave Lizzy a pointed look, raising an eyebrow.
Charles looked surprised, "Oh? Isn't that nice." He couldn't help but smile at the thought of his sister actually being nice to someone.
Jane being polite said, "That's a beautiful blouse you're wearing, Caroline, is it new?"
"Oh this?" casually referring to her tunic. "It's just one of my Pucci's that I threw on." Jane and Lizzy knew very well that an Emilio Pucci original was not just something you 'threw on.' Clothing by the Italian fashion designer were the height of fashion and very expensive.
Lizzy found it hard not to roll her eyes at Caroline's affectations, and made a decision that it would be best to keep her distance, especially since she felt a distinct chill in the air coming from her direction. Charles showed them to their room, which they shared with twin beds and a private bath. Everything was clean and modern, but with a relaxed, casual feel to it that made the girls feel right at home.
Shortly after they unpacked and hung up their clothes, they heard a rumble from outside signaling Will's arrival. Lizzy looked out the window and saw a sleek dark green convertible in the circular drive behind Charles's mustang. "Wow" Lizzy said aloud, "that must be his." Her eyes were as big as saucers. Jane came over to see what Lizzy was referring to.
"Yes, that's Will's car, isn't it nice?" Jane turned to Lizzy with a look of understanding on her face, "I know this will be difficult for you, but, maybe things won't be quite as bad as you think." With a hug, she went on, "Thank you for coming with me, I really do appreciate it." Lizzy smiled slightly at Jane's warm embrace, and put on her brave face.
"Come on," she said, "let's go face the lions."
Jane giggled, "Don't you mean Tigers? Remember, they're Princeton men."
"Ha! Ha!" Lizzy retorted, and they left their room to go downstairs to greet Will in the center hall.
Will's heart was in this throat as he pulled into the driveway and drove up to the house. His stomach was doing somersaults. He was disgusted with himself. "C'mon Will, get hold of yourself," he muttered. "She's just a girl you danced with once." He still could not understand the pull she had over him. He parked his car behind Charles's Mustang, grabbed his leather overnight bag and leapt up the front steps to the door. Charles was ready at the door and welcomed him inside. Will noticed immediately that Caroline was right behind him, looking a fright in some crazy looking outfit, waving a smoking cigarette around as if she was deliberately trying to burn the house down with it.
Will looked up and his heart nearly stopped beating as he saw Elizabeth standing at the top of the stairs, holding on to the banister. He couldn't take his eyes off her. Her dark hair was worn casually loose, and in her faded jeans and turtleneck sweater, she took his breath away. When did she get so sexy? He stopped speaking to Charles mid-sentence and waited for her and Jane to descend. The greetings between Will and Lizzy were awkward, but Jane reached over and gave him a peck on the cheek and acknowledged him pleasantly.
"It's good to see you, Will." Jane knew this was an awkward moment, and she wanted to try and smooth things over.
"It's good to see you too, Jane." He looked over at Elizabeth and nodded silently, unsure what to say. At that moment, Caroline, who was taking in the whole scene, interrupted.
"Will, darling," she said as she grabbed his arm. "Come with me and I'll take you to your room and make sure you're all settled in, hmmm?" she fluttered her eyelashes at him and began to lead him away. He didn't want to leave the group, but he also didn't want to be rude to his hostess, so he allowed her to show him to his room, confident he would have a chance to talk to Lizzy later.
Lizzy couldn't stop herself from staring after them as they left the hallway, musing. What an odd couple. She turned to Charles and asked him abruptly, "So, when are they getting married?"
He gave her a confused look, "When are who getting married?" he asked. She motioned in the direction Will and Caroline had just gone.
"Will and Caroline, who else?"
He nearly snorted in disbelief, "Will and Caroline? My sister? Whatever made you think they were getting married?"
Lizzy was taken aback and confused. She tried to ignore the tiny flicker of excitement that began to burn deep inside her at the thought she was wrong. She and Jane both exchanged glances wondering what to say. Neither thought it would be a good idea to reveal to him Caroline's "advice" to Lizzy at the Longbourn dance. Jane spoke into the breach.
"We heard that Will was engaged to Caroline... umm... someone at school told us." She looked to Lizzy for corroboration.
Lizzy was lost in her thoughts, barely paying attention to what Jane was saying. He's not engaged to her? That little... Lizzy's eyes narrowed as she thought about what she'd like to do to Caroline. Ooh... am I going to get her for this!
"I assure you," Charles began to say, but his own laughter cut him off. "Darcy engaged to Caroline? Not in a million years. She'd like that, but it will never happen if Will has any say." With this last he looked straight at Lizzy. She blushed, and wondered what he was inferring. Then she had another realization, If he's not engaged to Caroline, then who is he engaged to? Who was George was talking about when he mentioned Will's engagement? She began to question the veracity of his story.
At that moment, Louisa and Ben Hurst came downstairs and Charles introduced Jane and Lizzy. Louisa was the eldest in the Bingley family, and had been married to Benjamin Hurst for five years, no children. Ben was a big golfer, with a decent handicap, although he probably enjoyed his bourbon and card playing in the men's locker room more than actually playing golf. Louisa, not much of an athlete, enjoyed the social life and status that went with their golf club. Rarely did they venture outside their circle of acquaintances and friends from the club, except for the requisite summers in Nantucket.
They were polite to Jane and Lizzy, but Lizzy's distinct impression was that Louisa felt they were not worthy of her little brother. After a few minutes of polite conversation, the Hursts excused themselves. Louisa was in charge in their parents' absence and she needed to go over that night's menu with cook, and Ben was eager to see a college football game on television.
After some coaxing by Jane and Lizzy, Charles agreed to give them a tour of the house and grounds. As they were nearing the end of the house tour, they bumped into Will, who had just finished changing his clothes and was headed for the stables.
"There you are, all settled in?" asked Charles.
"Yes, thank you." He looked at Charles and then at both Jane and Elizabeth. Lizzy couldn't look at him, and pretended she was studying a sculpture of a horse nearby.
"I was going to ask you if you wanted to go horseback riding, Charles." He thought the fresh air would help to clear his head so that he could decide on a strategy to win Elizabeth.
"I was giving the girls a tour of the house and I was about to take them outside to see the grounds, why don't you join us?"
Will agreed to Charles's suggestion right away, thankful Caroline was nowhere in sight. The four of them set out together. Seeing the stables in the distance, Will wasted no time in finding an opportunity to be alone with Elizabeth.
"Elizabeth, do you ride?" he asked her.
"A little, I never took lessons or anything." Embarrassed she tried to make light of it, "I ride very ill, indeed." Obviously William and Charles were used to the finer things in life, horseback riding being one of them.
"I'd be glad to teach you while we're here," he offered. Lizzy wasn't so sure she was comfortable with the idea. She could barely look at Will now; he was devastating in his breeches and riding boots. What would several days in his company do to her equilibrium?
"I have an idea," said Charles with a big smile on his face. "Why doesn't Will take Lizzy to the stables, show her around and take a ride, while I show Jane the rest of the property." He said this last part with a knowing look at Will that didn't escape either Lizzy or Jane.
The look of hesitation on Lizzy's face was inescapable, but Will was all for the idea, and wouldn't take no for an answer. Ignoring her reluctance, he motioned for her to follow him. As they walked down the path to the stables, Lizzy took stock of the situation. It doesn't have to be so bad, really. Now that she knew he wasn't engaged to Caroline, her feelings about him were in a jumble, leaving her totally confused. One side of her was glad that he wasn't engaged to Caroline, but the other side worried about the ruthless Will Darcy described by George Wickham. When they got to the stables, Darcy instructed one of the groomsmen to choose one of the gentler horses for Lizzy's mount.
"I'm afraid I'm not really dressed properly for riding." Lizzy looked down at her jeans and white tennis shoes.
Will couldn't find a single thing wrong with what she was wearing and suppressed a sigh as he smiled down at her. "What you have on is fine."
"Well...if you say so." She was doubtful to say the least. She was determined to remain indifferent to him - no matter how handsome and dashing he looked in those tight...pants of his. He was arrogant and - if George was to be believed - dangerous. She was going to have to play it cool with him. The groomsman brought out two horses, saddled and ready to go. Lizzy looked at her horse a little nervously, not exactly sure what she should do first. Will noticed her hesitation and offered to help. He led her horse over to the mounting block and told her to get up on it.
"Don't be nervous, the horse will sense it," he said, "Now put your foot in the stirrup," she did as he directed, "and hold onto the pommel there on the front of the saddle...good...easy... now hoist yourself up." She followed his instructions, pulling herself up and throwing her leg over the horse's back.
Once in the saddle, she laughed nervously, feeling like she was going to fall. "I forgot how high up being on a horse makes you feel," she said, looking down at Will. Will was still standing right beside her and he noticed her uneasiness. He placed his hand gently on her knee, trying to calm her. It did anything but.
"Don't worry, just put your other foot in the stirrup." She found her footing in the stirrup and looked down at him. "Now, take the reins in your hands." Her eyes widened.
"How?" she asked. She had completely forgotten how to hold them. All she could think about was that Will's hand was on her leg. He was able to reach over and easily guide the reins into her hands.
"Like this," he said, and nimbly maneuvered her fingers around the leather reins and squeezed his fingers over hers. Lizzy held her breath during this process; the feel of his hands on hers was tantalizing. "Just hold them like that until I get up on my horse." Lizzy didn't like to admit it, but she liked his take-charge manner. He was so self-assured and masculine. Plus, he smells good.
Will swung himself easily into the saddle, and guided his horse over to Lizzy's, whose breath caught at the sight of him. He looks great on a horse. His back was erect and straight as he sat in the saddle, and she had a momentary vision of him in a shining suit of armor. She bit her bottom lip and tried not to look too much at him. How am I ever going to get through this?
"You certainly look like you've done this before." She said casually, trying to sound like her old self.
"Well, I rode every summer growing up," he tried to downplay it, clearing his throat. "It's nothing, really." He still remembered the sting of her words at the Ivy when she called him a snob.
Will instructed Lizzy to follow him, making a clicking sound to the horses as they slowly exited the barn. He pointed towards the woods and a field and motioned that they would head in that direction. He gave her some pointers, and was pleasantly surprised to see that she wasn't as lacking in skills on a horse as she claimed.
Lizzy kept reminding herself to be wary, he was certainly putting on the charm. After they had ridden for a while, they stopped for a rest. Will helped her down from her horse, savoring the feel of his hands on her waist as he guided her down from the saddle, momentarily holding her at eye level. Their eyes locked for that moment, until Lizzy said archly, "Better put me down, you know what an overactive appetite we freshmen have."
He shook his head and gently deposited her on the ground. He tied the horses to a nearby tree before coming to sit down across from her on the grass.
"Elizabeth..." he began, studying the blade of grass he had picked up in his hands. They had been avoiding the subject that was uppermost in their minds the entire time they'd been together. He felt he needed to get it out in the open and hoped it would clear the air between them.
"I'm sorry for what I said at the Ivy Club. I had no idea it was you that Charles wanted to introduce me to. I didn't mean it." He looked up at her meaningfully. "If I had known -"
"I see. So that makes it all right, since you didn't know it was me? Is that what you mean?" she asked derisively. "There's really no need to apologize, Will. I already know." Stony faced, she kept a cool demeanor.
"If there's no need to apologize, then why are you still so distant with me, what's the matter?" he asked, puzzled at her reserve. Most of the girls he knew would be eager to make up with him - had they ever been angry with him in the first place.
Lizzy didn't know how to answer him. She didn't know herself. When he touched her, she wanted to fall in his arms. Physically, yes, he was forgiven. But her mind was telling her something else. He's out of your league, Lizzy, you'll never last with him. That thought scared her, deeply. She didn't want to lose her heart to him, and then have it broken when she was left behind.
She decided to change the subject. "I met someone the other day, who knows you."
Will's interest was piqued, "Oh? Who was that?"
"George Wickham," she answered, waiting expectantly for his reaction.
Will's face visibly paled, a stricken look passed over him as he heard the name. But just as quickly, she saw the bland imperturbable mask come over him, hiding the momentary emotion she observed earlier.
"Where did you meet him?" he ground out through clenched teeth, sick at the thought of Wickham anywhere near Elizabeth.
Lizzy responded dismissing his question. "It doesn't matter, but he told me a few interesting things."
"I'm sure he did - lies most likely. I wouldn't trust him, Elizabeth, if you know what's good for you."
"Funny, that's what he said about you."
"Elizabeth, I'm not at liberty to go into detail, but he's dangerous. Please, believe me when I say stay away from him." Will was determined.
That determination merely served to raise Lizzy's hackles. "Who do you think you are?" she said hotly. "You can't tell me who I can and cannot associate with - especially with a cryptic remark like that!"
Will considered trying to drive his point home, but thought better of continuing to argue with her and stood up. "I think it would be best if we headed back to the stables," he said coldly, brushing fallen leaves from his pants. "It's getting late."
Lizzy was frustrated. She had been itching to get to the truth about George Wickham, and he effectively silenced her with his haughty reserve and authoritative commands! Scowling, she agreed and let him give her a leg up on her horse without speaking a word. Their silence continued all the way back to the stables and into the house. Lizzy went her way, Will went his, and they didn't see one another again until dinner.
After a delightfully private time of meandering around Netherfield's grounds, Jane and Charles found themselves upon a small embankment that overlooked a picturesque private pond. The late afternoon sun warmed them, as they lay together, side by side, on the soft grass amidst the fallen leaves of a large Red Oak that towered above. The ubiquitous autumnal scent of burning leaves wafted by from a distance, as Charles thought of his feelings for Jane - feelings that had skyrocketed over the past few weeks. He couldn't explain it, but he now knew. It was undeniable. He was a lost man when it came to Jane Bennet. He loved her.
They had been seeing each other regularly ever since they met. Football games, dinner dates, movies - even studying together at the library. But Charles was getting tired of dropping her off outside her dormitory, always careful to deliver her before curfew. Once they were five minutes past her curfew of eleven o'clock, and as a result Jane had accumulated five "late minutes." He sent her a rose for every late minute the next day. Late minutes were no small matter at Longbourn, once a student accrued fifteen late minutes, she was grounded for the entire next weekend.
In awe of her beauty, he studied her, unobserved, bathed in sunlight. Golden hair glistened, while dark lashes formed delicate crescents in contrast to the paleness of her skin. His eyes moved downwards and rested on her lips as her eyes remained closed. He wanted to kiss her. Not a little kiss, like the ones he'd given her furtively at the front door of her dorm after their dates. A real kiss. It was time. He rolled toward her, pushing himself up on his forearm, as he leaned forward and lightly placed a kiss on her lips. She smiled with her eyes closed, licking her lips once before he kissed her again. A little more pressure this time. He felt her response as she returned his kiss. Her arms, now around his neck, pulled him closer. He released a deep breath as he gave in to the eagerness he'd been keeping in check - up to this point. Running his hands through her silky hair, he kissed her thoroughly. As their movements grew more fevered, he now lay atop her, her hands running down his back, savoring the feel of his body on hers. Both wanted to give in. This passion had been bubbling between them ever since they first met.
Without thinking, Charles ran his hand beneath her sweater, stroking the downy softness of her stomach, edging upwards. Jane's breath hitched, delighting in the sensation. A little voice inside her was telling her to stop, but it felt so good. His lips on her neck almost made her forget where she was. She was losing control; she didn't want him to stop. She had never felt this way with anyone before.
"Jane...Jane," he said between kisses, "you are so lovely...I've wanted to..."
"Oh, Charles, Charles... we can't...we have to stop." She barely whispered as his kisses continued their way downwards. Pulling aside the fabric of her neckline, he lost himself in the feel of her. The roaring in his head overtook him, he was no longer aware of what he was doing. His kisses intensified - wet and passionate - with just one destination in mind. Beneath her sweater his other hand reached for her breast. The little voice in Jane's head got louder.
"Charles!" she said loudly this time, "Stop!" she cried out, forcing him off her, as she sat up, hastily readjusting her sweater. He stopped as soon as she told him to. Breathing heavily, he apologized profusely.
"Jane, I'm sorry, I'm such an animal. I should have known better, please forgive me."
She looked at him ruefully, smiling fondly. He looked so sheepish and genuinely remorseful. "It wasn't your fault, Charles. I think we both got carried away."
Their eyes met as he took her hand in his, entwining his fingers with hers. Looking down at their hands, he took a deep breath. "Jane, I think I'm falling in love with you."
Her eyes were shining as she squeezed his hand, responding in a tremulous voice, "Me too."
They looked into each other's eyes, as if trying to savor this one, long, blissful moment forever. Self conscious, as if aware of how silly they must appear, they nervously started to laugh. Soon it turned into the delirious, happy, heartfelt kind of laughter that came with new love. They held each other for several more moments before realizing they had better get back to the house before it got too late. The sun was beginning to set. Hand in hand they walked back to the house, relishing their moment of newfound love.
Later that evening, relaxing after dinner, some members of the party noticed a difference between Jane and Charles. There was warmth, an intimacy between them now that hadn't been there before. Lizzy noticed it right away, and couldn't help but wonder what had happened while Jane and Charles were alone earlier. She tried questioning Jane while they changed their clothes for dinner, but Jane was too preoccupied with getting ready - she wanted to look her best for Charles.
Will also noticed the change in his friend. He recognized the look of love on Charles' face; he'd seen it there before. He'd seen Charles fall in and out of love many times. He hoped that if and when Charles and Jane broke up, it wouldn't ruin his own likelihood of success with Elizabeth - Will remained optimistic about his chances with her.
While they listened to music on Charles's hi-fi, Lizzy studied her sister again. She noticed a new glow and smile upon her face as she gazed up at Charles. Click here to hear song
As soon as the opening strains of the harmonica on a new song came through the speakers, Charles pulled Jane up from her seat and they began an impromptu dance.
I should have known better with a girl like you
That I would love everything that you do
And I do, hey hey hey, and I do
Caroline and the Hursts seemed oblivious to the spell that was being cast in the room. Ben sipped his after dinner Cognac as he, Louisa and Caroline played a game of Hearts at the card table set up in the corner.
Whoa, whoa, I
Never realized what a kiss could be
This could only happen to me
Can't you see, can't you see
Will glanced at Elizabeth, wishing he could ask her to dance as well. She had been frosty, to say the least, throughout dinner
That when I tell you that I love you, oh
You're gonna say you love me too, oh
And when I ask you to be mine
You're gonna say you love me too
Jane and Charles were in another world as they danced. Looking into each other's eyes with dreamy smiles upon their faces, they were miles away.
So, I never realized what a kiss could be
This could only happen to me
Can't you see, can't you see
Trying to make up his mind, Will kept throwing glances at Lizzy. That does it, I'm going to ask her to dance. He got up, walked across the room to where Elizabeth was sitting, and stopped in front of her.
That when I tell you that I love you, oh
You're gonna say you love me too, oh
Lizzy followed his movements with her eyes, wondering what he was doing. As he came up to her he stopped, looking down at her.
And when I ask you to be mine
You're gonna say you love me too
"Doesn't this music make you feel like dancing?" he asked with all the self-assurance he could muster at this crucial moment. Lizzy was stunned that he had come to her. Speechless, she didn't know how to answer. What does he mean? Is he asking me to dance with him?
Will looked down at her, watching her lips, waiting for her answer.
Whoa whoa I never realized what a kiss could be
This could only happen to me
Can't you see, can't you see
When no response was given the first time, he repeated himself, "Doesn't this music make you feel like dancing?"
Lizzy licked her lips and thought about what to say; she wasn't sure how to respond.
That when I tell you that I love you, oh
You're gonna say you love me too, oh
After a pause, "I heard you the first time," she said looking up at him impudently. "Thank you, but no, I've not the least intention of dancing right now, I much prefer watching Jane and Charles." Glancing in their direction, she continued, "They look very happy together. Besides, I think the song is almost over, anyway."
And when I ask you to be mine
You're gonna say you love me too
You love me too
You love me too*
Will couldn't help but feel a little hurt at her rebuttal. He looked wistfully at Charles and Jane as the song ended.
At this point, Caroline, who had been listening to their conversation, decided that she wasn't about to let it go any further. She sauntered over to Will, grasping onto his arm, hoping to make it clear to Elizabeth that he was hers. She wasn't about to let that hussy steal him away from her.
"Will, darling, let's go for a walk, it's a beautiful night out," she said, giving him her most beguiling smile while tugging at his arm.
Will resisted Caroline's efforts, trying not to grimace. He glanced at Lizzy, anxious over her reaction to Caroline's antics. He was surprised - and not a little disappointed, to see she didn't seem to mind in the least bit.
Lizzy knew only too well what Caroline was up to. Barely hiding a smirk, she was determined to kill her with kindness. She looked over at the two of them, intent on letting Caroline go on with her charade. She could see that Will wasn't interested in Caroline - it was obvious to her now, but she enjoyed watching him squirm, in any case.
With her eyes dancing, she smiled at him impishly "Yes, it is a beautiful night. I'm sure you two would like to be alone."
She pretended not to see the beseeching look he threw her way. Feigning a yawn, she grabbed the book that she had been reading earlier, and said her good nights to everyone, announcing that she was sleepy and going up to bed. Giving Will a cheeky look as she passed by him, she couldn't miss the self-satisfied expression on Caroline's face, nor the look of distress on Will's as she turned and went off to bed.
*I Should Have Known Better - performed by The Beatles, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney (c) 1964 Northern Songs. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured.
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