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I Saw Her Standing There

Chapter 9


The next day as Bill drove Charlotte and Lizzy to Rosings Park, he spoke freely of the DeBourgh family.

"Will Darcy is a Princeton man like me," he said proudly, unconsciously sticking out his scrawny chest. As if in the know, he added importantly, "He's Mrs. DeBourgh's favorite nephew. I have it on good authority that he and Mrs. DeBourgh's daughter, Anne, have an understanding. They'll probably be announcing their engagement shortly."

Charlotte looked startled at this pronouncement, and quickly turned to Lizzy to gauge her reaction. Lizzy was not completely unfamiliar with first cousins marrying, but the idea bothered her; it seemed positively archaic.

"Who marries their first cousin nowadays?" asked Charlotte, showing she did not agree with this custom.

Bill answered authoritatively, "Miss DeBourgh is adopted. There is no actual blood connection."

So that's it? Lizzy thought, with a small sigh. Now it made perfect sense to her. She realized it was Anne to whom George Wickham had referred. You know how it is with rich families. George's words in regard to their engagement came back to her. No wonder, she thought resignedly. Although it dampened Lizzy's spirits somewhat, she was curious to see what kind of girl this Anne DeBourgh was and she was interested in observing how Will behaved around her. Maybe by witnessing them firsthand, she would be able to get the handsome Will Darcy out of her mind once and for all. Ever the optimist, Lizzy reflected that their visit to Rosings Park could turn out to be pleasing in any case. She looked forward to seeing Richard; after all, he was the one who invited them to his aunt's, not Will.

Bill droned on with his history of the Fitzwilliam and Darcy families. "Richard, the other one..." He shook his head. "Mrs. DeBourgh is not as pleased with him. He's the black sheep of the family. He insists on entering the military, and Mrs. DeBourgh is very disappointed." Lizzy remembered Richard's words about being a Marine and going off to Vietnam. It worried her.

"It's inexcusable for a Fitzwilliam, which is Mrs. DeBourgh's maiden name, you know," Bill said, turning to the girls while he was driving. "Mrs. DeBourgh could easily make a simple phone call and he could have a lucrative job anywhere he wanted. He did graduate from the University of Pennsylvania, after all. But he insisted on joining the Marines and going over there!" His eyes looked eastward, a look of horror on his face. He muttered disgustedly, "He must have some sort of death wish." Lizzy's eyes widened at the thought. Bill Collins obviously did not share Richard's opinions and values. As much as Lizzy disliked the idea that Richard's career choice was dangerous and he could go to Vietnam, she admired him for his decision. She thought it was very brave and noble.

The car traveled down the majestic lane of sycamore trees on the approach to the house. Lizzy's eyes widened as it stopped in front of the gates, and as if by magic the gates opened all by themselves and they continued up the long driveway, paved in red granite chips. Lizzy was now able to get her first real good look at Rosings Park, a magnificent Tudor manor, rich in detail. Lizzy was no expert on architecture, but she knew enough to recognize that Rosings was more than just another mansion. It was an amazing piece of art. The brick patchwork between the timbers revealed an exquisite herringbone inlay, complimented by the superb diamond leaded glass windows throughout. A thick frame of limestone surrounded the massive front door, made of an unusual blonde chestnut wood. Lizzy looked up at the doorway in wonder, thinking it must be at least ten feet tall. As the three young people got out of their car and walked up to the impressive front entrance, Lizzy took a deep breath and braced herself for the inevitable first meeting with the formidable Catherine DeBourgh.

As soon as they rang the doorbell, a butler answered and greeted them formally. He led them into the sumptuously decorated drawing room and Lizzy instantly spotted Richard, whose face opened into a wide smile as soon as he saw her. Will was standing in front of the stained glass windows, with his back to them, looking out onto the rear lawn of the house. Lizzy could only make out his silhouette, for the sun's rays through the window created a backlit effect behind him. As soon as he heard their voices and the butler's announcement, he turned to face them with a small smile upon his lips. His eyes lit up when he saw Lizzy, and a feeling of warmth spread throughout his body. But all too soon, his eyes darkened as he saw Richard immediately approach Elizabeth and give her - what Will considered - a familiar kiss on the cheek.

"Lizzy! Welcome to Rosings!" Richard said gaily. Turning to Bill and Charlotte, he added, "and these must be your friends."

Lizzy introduced them to Richard, and Bill piped in, "I am William Collins, and I am much acquainted with the DeBourgh family." He lifted his chin proudly. "My father is well known to Mrs. DeBourgh."

Richard's smile faded slightly upon noticing Bill's demeanor, but soon recovered. "Well...then, you should feel right at home!" He took Lizzy's arm in his and led her across the room toward the enormous leaded glass windows where Will was standing. Will nodded stiffly to her as he passed her on his way to greet Charlotte and Bill. He couldn't stand the way Richard was touching her and needed some space.

Lizzy noticed how comfortable Will looked in these opulent surroundings, as if he were to the manor born. She glanced around the large room, her eyes widening at a striking and beautiful piece of art hanging on one of the walls. Is that an original Renoir? Richard's flirtatious, low voice brought her out of her reverie. "It seems I already know a bit about you, and didn't even realize it."

Lizzy, who had been watching Will out of the corner of her eye, turned to Richard, puzzled. "What do you mean?"

"My cousin had already told me so much about you, but I had no idea you were the girl he was talking about."

"Well, I'm sure it couldn't be anything too great. You see, your cousin and I are not the best of friends."

"That's not the impression I got." Richard smiled, looking over at Will. By this point, Will was aware that Richard and Elizabeth must be talking about him, and he at once felt uncomfortable under their scrutiny.

Lizzy raised one eyebrow at this and responded while looking over at Will, "I'd like to hear what your cousin has said about me. I'm sure it would to be very interesting."

"On our drive out here, he told me about a girl he met at school and how taken he was with her. I seem to remember him remarking on how fine her eyes were." Richard added this last part casually, curious to see Lizzy's reaction to this statement. So what if it was a little white lie? Will hadn't said anything about fine eyes or a girl for that matter, but Richard knew this would help him in his cause to learn the truth about these two.

Lizzy blushed and couldn't help but wonder at Richard's words. What else has Will said to him about me? She nearly cringed at the thought of their last conversation at the Holly Hop.

"I'm sure he must have been talking about someone else, it couldn't possibly have been me," Lizzy said self-deprecatingly. Richard shook his head in disagreement, amused at her discomfiture.

Again she looked over at Will standing next to Charlotte, contemplating his profile. He was undeniably attractive. He threw a glance in her direction, their eyes met and she quickly averted hers, afraid she would reveal too much of her inner thoughts about him. The look in her eyes gave Will hope and he took it as a sign to join them. He'd had enough of Bill Collins, who seemed to be basking in the glory of Rosings, and didn't like the idea of Richard working his well-known charms upon Elizabeth without him. Who knows what he's saying to her?

"Will, we were just talking about you. Were your ears burning?" Richard asked laughingly.

Ignoring Richard, Will turned to Elizabeth. "I hope my cousin wasn't boring you."

Lizzy smiled valiantly at Richard. She was intent on erasing the discomposure she had been feeling earlier. "No, not at all, your cousin is very entertaining. I was just about to tell Richard some stories about why you and I aren't the best of friends," she said impishly with a glint in her eye, daring him to stop her.

Will smiled down at her, his dimples showing; Lizzy's stomach did a flip.

"What, more unflattering stories about my cousin?" Richard said mockingly. "Will, you better change your ways, or you're going to lose this girl," he warned, throwing his arm around Elizabeth's shoulders and pulling her closer to him, in a friendly hug.

"He never had me," Lizzy said under her breath.

Darcy couldn't be sure what she said, but Richard heard it and raised an eyebrow at the thought. Something is definitely going on between these two. That same moment, a rustle in the hallway heralded the arrival of a dignified looking woman of sixty years in the doorway.

The great Catherine DeBourgh, thought Lizzy. Behind her appeared a wisp of a girl with light brown hair in a non-descript hairdo. She quickly ducked out of the way, as if she was trying to disappear into the woodwork. The daughter. Mrs. DeBourgh, bedecked in pearls and an elegant suit in dove gray taffeta, surveyed the room, her piercing eyes resting upon Lizzy. Lizzy guiltily freed herself from Richard's arm and tried her best to smile under the hawk-like stare of Mrs. DeBourgh.

"Well!" the older woman paused dramatically. "Isn't anyone going to introduce these young people to me?" She had a pronounced look of disagreeableness.

Bill stepped up, nearly genuflecting before her, and said, "Mrs. DeBourgh, remember me? I am William Collins, your minister's son. It is an honor to see you once again and thank you for allowing - "

She cut him off, barely glancing his way. "Yes, yes, I remember you." She said testily. "But who are these young girls?"

"I was about to say - "Richard began, until Will stepped in and took over.

"Aunt Catherine," he said smoothly while turning towards Lizzy and ignoring the irritated look on Richard's face, "Please allow me to introduce Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Miss Charlotte Lucas." He motioned toward Charlotte. "They are in the area visiting Charlotte's family for Easter break."

Mrs. DeBourgh looked the girls over, while Bill remained speechless, in awe of the woman. She asked them, "You are in school then?"

Fighting an impulse to curtsey, Lizzy answered, "Yes, ma'am, we attend Longbourn College." Lizzy looked at Charlotte, her eyes asking if she wanted to add anything to this. Charlotte looked like a deer caught in headlights. She imperceptibly shook her head and Lizzy did not elaborate on her answer. Anne DeBourgh remained in the background, taking a seat on the sofa alone, saying nothing, and only nodding her head when she was introduced.

Mrs. DeBourgh appeared satisfied and motioned for everyone to come and sit down for tea. For the remainder of their visit, Lizzy managed to observe Will, while avoiding conversation with him. She saw absolutely no sign of an attachment to Anne. She found it hard to believe they were engaged. It couldn't possibly be true. She was sorry to say but the girl had no personality whatsoever.

Mrs. DeBourgh questioned Lizzy about her family and background, and once satisfied that she knew all, turned her questions to Charlotte. Bill had succeeded in informing Mrs. DeBourgh that he and Charlotte were seeing one another, and the great lady, satisfied with Charlotte's responses to her questions, decided Charlotte passed muster and condoned the match.

The tea party was a stilted and grueling affair. Mrs. DeBourgh's interrogation on Lizzy's entire family and background had been exhausting to Lizzy. Richard tried his best to counteract some of his aunt's more pointed questions, but overall Lizzy was left unsettled, especially when she noticed how intently Will stared and listened to everything she said. Much as she hated to admit it, Lizzy felt out of her league in these surrounding. More than once she cast her eyes again towards the Renoir. She also regarded many of the other paintings and tapestries on the walls; everything looked so noble and regal, like a castle or museum, she thought in awe. What kind of people live like this?

Will studied Elizabeth as she sipped her tea. He noticed the way she looked around, as if she felt uncomfortable amidst the luxuries in his aunt's home. Luxuries that he took for granted. Such opulent living could be daunting for someone not used to it and his heart went out to her; he worried that she felt out of place. He wanted to gauge her reaction by speaking with her and allay any fears she might have in that regard. Was he correct in his estimation of her feelings? He was about to get up and leave his seat to go to her, when he saw Richard whisper something in her ear.

She shrugged her shoulders in response to whatever he said to her, and looked slightly embarrassed. Richard smiled at her reassuringly, patting her hand.

Will eyed them jealously. What is going on between those two? He vowed not to let Richard foil his chances with Elizabeth. He encouraged his aunt to invite them all back to Rosings for dinner.

Once tea was over, Lizzy was grateful to return to the Lucas's where she and Charlotte went over every detail of their meeting with the DeBourghs. They both agreed Mrs. DeBourgh was a formidable lady and that it seemed unlikely that Will was actually engaged to her daughter. Lizzy couldn't help feeling relieved at the thought. At the same time, she looked forward to seeing Richard, and subconsciously Will, over the next few days.

***

The following afternoon, while playing pool in the billiard room, Richard brought up Elizabeth to Will.

"You know, Darce, I think I might ask Lizzy Bennet for a date. Do you think she'd go out with me if I asked her?" He waited for Will's answer, trying not to laugh and give himself away at the look of consternation in Will's eyes.

Will waited for a moment before he spoke, thinking carefully about what he wanted to say.

"No, I don't think you should ask her out," he stated firmly.

Richard feigned shock at this reply. "Why ever not?" he asked.

Will avoided Richard's eyes as he answered simply. "Because I want to. I met her first. I've had my eye on her for months." He wasn't about to let Richard in on all the details of his rocky courtship with Elizabeth.

Richard snorted. "Well, you could have fooled me. You're hardly going about it the right way."

Will thought ruefully about his past blunders with Elizabeth. Tell me something I don't already know.

"Maybe so, but it's not helping that you're hanging all over her!" he said, his jealousy again surfacing.

Richard replied innocently. "Me? I haven't been behaving any differently than any other red blooded American male would ...under the circumstances."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Will was suspicious of his cousin's motives.

"Well, I expect to be going overseas once my graduation and training are done; it would be nice to have a sweetheart waiting for me," Richard explained, half-serious.

Will aimed his next shot in the corner pocket, not at all pleased Richard was interested in Lizzy as his 'sweetheart'. "It's hardly fair using that excuse, Richard. No one forced you to become a Marine. It's not like you were drafted."

"I know that. It's my own choosing, but that doesn't mean I can't have a shot at her, does it?" He walked over to the hi-fi and turned on some music. Will landed his shot and prepared for his next as the words of the song filled the room:

Click here to hear the song

You're going to lose that girl

Will's cue stick glaringly missed the ball as the words enveloped him. Richard grinned and took his turn.

(Yes, yes you're going to lose that girl)
You're going to lose that girl
(Yes, yes you're going to lose that girl)

If you don't take her out tonight
she's going to change her mind
(she's going to change her mind)
And I will take her out tonight
And I will treat her kind
(I'm gonna treat her kind)

Sinking his ball into the side pocket, Richard continued on, seemingly unaffected by the words of the song.

You're going to lose that girl
(Yes, yes, you're going to lose that girl)
You're going to lose that girl
(Yes, yes, you're going to lose that girl)

Will rolled his eyes at the silly grin on Richard's face, knowing what his cousin was thinking. Richard shrugged at him innocently, bouncing to the mambo beat as he aimed for his next shot.

If you don't treat her right, my friend
You're going to find her gone
(You're going to find her gone)
'Cause I will treat her right and then
You'll be the lonely one
(You're not the only one)

Taking pity on his cousin, Richard spoke up. "How about this, Will? I won't make a move on Lizzy until you've given it a try first." The words of the song inspired him. "But you have to ask her out tomorrow when they're here at Rosings again. If you fail - then I get a chance." If that doesn't light a fire under my cousin's posterior, I don't know what will. Shaking his head, Richard continued smiling as he lined up his next shot.

You're going to lose that girl
(Yes, yes, you're going to lose that girl)
You're going to lose that girl
(Yes, yes, you're going to lose that girl)
You're going to lose that girl

Will glared at him. "You seem very sure of yourself. What makes you think I'll fail?"

I'll make a point of taking her away from you
(Watch what you do)
Yeah, the way you treat her, what else can I do

Richard leaned on his cue stick. "Isn't it obvious?"

"Isn't what obvious?" he asked. He didn't like the way Richard presumed to understand Elizabeth better than he did. Richard rolled his eyes at Will's obtuseness.

You're going to lose that girl

Richard was now quite serious. "I can see it with my own eyes, Will. Don't be so sure of yourself, she's skittish with you."

You're going to lose that girl
(Yes, yes, you're going to lose that girl)
You're going to lose that girl
(Yes, yes, you're going to lose that girl)
You're going to lose that girl

Will chose to ignore Richard's words, convinced he knew better and proceeded to continue with the game. I'll show you, Richard. Tomorrow at this time, she'll be mine.

***

Thinking about the conversation later, Will dismissed Richard's prophecy. He took Elizabeth's familiar white ribbon out of his pocket and stared at it, remembering the moment they first met; it was imprinted in his memory forever. He was convinced when Elizabeth knew how much he really cared for her and how much she meant to him, she would realize how good they would be together. He smiled, warming to the thought. She would gladly fall into his arms; he had felt it the last time they danced together. Certain she felt something for him, Will had it all planned out. Everyone was invited back to his aunt's tomorrow, Will would somehow arrange to be alone with Elizabeth and make his feelings known to her in no uncertain terms. With a deep sigh, Will luxuriated in the thought. By this time tomorrow, Elizabeth will be my girlfriend.

The next day was glorious. The temperature was unusually warm for that time of year and the sun was bright without a cloud in the sky. Charlotte, Bill and Lizzy set out for Rosings, ready for a casual afternoon enjoying the beautiful grounds surrounding the Tudor mansion.

Will awoke early, energized at the thought of seeing Elizabeth later that day. Much to his chagrin, his aunt requested that he join her and her attorney to discuss some important business matters; it would take up the majority of the afternoon. Once he reached the age of majority, his aunt decided it was important for him to be privy to the family's many investment and business decisions. Will was well aware of his aunt's wish for him to marry Anne, and that she was grooming him for a future role in the family as her son-in-law. He had absolutely no intention of ever marrying her and he knew for certain Anne felt the same way. Unfortunately, Anne was completely under the thumb of her mother, unable to say no to anything Aunt Catherine insisted upon.

Will knew that one day soon he would have it out with his aunt; he had to inform her that he had every intention of deciding whom and when he would marry, and that it would not be her daughter. Will considered a 'marriage of convenience' as something from the Dark Ages; he would never allow himself to be subjected to one. Now that he was coming into his own and would be taking over the reigns at Darcy Pharmaceuticals, he intended to be his own man, master of his own affairs - in all areas.

Upstairs in his aunt's study, Will resigned himself to the fact he would have to wait to see Elizabeth. She was staying for dinner and Will comforted himself that there would be plenty of time to talk with her before they dined. He even had the perfect moment and setting in mind for his declaration. He nervously tapped his fingers in anticipation, garnering his aunt's disapproval at his preoccupied manner.

When Lizzy, Bill and Charlotte arrived, Richard greeted them and offered to show them around the estate. He explained that Will would be occupied with their aunt for most of the afternoon, and Lizzy inwardly breathed a sigh of relief. Lately, the tempting Will Darcy had been invading her thoughts again and again. She dreaded seeing him. Each time they were together, she was inexplicably drawn to him. Her resistance was crumbling bit by bit with each encounter. She wasn't stupid; she knew what he was about. It was apparent he found her attractive, but she was not about to fall victim to his charms. No matter how much he tried, Lizzy could never forgive him for his supposed role in ruining Jane's happiness with Charles.

After their tour Richard offered refreshments. They drank lemonade on the patio, while Will remained inside with his aunt. When they finished, Richard suggested a game of croquet and all delightedly agreed.

"I haven't played croquet since I was a kid!" Lizzy laughed, settling on a color and adding decisively "I'll be red. It's my favorite."

"I'll be black. It's usually Will's color, but since he's not here I'll usurp his place," he noted with his eyes twinkling. He hadn't forgotten the conversation with his cousin the day before.

Charlotte and Bill chose their colors and the game began. Everyone enjoyed the competition while Richard took especial delight in assisting Lizzy on the proper method of handling her mallet and knocking the ball. Briefly glancing up to the windows of his aunt's study, he put his arms around her from behind as he guided her attempt to hit the ball. Lizzy turned around smirking at him, she was no fool. She was quite capable of holding the mallet and hitting the ball on her own, but she laughed, allowing him this small concession. He is such a flirt! She couldn't help but relish the attention. It had been a long time since she enjoyed herself with a nice young man like Richard. Charlotte and Bill were preoccupied at the other end of the field where Charlotte was showing Bill how to hit the ball properly through the wickets. While they lagged behind, Richard preferred to remain close to Lizzy. He regaled her with stories about his family and his aunt. Eventually the talk turned to Will and his family.

***

Will looked forlornly out the window of his aunt's study as he viewed the croquet game about to begin on the immaculately landscaped croquet lawn below. Being cooped up with his aunt and her attorney the entire afternoon was torturous for Will. Now, with Elizabeth in Richard's determined presence, it was almost impossible for him to keep his mind on anything but the two of them. That dastardly tune flitted through his head, mocking him with every word.

You're going to lose that girl

He looked at her from above, thinking how adorable and somehow still alluring she looked in a plaid sleeveless blouse tucked into a pair of cotton pants. How could something so simple look so fantastic? He unconsciously licked his lips as he admired her form. Her clothing hugged every curve, showing off her shapely legs that tapered down to her bare ankles and a pair of simple tennis shoes.

He didn't trust his cousin with her for a minute.

I'll make a point of taking her away from you
(Watch what you do)
Yeah, the way you treat her, what else can I do

As he was about to turn away from the window he gasped as he saw his cousin put his arms around Elizabeth. That troublemaker! He silently fumed in indignation as he saw them laughing and flirting. Will hastily disregarded the thought of opening the casement window and calling out to them, in spite of the insane jealousy he felt for his cousin at that moment.

If you don't take her out tonight
She's going to change her mind
(She's going to change her mind)
And I will take her out tonight
And I will treat her kind
(I'm gonna treat her kind)

You're going to lose that girl
(Yes, yes, you're going to lose that girl)
You're going to lose that girl
(Yes, yes, you're going to lose that girl)
You're going to lose that girl

Will turned away from the window disgustedly, unable to watch any longer. Later, I'll have my chance... give me time. He wiped perspiration from his forehead and tried to concentrate on the intricacies of his aunt's latest business acquisition.

Meanwhile, on the croquet lawn below, Elizabeth, who was curious about William's family, asked Richard about Will's sister.

"What's Will's sister like?"

"Georgiana's a nice girl; she's in that teenager phase right now." Richard lined up his shot before knocking his ball through the wicket with his mallet.

"Getting into trouble, no doubt?" Lizzy said, thinking of Lydia. Richard looked up at her questioningly, his eyes suddenly serious. The look on his face made her regret her words and she rushed to reassure him. "I have a fifteen year old sister, too." She laughed, trying to lighten the mood. "She's a Beatlemaniac, and has a tendency to act before thinking, which tends to lead to trouble."

Richard kept his head down as he prepared for his next shot.

Lizzy tried to reassure him, by adding, "I'm sure Georgiana is nothing like Lydia." He looked up and smiled at her, his good mood returning. Lizzy continued, thinking perhaps now would be a good time to bring up another subject that had been on her mind.

"I've only heard good things about Georgiana, especially from Will's friends. Do you know his friend... Charles Bingley?" She tried to make it sound casual as he knocked his ball into hers.

"A little," Richard said, concentrating on his next shot, "I know they go way back and were roommates. In fact, I believe Will saved him recently from a certain unsettling situation with a girl."

Lizzy could barely breathe after hearing Richards's casual reply. "Oh? Why is that?"

Unaware of Lizzy's discomfort, he replied vaguely, "I'm not sure, but apparently there was some problem with the girl - she wasn't what Charles thought she was. I'm not really sure, but Will convinced him to try and forget her while he was away in London."

He stepped on his ball next to Lizzy's. "Sorry, old girl, but I'm sending you flying!" He knocked his mallet into his ball, sending Lizzy's ball clear across the playing field.

Elizabeth's heart swelled with indignation for Jane. I knew it! He did convince Charles to drop her! Lizzy was quiet after this, barely interested in continuing the game. Richard noticed her lack of enthusiasm and asked if she was feeling all right.

"I guess I've been out in the sun too much. I didn't realize it would be so warm." She was feeling sick after hearing this confirmation about Will's involvement between Jane and Charles. "Could we go in the shade?" she asked.

Richard put his hand on her forehead; concerned she was overheated. "Of course. Let me take you back to the house."

He called out to Charlotte and Bill to continue with the game while he saw that Lizzy was settled on a chaise-lounge in a shady spot of the terrace. Charlotte looked worried but Lizzy waved her off. "Don't worry about me, Char. I'll be fine, I'm just going to lie down here for a while."

Lizzy assured Charlotte she would be all right and convinced her to go with Bill and enjoy the rest of the day on their own. Richard added that he would be glad to give Lizzy a ride home later on. When Charlotte agreed, Richard left to get Lizzy a cold drink, promising to return right away. Lizzy took advantage of her time alone to think about what Richard had told her about Will. She was furious with him and hurt for Jane. She looked forward to letting him know exactly what she thought of him!

Richard returned momentarily with an iced tea and sat with her, hoping it would make her feel better. Lizzy assured him she was much better, but a little tired. He offered to leave her alone, so she could have time to rest in peace and quiet. She thanked him, saying that it really wasn't necessary, but he insisted. He promised to return in an hour as Lizzy lay back on the cushion and closed her eyes. Thoughts of Jane and Charles tumbled through her head as she remembered the conversation she had overheard between Will and Caroline at the Holly Hop.

As soon as Will finished with his aunt and her attorney, he rushed outside to find Elizabeth and the rest of the party. Looking around he didn't see them anywhere. He headed back to the house, worried he would miss his window of opportunity to tell her of his feelings. Lost in his thoughts as he crossed the rear terrace, he was startled when out of the corner of his eye he noticed a figure lying down on one of the chaise-lounges. Elizabeth! He couldn't believe his luck. And she's alone! She looked beautiful lying there peacefully with her eyes closed. He came closer, drinking in the sight of her and remained standing before her lost in her loveliness. Suddenly, she opened her eyes; as if aware she was being watched.

"Will!" She was startled at first, then her eyebrows furrowed. "How long have you been here?"

"Not too long" He smiled down at her. She felt uncomfortable under his scrutiny and sat up.

"Elizabeth, there's something I'd like to show you. The sunset is beautiful down at the dock, will you join me?" he motioned in that direction.

What better time to give him a piece of her mind? "Yes, thank you, I'd like that. There's something I want to tell you," she said enigmatically. Will was encouraged; hoping she returned his feelings. They set out toward the water.

Will led Lizzy to the waterfront, revealing a well kept, but weathered, dock that jutted about 50 yards into the bay. They walked to the end of the dock and stood side by side. The moist, salt air created an unruly mass of curls about Lizzy's face. The creaking of the pilings and the sound of the water lapping against them were the only sounds but for the occasional seagull. The sun was hovering over the horizon, turning the sky magnificent shades of pink and orange. Will drew in a breath as he looked at Elizabeth's profile. He knew this was his moment - this was his chance to tell her of his love for her.

"Elizabeth," Will began, "there's something I need to tell you."

Tucking a wayward strand of hair behind her ear, Lizzy bit her lip, avoiding his eyes. Ill at ease, she watched the sun slowly sink lower over the horizon. Its reflection cast a gorgeous tangerine hue over the bay before her. Later she would look back on this moment and have no memory of the stunning sunset unfolding before them.

"I have a thing or two to tell you as well," she said shortly, staring out at the water. Will was so intent on what he was about to say, he didn't notice the coldness in her voice.

With little hesitation, he launched in. "I'm sorry, I can't wait any longer. I've got to tell you." He took her hands in his and turned her toward him. Taking a deep breath, he fought off his nervousness and continued, "Elizabeth...I love you. I have been in love with you ever since the moment we first met." A wide smile spread across his face as relief and joy washed over him. Finally I've said it! Uneasy and worried about admitting his love to her for the first time, he felt a huge burden had been lifted from his shoulders. He almost felt giddy with relief. He tried to see what she was thinking, but her eyes were downcast, her expression unreadable in the dim light.

He began to babble, nervous and unsure of what else to say. "I realize we had a shaky beginning and I've noticed you're a little nervous about our different... backgrounds."

He didn't know how to tactfully say this, "My family is...well..." He turned to look at Rosings, as if to indicate what he meant. He continued to hold her hands in his, running his thumbs lightly across their soft skin.

Lizzy numbly listened to his declaration without looking at him until he mentioned their backgrounds, and she couldn't help but feel affronted. What does he mean by our backgrounds? Her feelings of resentment toward him deepened as he continued in what she perceived as his self-assured way.

Grinning, he blindly dug himself in deeper. "I knew you'd come around eventually. We were meant to be together - don't you see? I can't wait to show you off to the world as my girlfriend." He squeezed her hands, wishing she would look up at him. He wasn't sure what else to say. He suspected she was nervous at the prospect of being his steady. He smiled down at her, oblivious to her real thoughts. He was so caught up in his own reflections, he didn't stop to realize she had yet to say anything.

All Lizzy could think about was his pride and arrogance. What nerve! As if I should be grateful! She'd heard about all she could, sickened by his words.

Unknowing, he continued in the same vein. "I haven't been able to get you out of my head ever since we first danced together at Longbourn. I dream of you - worship you - you can't believe how much I've wanted you, to touch you, hold you." As he said the words, Lizzy realized he was going to kiss her. He reached to take her in his arms and hold her close, but she avoided his grasp and pushed him away.

"Stop it! I don't want to hear any more! I don't want your love!" She spat out the last word as if it were something filthy. Her eyes glinted with hatred as she backed away from him.

"Elizabeth, what's the matter?" Perplexed by her behavior, he approached her.

"How could you possibly think that I'd fall for your lines, when you're the one behind Jane's broken heart?" She began to walk up the dock, leaving him behind. He came after her, shocked at her disclosure and tried to reach for her hand. She turned to face him. "I know that you and Caroline were behind Charles and Jane's break-up. I heard you at the Holly Hop! Jane has been miserable for the past two months thanks to you!"

Did he hear her right? "What are you talking about? You can't be serious!" He was confident he could straighten this out, if she'd only listen. He tried to speak calmly and patiently. "I didn't break up Jane and Charles. Jane did that herself. I was only trying to save Charles from a broken heart."

She couldn't believe his arrogance. "Are you crazy? Jane loves him! She's still pining for him! She never would have broken up with him!"

"That's not what I heard," he maintained.

"Oh, and I suppose you know my sister better than I do?" She stamped her foot and folded her arms, glaring up at him.

"Of course not, I don't pretend to know your sister very well. But, I know Charles better than you do. I wasn't about to let your sister hurt him once he left for London."

She was seething. "Who do you think you are? What gives you the right to play God?"

"I have no wish to 'play God.' I just did everything in my power to separate my friend from your sister, to save him from certain disaster." He ran his hand through his hair, frustrated. Towards him I have been kinder than towards myself. Quietly he added, "I thought I was doing Charles a favor."

A growing unease was taking over, as he began to realize he might have made a huge mistake in regard to listening to Caroline. At that moment the incongruity of his siding with Caroline hit him, but it was too late. Caroline!

"Elizabeth, if you'll let me explain - "

"No." Cutting him off, she wouldn't let him get a word in, intent on giving it to him. "Not only did you manage to ruin any happiness for my sister, I had already made up my mind about you based upon your treatment of George Wickham."

"Again! We always come back to poor George Wickham!" Will responded in exasperation, face flushed, his anger rising.

"Who couldn't help but feel sorry for him after hearing what you've done to him?"

He turned away from her, looking out at the water, repeating contemptuously. "What I did to him? Is that what he told you? Yes, his misfortunes have been great indeed."

Elizabeth cried out accusingly, "It's because of you! It's your fault that the money for his schooling was cut off. He could have had the advantage of an education from Princeton. His career choices would have been boundless! Only now, to make his way in life, thanks to you, he has to work his way through school in a record store." She took a deep breath and continued, "You are responsible for this! And yet you mock him!" Lizzy tried to remember exactly what George had said. Will can be ruthless when he wants something.

Will strode to the other side of the dock. "And this - this is what you think of me?" He was appalled. He tried to rein in his anger at Wickham for telling such lies and at Elizabeth for believing them, but his success was limited. Sarcastically, he spoke to her in his haughtiest of tones. "Thank you so much for making it crystal clear! My faults, according to you, are limitless!"

Elizabeth grew angrier every moment; balling her hands into fists, she tried to speak with composure. "Yes, they are. From the very beginning - no, almost from the very beginning - I was positive that you were the most arrogant, conceited, and selfish egomaniac I had ever come across. Everything you've done and shown me has only proven that. I could never really trust you, especially after the Holly Hop when I overheard you and Caroline plotting against my sister!"

The remembrance of Will's overconfident demeanor fueled her anger. Disgustedly, she asked, "Did you really think I wanted to be your girlfriend? I guess it will come as a surprise to you that you're the last boy in the world I could ever go out with." He came toward her with a mixture of incredulity and indignation on his face. As he approached, she added, "Nothing you say could make me change my mind about you."

Will reached out in one desperate last attempt to persuade her, but Lizzy surprised even herself. Warding off his effort, she raised her hand to his chest and shoved him away. Throwing him off balance, she stood transfixed and watched in horror as he stood on one leg, waving his arms as if in slow motion. He gracelessly fell backward off the dock into the water below. With amazement and shock upon his face, his eyes locked with hers before he crashed through the water's surface. A huge splash sent ripples and droplets of water everywhere before he disappeared beneath the murky water. Lizzy shrieked, gasping in fear as she scurried to the edge of the dock.

Unhurt, Will didn't have far to fall, since it was high tide, but the water was freezing, and he gasped as it enveloped him. Lizzy stood frozen looking down at him in the water. Astounded at her actions, she had to be sure he wouldn't drown. Oh God, please let him be all right! She knelt as close to the water as she could, ready to jump in if necessary. The cold hand of fear clamped down on her heart as she waited. As irrational as it seemed, she didn't want any harm to come to him. After what seemed like an eternity, Will popped up to the surface, spit out some seawater and swam to the ladder on the dock.

She watched in silence as he slowly climbed up, dripping wet, his thin shirt plastered to his body. She couldn't take her eyes off him. He's stunning. She had an inexplicable desire to run her hands across his chest. She was horrified that all she could think of as she looked at him was how fine he looked soaking wet. So fit, so chiseled, so...male. She was speechless. Some kind of primordial feeling deep inside her left her confused. She hated herself for being so physically attracted to him - especially at such a moment! They stood in silence facing each other. Neither could take their eyes off the other. Finally, breaking the spell, Lizzy turned abruptly and ran up the dock, wasting no time in getting as far away from Rosings and Will Darcy as soon as possible.

As he watched the retreating figure of Elizabeth disappear behind a clump of bushes in the fading twilight, Will remembered the look on her face. He didn't try to go after her; he knew it was fruitless. He shivered as the cool air hit his soaking wet body, and he thought of her in despair. His last memory of her was the look in her eyes. It was one of deep loathing. She despised him.

You're going to lose that girl
(Yes, yes, you're going to lose that girl)
You're going to lose that girl
You're going to lose that girl*

*The Beatles, "You're Going to Lose That Girl" - performed by The Beatles, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. (c) 1965 Northern Songs. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured.

Chapter 10

With a heavy heart, Will slowly trudged the long way up the hill, away from the water to his aunt's house. Dripping wet, he felt and heard the squelch of his water-logged shoes mocking his every step. Head bowed, eyes on his feet, he reached the side door to the kitchen, used mostly by the staff. How could I have been so wrong? He sighed as he opened the door, barely catching a sob that threatened to emerge from his throat. Intent on retreating to his room, he passed through the kitchen, ignoring the incredulous faces of cook and the parlor maid, and took the back stairs to the second floor two at a time.

He slammed the door to his room behind him in frustration. Alone he was free to give in to the misery he was feeling. He walked to the bureau and looked at his reflection in the mirror above it. How could she say those things to me? he thought incredulously. She really hates me! He still couldn't believe it; she had positively, with absolutely no doubt whatsoever, turned him down. She didn't hesitate - she even went so far as to push him in the water! He would have felt outraged if he hadn't felt so heartbroken. She took my words and tossed them back like they were dirt! Bitterly he turned away from the mirror and threw himself on the bed, oblivious to the dampness of his clothes on his aunt's finest linens.

As he lay there, it felt as if a profound weight was pressing down on his chest, suffocating him. In despair, he tried to take a deep breath, but choked as a wrenching sob escaped from within and his body gave way to the sadness enveloping him. He gave in to the wracking pain, wallowing in it, wishing it weren't true, that it was all a nightmare - but it wasn't. The burning tears he shed did not last long, but they served as a release. Wiping his eyes, the pain was as great as ever, but at least he was able to think more clearly. He still felt an overpowering need for her. He couldn't bear that she left him like this. She wasn't coming back; it was hopeless. He never had her; it was unfathomable for him. Even in the darkest of times, Will had never faced such a desolate outlook before.

Click Here for Song

You don't realize how much I need you
Love you all the time and never leave you
Please come on back to me
I'm lonely as can be
I need you

With more deep breaths he tried to focus on Elizabeth and all that she had said to him. He wanted to remember what it was that made her so angry. He had to understand why this happened. What did he do that was so wrong? How did this get so crazy?

Said you had a thing or two to tell me
How was I to know you would upset me
I didn't realize
As I looked in your eyes
You told me

Her words came back to haunt him.

Oh, yes you told me
you don't want my lovin' anymore
That's when it hurt me
And feeling like this
I just can't go on anymore

What could he do? Even if all was hopeless between them, he couldn't bear the thought of her alive in the world - out of reach - and thinking badly of him. He knew he would have to make amends and make things right for everyone concerned. There must be some way to get her to trust him, to make her see how much he loved her. Do I really love her? The pain in his chest told him so.

Please remember how I feel about you
I could never really live without you
So come on back and see
Just what you mean to me
I need you

He closed his eyes; the cold, miserable ache returned and tears threatened again.

Look, when you told me
you don't want my lovin' anymore
That's when it hurt me
And feeling like this
I just can't go on anymore

Please remember how I feel about you
I could never really live without you
So come on back and see
Just what you mean to me
I need you
I need you
I need you

His feeling of despair slowly turned into anger as he remembered her accusations regarding Wickham.

"At least I can defend myself against Wickham's lies," he said aloud. As bad as he felt, he was determined to set things straight, if he could. He sat down at the desk in his room, took out a piece of writing paper and began to compose a letter to Elizabeth. Intent on her knowing the truth, he poured his heart and soul into it. He hoped that by the time Elizabeth finished this letter, there could be no doubt in her mind in regard to the evil and dissolute ways of George Wickham.

Rosings Park
Glen Cove, Long Island

Dear Elizabeth,

Before you begin this letter, let me assure you, you have no reason to worry, this is not a repeat of my previous offer. All I ask is that you please do me one favor - read this letter.

I need to set right some of the misconceptions you have against me, and to defend myself and my behavior. One, George Wickham's lies against my family, and two, what you think are the reasons for my breaking up Charles and Jane. I wish I didn't need to write you this letter, but it's necessary for you to understand the whole entire story.

It didn't take long for me to recognize that Charles was smitten with your sister as soon as they first met that evening at the Ivy last October. I was happy for him, but I've seen Charles fall in and out of love - or what he thought was love - often. After the weekend at Netherfield, I was almost positive Jane returned his feelings and I was glad for them. I have always thought your sister a kind, warm, generous-hearted girl, and perfect in so many ways for Charles, who matches her in affection and temperament.

It wasn't until the night of the Christmas dance at Longbourn that I began to doubt the sincerity of your sister's feelings for Charles. I admit, I wasn't in the best frame of mind at the time. I began drinking after our argument, and feeling sorry for myself, I was intent on getting blitzed. I know that's no excuse - but it's the truth.

At the same time, it came to my attention that your sister was planning on breaking up with Charles once he was in London. The source of this information implied that Jane was looking for something better than Charles. I now realize I was taken advantage of and lied to. I think you can guess who told me this.

I am thoroughly ashamed for the part I played in separating Charles from Jane and what I later said to him before he left for Europe. I told him what I had heard, hoping to save him the heartache of losing your sister while abroad. I hoped it would give him the opportunity to forget her and possibly meet someone else while there. At the time, I was still angry with you and feeling bitter and resentful. I wasn't sure what to think or believe. I'm truly sorry for my part in this and I will do all I can to set things right, if possible. I have no idea how Charles feels about Jane now, since I haven't heard from him since he left for London, but I will try my best to reunite them when he comes back.

In regard to your other point, I need to tell you everything about George Wickham's relationship to my family, as painful and personal as it is.

George is the son of a very close and good friend of my late father. My father was George's godfather and we spent a lot of time together growing up. We were friends until I went away to boarding school. George remained at home attending a local school in the area and we grew apart. When I returned after graduating from Andover, it was obvious what a degenerate George had become. During this period, George's father - a decent and honest man, died. His mother was alive, but she was used to the finer things in life but without the money to support her accustomed lifestyle. I believe she encouraged George to take advantage of the love and kindness of those around him - namely my father. My father never saw the darker side of George and loved and trusted him like a son. He willingly took him under his wing, offered to pay for his entire education - provided George graduate from college. Then, if it suited him, he could look forward to a job with Darcy Pharmaceuticals, paving the way for a solid and lucrative career that would set him up for the future.

Unfortunately, my father died while George and I were still at Princeton. I was a sophomore, and George, who is a year older, was a junior. We didn't associate with one another at all. I was disgusted with his cheap women and wild ways. His behavior was contrary to everything good and decent that I was brought up to believe in. It didn't surprise me in the least when he was asked to leave Princeton because he failed all his courses. He didn't seem to mind it. He was always lazy. Then he realized he'd be losing a lot more than just a Princeton education. Although there was no formal stipulation in my father's will regarding George, it was understood that his estate would continue to pay for George's education as long as he remained in and graduated from school. Not to mention, he had a job to look forward to after that. But he flunked out, and it was unreasonable for him to expect the Darcy family to continue to support him. I was too well aware of the kind of person he was. I encouraged the executor of my father's estate not to give into George's wishes, against those of my father - which were well known. I gave him my reasons and proof to back up my claims, he agreed and cut George off, allowing him a lump sum of $15,000 to do anything he wanted with. I hoped this was the last we would ever see of him.

Sadly, that wasn't the case. What happened next is very painful to dredge up and I hope you won't repeat this to anyone, since it is serious and private. Two years ago, the summer following George's pay off, my sister Georgiana, who was only thirteen years old, went away with the family of a close friend from her school. Since we had just lost our father the year before, it was not unusual for Georgiana to travel with this family, the Younges, and stay with them at their house in Montauk.

While Georgiana was with the Younges on Long Island, George came back into our lives with a vengeance. In what seemed like an innocent and coincidental meeting, he managed to lure Georgiana to join him on the beach. She recognized him as one of my close childhood friends, and unaware of his less than honest reputation, she trusted him and agreed to meet him. In one fell swoop he brought us to our knees by kidnapping her and holding her ransom for two excruciating days. Fortunately, George's plan was full of holes and the police were able to find Georgiana. She came home safe and unharmed and George was arrested for kidnapping. Because he was still under 21, we were not able to try him as an adult. Instead he went to a juvenile detention home for three months, until his 21st birthday when he was allowed to get off scot free. There was nothing more we could do. Fortunately, our family attorney had the courts issue a restraining order, forbidding him to come within ten yards of Georgiana or me, so he can never bother our family again.

Now you know why he did not come to the dance as your date. He must have heard I would be there. I hope after reading this, you forgive me for not giving you these details earlier. The kidnapping left my sister scarred and frightened. Only now, at age 15, is she growing more confident, although she will always be wary of other people's good intentions and ulterior motives.

I don't expect this letter to change your opinion of me entirely but I just hate to think of you falling for his lines and believing him. George Wickham is a dangerous man and is not to be trusted. I don't know what exactly he has already told you, but now at least you are aware of what he is capable.

I can only add my best wishes for you and your sister. I never meant to hurt either one of you. I will always remember you with the fondest regard, Elizabeth.

Love,

Will


It was midnight by the time Will finished writing his letter. Physically and mentally exhausted, he decided to mail it so she would receive it when she returned to Longbourn. He did not have the courage to face her after such a humiliating meeting. He fully expected never to see her again but he was glad that at least she would now know the whole story of his involvement with Jane, Charles and George Wickham. Placing the letter in an envelope, he addressed it to Miss Elizabeth Bennet, Longbourn College, Meryton, New Jersey. Sealing it, he found a five cent postage stamp, affixed it to the envelope and left it on his desk, ready to be mailed first thing in the morning.

Lying down upon the four poster bed in his aunt's guest room, he stared at the ceiling - lost in thoughts of Elizabeth. He remembered the anger in her eyes. The feeling of loss was almost too much for him to bear. He hoped she would read his letter and it would vindicate him in some way in her eyes; maybe some day she would change her opinion of him. She didn't want his love now, but he hoped that if he ever got the opportunity to see her again, she would see that he was worthy of her regard. If there was one thing he learned from this, it was he would never take the feelings of others for granted.

Please remember how I feel about you
I could never really live without you
So come on back and see
Just what you mean to me
I need you
I need you
I need you*



On her way to lunch in the dining hall at Longbourn, Lizzy stopped at the Student Union mailboxes to check her mail. In her mailbox she found a thick envelope with her name and address in strong, bold handwriting. There was no return address but the postmark was Glen Cove, New York. Her thoughts immediately turned to Rosings and the turn of events that sent her running into Richard Fitzwilliam's arms, begging him to drive her back to Charlotte's. She couldn't bear to face Will after her deplorable behavior. She pushed him off his aunt's dock into the bay! The image of him, soaking wet, as she saw him last flashed before her eyes as she opened the envelope with shaking hands. Scanning to the end of the letter, she saw his name: Will. She sucked in her breath, returned the letter to its envelope and placed it in her pocketbook for safe keeping until she could read it in privacy.

Elizabeth hurried to her room, skipping lunch, thankful Charlotte wasn't there. She plopped herself down on the bed, reached into her pocketbook and found Will's letter. Surprised by her calmness, she opened the letter and began to read.

At first, she huffed at his tale, all her rage returning as she read Will's account of the Holly Hop. She remembered the words she overheard Will saying to Caroline about Charles and Jane. She also recalled Caroline's threat in the Ladies Lounge and realized she made good on it, You'll regret this Eliza Bennet!. She continued to read. As she finished the passages regarding George and Will's little sister Georgiana, she gasped, horrified. It had to be true! He wouldn't make something like this up! Then, she remembered the odd look on Richard's face when they were playing croquet when she mentioned Georgiana getting into trouble. No wonder he acted so strangely!

Lizzy reread the letter three times and, after the third time, felt like a fool for believing George and not thinking better of Will. What a huge mistake she made! She was mortified. She would tell no one about this, not even Jane. She was sorry, but now it was too late - she'd probably never have the chance to tell him she was sorry. Her eyes kept going over his signature: Love, Will. Does he still love me? She tossed the letter aside, and closed her eyes. Images of Will flashed before her. She saw him soaking wet, his shirt plastered to his chest. This wasn't the first time either. He had become her favorite daydream again; in spite of everything that had happened between them, she was unmistakably attracted to him. Now, after reading his letter, her feelings were that much more excruciating, it almost hurt, physically. I want him.

How could she ever face him? She reflected over all of their intense encounters. Their first dance at Longbourn seemed more bittersweet in her memory. How could she have believed Caroline? She ruined it for them! Then, the way she lit into him at Ivy! She felt as if she could die, remembering all that she'd said to him, calling him a snob, even if he did sound like one at the time. To make matters worse, when he tried to be nice to her at Netherfield, she had been so nasty to him! Yet he kept coming back for more! Too late. She now recognized the look on his face as one of admiration; he loved her at the Holly Hop! Over and over she had done everything in her power to thwart him and now the situation was hopeless; she'd had her chance and lost it. She had finally pushed him - literally - over the edge; he'd never ask her out again. She'd never get another chance with someone like Will Darcy, not in a million years. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Lizzy shook her head as tears spilled from her eyes; tears of regret, tears of forgiveness, tears of yearning - and sorrow.



"Jane?"

She looked up and he saw the look of surprise on his face. Her eyes lit up when she recognized him and then she blushed.

"Hello," she said shyly. She peered around him expectantly. He couldn't help but notice the look of sadness in her eyes as she realized he was alone. She quickly lowered her eyes, embarrassed that he may have guessed who she was looking for.

"How have you been?" he asked awkwardly. The last person Will expected to run into was Jane Bennet. He fought a similar impulse to look and see if Elizabeth was with her. When he first recognized Jane, his heart skipped a beat at the thought of seeing Elizabeth again. Even as he repressed the temptation to look for her, somehow he couldn't help but blurt out, "Is Elizabeth with you?"

"No, she's back at school, I guess. I was ... umm...looking for a....book," Jane answered hesitantly, wondering how to account for her presence at Princeton's local coffee shop. Will had a suspicion of what Jane was doing here - this was where she and Charles had spent a lot of their time together as a couple.

"Are you alone?" he asked.

"Yes," she blushed again.

"Will you join me for a cup of coffee?"

"Yes, thank you." She smiled in relief. "I'd like that."

"Good." Will could see she was pleased with the idea, as was he. He looked forward to having a chance to talk alone with Jane, something he had never done before.

They found an empty table at a booth and sat across from one another. As soon as Will signaled to the waitress for two coffees they both instinctively leaned across the table and began to talk at the same time.

"What's new?" They both asked, and then laughed at the awkwardness. He smiled, his dimples showing, and offered, "You go first."

She chuckled softly. "Nothing much, I've been busy with school..." She trailed off, not sure what else to say. There was only one thing she wanted to talk about, but she didn't think it would be appropriate to discuss Charles with Will.

"Is your family well..? er, your sisters?" Could I be more obvious? he thought, frustrated with his choice of words.

"Yes, they're all fine, thank you," she answered politely as the waitress placed their coffee on the table. Jane busied herself pouring cream into her coffee and stirring it; the thought briefly crossed her mind that Will was still enamored of Lizzy, although Lizzy had never cared for him. The poor guy. They continued with small talk about the weather and upcoming exams until finally, Jane brought up the subject that was heaviest on her mind.

"Have you heard from Charles?" she asked.

Will was surprised at her abruptness and felt a blush come over him, only too aware of the part he had played in breaking the young couple up.

"No, I haven't. He hasn't returned from London yet." He gave her an apologetic glance. "He's not much of a writer, you know." A pained expression came across her face as he said it. He realized how callous and thoughtless a remark it was for him to make.

"I'm sorry." He immediately tried to undo his faux pas. "I didn't mean -"

"No, no, it's all right, I know what you mean," she said, trying to relieve his obvious discomfort. She didn't know what he was really thinking. To her he only looked embarrassed, though she could understand why. She assumed Will felt awkward that his best friend had dumped her so unceremoniously, without even a "Dear Jane" letter from London.

Another pause in the conversation ensued until Jane could hold back her curiosity no longer. "Will, I've got to know. Do you know why Charles hasn't written me? I haven't heard from him since he left at Christmas. Has he met someone else?" Her blue eyes were sad as she looked at him imploringly. He couldn't tell her - he couldn't tell her the truth.

"I'm sorry, Jane."

She bowed her head and he saw a teardrop fall on the table. He could see her fighting to compose herself. He felt like such a coward in the face of this woman. He didn't know how to help at this point.

"I don't know, I can't understand it!" she said passionately, "I thought he loved me!" Her eyes were beseeching, her voice broke as she continued, "I love him, Will, I've always loved him. I've never stopped loving him!" She began to cry softly, staring into her coffee. He felt terrible for her. He reached over to take her hand to comfort her, anything to make her feel better. What have I done? This was so much worse than anything he'd imagined. He had to make things right, he owed it to them.

He knew how she was feeling; he'd been agonizing over Elizabeth for the past month. Imagine feeling that way for several months!

Reassuringly, he patted her hand. "Jane, please don't cry. I'm sure things will work out when he gets back."

Her eyes brightened hopefully. "D-do you think so? Do you really think so?"

He tried to smile convincingly. "I can't predict the future, but...I know he was crazy about you when he left." She smiled briefly and took a sip of her coffee, composing herself. She dug in her purse and found a handkerchief to dry her eyes. Will noticed the initials "CB" embroidered on the corner of it. Jane saw where his eyes were resting.

"Yes, it's his," she said simply, referring to the linen cloth in her hand. "He gave it to me the last time I saw him, the night of the Holly Hop." All Will could do was nod his head sympathetically as Jane continued; she obviously needed to unburden herself to someone. "He really hurt me, Will." She choked out. "That night was the saddest and the most wonderful night of my life." She paused with a dreamy look on her face, as if remembering something, but then turned serious again. "I almost went out of my mind when I didn't hear from him." She dabbed at her eyes with the handkerchief as tears began to form in them again. "But, all along, I've always believed that he's not that kind of guy, in spite of everything. He's not the hurting kind." She had that dreamy look on her face again as she smiled, thinking about Charles.

Will nodded in understanding. He continued to hold Jane's hand as she told him more about her love for Charles. Eventually they said goodbye and went their separate ways. Will reached for the ribbon he held in his pocket that had once belonged to Elizabeth. Feeling its silkiness with his fingers always soothed him and made him feel a bit better. He smiled ruefully as he realized he and Jane had more in common than he originally thought. It had been an enlightening afternoon for Will, and he knew without a doubt what he had to do as soon as he saw Charles again.

*I Need You - performed by the Beatles, written by George Harrison (c) 1965 Northern Songs. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured.

Chapter 11

"Charles!" Darcy gave his friend a strong handshake as he greeted him. It felt good to have Charles back at their campus digs. "It's been a long time, how was London?"

"It was great, the architecture school was fantastic!" Charles answered, but Will noticed his eyes didn't reflect the same level enthusiasm as his words.

"How long before you go home?" Charles asked, noticing what looked like several packed suitcases beside the door. "Are you going to Pemberley for the summer?"

"Yes, I'll be returning...um...right away, I imagine." Will hesitated. He knew what he had to do, and he did not anticipate sticking around after he gave Charles his news.

"I'm hungry. Let's go get something to eat. Bond's?" Charles raised his eyebrows to Will. "I've been dying for an Awful Awful for the past five months!"

Will nodded and they set off.

Bond's, their favorite hamburger hang-out with the world's best milkshakes, was hopping with teenagers and the local college crowd. Darcy began his daunting task as soon as they found a seat in a booth. He decided to start slowly, asking about Charles's time away.

"So tell me about London since I've no idea what you thought of it. Have you never heard of writing a letter?" he asked sarcastically, but with a touch of warmth in his tone. Charles was not known for his expertise in correspondence.

Charles shook his head. "You know me, Will." He looked around the place with a preoccupied air about him, his eyes glancing to the door whenever it opened. "What's been going on around here?" he asked absentmindedly as he started tapping his fingers to the song now playing on the jukebox.

Click Here for Song

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah

Will found Charles's tapping a bit distracting, he wanted his full attention before he launched into his confession, but his friend already seemed lost in the rhythm of the song.

You think you've lost your love
Well, I saw her yesterday
It's you she's thinking of
And she told me what to say

She says she loves you
and you know that can't be bad
Yes, she loves you
and you know you should be glad

Will's ears perked up at the words, thinking how apt they were at that moment. An absurd thought flashed through his mind. Are the Beatles trying to give me subliminal messages? He shook his head, dismissing the thought as ridiculous, still intent on bringing up the subject, hoping Charles would pay attention, although now he was bobbing his head to the beat as well as tapping.

"Umm, Charles, there's something you should know."

She said you hurt her so
She almost lost her mind
And now she says she knows
You're not the hurting kind

Charles turned to look at Will, noticing his serious expression. "What is it?" he asked, still tapping, but thankfully his head stopped moving.

"I saw Jane the other day."

Charles eyes lit up, looking delighted for a moment, but then reality returned and his eyes darkened as if a mask were pulled over his face.

"Is she seeing someone else now?" he asked bitterly.

"No, the opposite, I'd say." Darcy paused knowing it was now or never. "Charles, about what I said about Jane's intentions the day you left..." Again, he stumbled, considering what he should say next.

"What I told you wasn't right. I believed Jane was going to drop you and I tried to prevent you from being hurt. I was wrong Charles, and I'm very sorry."

Charles looked at him blankly, trying to grasp what Will was saying. He wasn't sure if he heard him correctly.

"It's true, Charles," Will said, as if reading his mind. "She loves you. She's always loved you."

Charles was dumbfounded. He couldn't say anything in response for a few moments. He needed to think this through. Jane still loves me? As much as he wanted to rejoice, he held back, not completely sure of himself - or Will's involvement.

"Do you mean to tell me, after all this time, Jane never stopped loving me and you admit you were wrong?"

"Utterly and completely."

Still in shock over this revelation, Charles had to think about this some more. It was an answer to his prayers.

Will broke the silence. "I think you should call her."

You know it's up to you I think it's only fair
Pride can hurt you too
Apologize to her

"I can't after all this time, Will," he said. "She'll probably slap me in the face, and I deserve it! I haven't written or called her in five months. How can I go crawling back?" he asked dejectedly.

"Forget about that!" Will urged him on passionately. "Do you still love her?"

"Of course I do. I've never stopped! I never could!" Charles shouted back at him.

They both caught the words of the song at the same time, and a rueful expression came over Will's face. He gave Charles a meaningful look.

"Then go to it!"

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
And with a love like that
You know you should be glad
And with a love like that
You know you should be glad*

Charles scowled, he knew Will was right. With a look of appreciation he said half-seriously, "And don't think you're off the hook either, Darce."

Charles determined to see Jane in person. It was very likely he'd see her at Caroline's graduation in three days. He saw Caroline's schedule and noticed Jane Bennet was one of the volunteers for the ceremony. With that matter settled, he lay into Will about how wrong he was to interfere in his love life. Charles wasn't soft but Will took the tongue lashing gracefully; thankful Charles wasn't the type to hold a grudge. Business out of the way, drinking their Awful Awfuls and devouring their burgers, the two friends caught up with each other. Will thought it best to leave out the part of falling in love with Elizabeth and making a fool of himself over her at his aunt's. Now that he had come clean with Charles, Elizabeth was one part of his life he would try to forget.

***

Longbourn College was especially beautiful in May. Winter was long over and spring was at its peak. Azaleas and rhododendrons were in bloom, tulips were sprouting everywhere, the dogwood and pear trees were blooming; everything was green and lush. Elizabeth looked around feeling a little sad and lost to be leaving for the summer.

There wasn't a cloud in the sky on Longbourn's Graduation Day; it looked to be perfect for the outdoor ceremony. Lizzy and Jane had volunteered to hand out programs to the parents and friends of the graduates, as well as help with the refreshments afterwards. Since their home was in Meryton, it wasn't difficult for them to be involved. There was no rush for them to leave, unlike most of the other undergraduates who were from out of state and fled campus as soon as final exams were over.

The lawn was crowded with parents, friends, faculty and new graduates. The commencement ceremony went off without a hitch, everyone happy and eager to start their new lives. Both Jane and Lizzy knew Caroline Bingley's family would be there, since she was among the graduates, but neither mentioned it, not willing to bring up the sad subject. Jane resigned herself long ago that Charles was a part of her past, although she was determined to remember him as the most wonderful and pleasing man of her acquaintance.

Lizzy could see how her sister still felt about him and the way it left her. She noticed that Jane watched Caroline, in cap and gown, receive her diploma then turn and triumphantly smile at someone in the audience. Jane's eyes immediately followed Caroline's gaze, hoping to catch a glimpse of her family - of Charles. It saddened her to see Jane was not happy. She still obviously cherished a very tender affection for Charles. Lizzy hoped that in time Jane would be able to overcome her heartbreak, although it didn't seem likely any time soon. Lizzy knew the feeling; she still had such a pit in her stomach in regard to Will. At least Jane had a real relationship to regret. I didn't even get the chance.

After the ceremony, Jane ventured off for a quiet moment alone. Lizzy watched her standing by the rhododendron bushes nearby until she dropped some extra programs she'd been holding and bent to pick them up. A young man quickly approached her, dressed in a tan suit. He stood in front of her, as if uncertain of what to do. He looked familiar in his stance and Lizzy realized with a lurch in her stomach that it was Charles. She couldn't tear her eyes from the scene even though she knew she should give them some privacy. Thinking about how tender Jane's feelings were, she wasn't sure what to do. Should she wait or go over there and help her sister?

***

Jane couldn't get comfortable; she kept having the disconcerting feeling she was being watched. She ran her hand through her hair, looking about her, discreetly fixing the line of her skirt, making sure it was straight and that her slip didn't show. What is my problem? I'm so fidgety. She didn't want to admit it, but her mind was on Charles. She was fully aware the Bingleys were there for Caroline's graduation, but she wasn't sure if Charles was back from London and in attendance too.

As she adjusted her skirt, she accidentally dropped her stack of programs and kneeled down to retrieve them. While busily scooping them up from the grass, she saw a man's pair of shoes step into view; brown leather Oxfords. Whoever he was, he was standing right in front of her. As her eyes drifted upwards, she saw the lines of a tan poplin suit. She recognized the figure, but quickly looked up into his face for confirmation. Charles! Smiling hesitantly, he knelt down in front of her and took both of her hands in his as he helped her up. She allowed him to help her, speechless. Thoughts ran rampant through her head; she could barely contain herself, yet on the outside she remained calm and poised before him.

Charles's heart had been in his throat as he watched her from afar. This was his moment of truth. One look from her would tell him if he had any hope. He saw her alone, her slim figure standing in sunlight that was turning her hair a bright golden shade. She was as gorgeous as ever. He took the chance to approach her, just as she dropped the programs while adjusting her clothes. Here was his opportunity. Don't blow it boy, this is your future! She looked up to see him and in one split second he could tell that she still loved him. Will was right; the look in her striking, sky blue eyes was unmistakable. He knelt down before her, and helped her up. Unwilling to let go of her hands, he began to talk.

"I know I have a lot explaining to do, Jane," he began, but just seeing her again was so overwhelming, he couldn't go on. She was gazing at him so calmly and sweetly, her eyes so trusting.

"There are so many things I want to say to you." He searched for words, but her eyes were so...so... it was unnerving! She gave him a little pout with her lips and that was it, to hell with confessions and fancy words!

"But Jane, when you look at me that way, all I want to do is kiss -" His words were cut off as she impulsively threw her arms around his neck and firmly planted her lips on his. It was the last thing he expected - a searing, passionate, lip lock of a kiss! He wasn't about to stop her! Savoring this moment, not caring who saw them, their hands swept along each other's backs, reacquainting themselves as they wrapped their arms around each other, holding on for dear life. After the initial first explosive response between them, they broke apart only to look into one another's eyes quickly, before eagerly kissing each other again. Although in the back of their minds, they knew anyone could see them, they continued in this way for several moments. Nothing could tear them apart - this had been too long coming. Sure, they had a lot of talking to do, but that could wait. At this point, neither one of them was willing to give up their physical reunion for all the tea in China!

As they gradually began to come down from the euphoria of seeing one another again, Jane's eyes filled with tears. She couldn't stop herself. The realization that she was back in Charles's arms was too much for her. All her hopes and dreams were suddenly and shockingly coming to fruition; and the suffering she had gone through the past five months had taken its toll on her. Now, at last, she couldn't hold back any longer.

Bowing her head and wiping her eyes so Charles wouldn't see the mascara stained tears, she choked out, "I love you, Charles" and looked up at him with adoration. "I've always loved you, I never stopped loving you." The words were music to his ears, although it broke his heart to see her teary eyes. This was his dream - to hear her say these words to him now after he thought all was lost - was beyond compare.

"I love you too, Janie, I never stopped loving you either!" He wrapped her in his arms again, squeezing his eyes shut, trying not to cry himself. "I'll never let you go again, I swear," he said into her hair, kissing her as he continued. "It was all a big, stupid mistake. I never should have left things the way I did. I never should have gone to London at all. Not when the best thing in my life was here all along." He shook his head, still in shock, wondering what he could have been thinking to have left her in the first place. Jane looked into his eyes, knowing he meant every word. She had her Charles back and she believed him. She could be happy again. Tears of joy continued to run down her cheeks, but she had stopped caring - He loves me! He never stopped loving me!

Charles, seeing her tears, pulled out a handkerchief and gently wiped her face dry. "Janie, Janie, please don't cry," he said soothingly. "I'm back, it's all right, and we're together again."

She nodded in pure happiness; her feelings overwhelming her. "I know, I know, Charles, I'm so happy!" She wanted to feel him against her again. "Hold me." He gladly complied, taking her in his arms again, never wanting to let her go.

***

From a distance, Lizzy saw the scene unfold before her eyes. She turned away, not wanting to be a voyeur to the happy reunion. She was so pleased for Jane. It seemed someone had told Charles the truth. That someone must be Will Darcy. She knew it had to be. She thought of Will with such melancholy now. If only she had believed him. She looked back on their past with such regret. How could she have so misjudged a person? She turned to take a peek at Jane and Charles, saw them embracing and smiled to herself. No matter what he must think of her now, at least he did the right thing by Jane and Charles, she was grateful to him for that. He kept his word. She realized unhappily that she truly had let what could have been the best thing in her life slip through her fingers.

***

After a few more enjoyable moments of canoodling, Charles realized with a start, "Jane, my parents are here. I want them to meet you." He grabbed her hand, starting to lead her in the direction of where he last saw his parents with Caroline.

"Oh Charles!" Jane was distressed at the prospect. "I don't want your parents to meet me like this, after I've just been crying - I must look a fright!" She started wiping her eyes again with Charles's handkerchief, worried about her appearance.

He shushed her good naturedly. "Jane, you look beautiful. You have nothing to worry about." She gave him a smile, rolling her eyes at him thinking, what do men know? They have no idea!

"C'mon, my parents will love you! They're not going to care about that." He couldn't understand why she was worried. She gave in and let him lead her to his family who were standing with their backs to them as they approached.

"Mom! Dad!" Charles called out to them. They turned and immediately noticed the pretty young girl standing beside him. This was nothing new; Charles was always meeting pretty young things everywhere he went. But what he said next did surprise them. "Mom, Dad, I'd like to introduce you to someone who is very special to me. Meet Jane Bennet, the girl I told you about." He looked at Jane lovingly, and they now knew this was the girl Charles had been so heartsick over last Christmas. Whatever misunderstanding these two had, seemed to have been cleared up. His parents' faces lit up with smiles. They were happy to see their son with the young lady. This time it was serious. This was something special.

No one noticed Caroline's sour expression in the excitement of meeting Jane. Caroline's parents welcomed her with open arms as Caroline stood back watching from afar. She was none too pleased with the circumstances, but now that her parents were in on it, she knew there was nothing she could do. Charles had his little pet back and they would now be blissfully happy. She felt like she was going to be sick. Those conniving Bennets. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed Lizzy Bennet standing off to the side watching the scene as well. Lizzy had a wide, beaming smile on her face as she watched from afar. She was obviously thrilled. Thrilled! Pah! Being truly happy for anyone but herself was beyond Caroline's scope of understanding. Their eyes met and Lizzy's expression turned triumphant. Caroline was left with no doubt what she was thinking. She quickly turned away, intent on not seeing a gloating Elizabeth Bennet.

"Well, that's one thing I won't miss," Lizzy murmured to herself as she saw Caroline turn away. She was glad to see Caroline leaving Longbourn for good. She'd be happy not to see that sourpuss's scowl for the rest of her life!

*The Beatles, "She Loves You" - performed by The Beatles, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. (c) 1963 Northern Songs. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured.

Chapter 12

"Lizzy!" came the chorus of young voices, as the three Gardiner children came spilling out of the front door of the Gardiner's summer house on Fishers Island. Lizzy greeted them with big hugs and complimented them on how much they had each grown since the last Christmas.

"Lizzy, go on into the house with the kids," called Mr. Gardiner, as he proceeded to take her suitcases out of the back of their station wagon. "I'll put your bags in your room for you."

Lizzy thanked him and let the eager children drag her into the house, each one fighting for her attention, speaking all at once, until Mrs. Gardiner came and rescued her. "Lizzy!" She gave her a warm hug. "It's so good to see you. How was the ferry ride, no problems?"

"It was just fine, Aunt Maddie." Even though they weren't related, Lizzy had called the Gardiner's aunt and uncle as long as she could remember. "My parents drove me to New London, and I caught the ferry. Uncle Ed was there waiting for me when the ferry docked."

"Good, I'm glad to hear everything worked out well. Come along, and I'll show you around and get you settled." She took Lizzy to her room, her suitcase already there. It was nicely decorated in a summery island motif with a single twin bed and its own bathroom.

"This is beautiful." Lizzy walked over to the window and was struck by the gorgeous view of the water below. The Gardiners called their house a cottage but really it was a large Tudor-style home, overlooking a small cove, with its own private beach and jetty.

Lizzy opened the window to get a closer look. "Aunt Maddie, what is Cois Na Mara? I saw the sign as we drove in." She had noticed a small sign with that name as she and Uncle Ed turned in to the long and winding driveway that led up to the house.

"It's the name of the house. We all name our homes here on the island. It's Gaelic. It means 'beside the sea'."

"I like the way that sounds." Lizzy hugged herself and inhaled the salty sea air, sensing that she was meant to be here for the summer.

"I'm glad you like it." She came up next to Lizzy and put her arm around her. "We're thrilled to have you with us this summer; it's all the children have been talking about ever since we arrived here last week. They couldn't wait for you. I think you'll like it here. There are a lot of young people on the island that I'm sure you'll get to know. Even though you're working for us, we think of you as one of the family, Lizzy, and you're free to do whatever you want on your day off and evenings. We want you to have fun while you're here."

Lizzy was an appreciative audience. She'd been eagerly looking forward to the first of August and getting out of Meryton. The hot summer months of June and July had dragged on interminably. She was glad to see Jane and Charles together again, but at the same time it was a constant reminder that she'd lost her chance with Will. She was anxious to meet new people and get on with her life. Fishers Island, someplace new and different, was just what she needed. Being here felt like a breath of fresh air.

Over the next few days, Lizzy fell into an easy routine. The girls, Kate and Emily, were twelve and ten, and Christopher, the youngest, was eight. Each day Lizzy made sure they were up and fed in time for lessons at the island's yacht club. She drove them there and waited for their tennis or sailing lessons to be over, or explored on her own and came back for them. Sailing and tennis were de rigueur on the island, and it was important for the children to learn the necessary skills to participate. During the season, there were several sailing regattas that the children eagerly looked forward to. Kate, the most accomplished sailor of the three, would be actively involved in the races, and hoped to bring home a trophy.

One morning during that first week, Lizzy was sunning herself waiting for the children's lessons to end when she noticed a young teenaged girl, all alone, looking for something on the ground. She was tall and pretty with long blonde hair worn back in a high pony tail. Her face wore a look of consternation as she continued to search for something on the sandy path beside the tennis courts.

Noticing the look of worry on the girl's face, Lizzy called out, "Did you lose something? Do you need some help?" She got up from her seat and walked toward the girl, who looked up nervously as she approached.

"I've lost a charm on my bracelet."

"Let me help you look for it." Lizzy volunteered.

The girl looked around her suspiciously, as if afraid of something. She seemed hesitant to accept Lizzy's offer, but finally relented. "Thanks," the girl said gratefully, "it must have fallen off somewhere right around here." She indicated the area in the sand directly below her feet.

Lizzy crouched down beside the girl and the two concentrated on finding the lost charm.

"How big is it?" Lizzy asked. "What does it look like?"

The girl held up her wrist and pointed to the delicate bracelet she was wearing, with a few gold charms dangling from it. "It's the same size as these, and it's a heart," she answered. Lizzy understood and before long, she saw a piece of gold flickering in the sun.

"Aha!" Lizzy cried out exultantly. "I found it!" She picked up the small golden heart and held it out to the girl, who eagerly took the charm in her hand.

"Thank you!" she said gratefully, holding the charm tightly in her fist. "I don't know what I would have done if I'd lost it for good. It was my mother's."

"I'm glad I could help," Lizzy said, delighted. The girl looked at the charm and seemed to hesitate again. Lizzy could tell she wanted to say something else, but realized the girl must be terribly shy. At once she wanted to make the girl at ease.

She put out her hand to introduce herself. "I just realized we don't even know each other's names. I'm Lizzy." The girl smiled, revealing a cute pair of dimples and a mouthful of braces.

"I'm Georgie. It's nice to meet you," she said, meeting Lizzy's hand with her own. They giggled together at the absurdity of their sudden formality.

"It's nice to meet you too, Georgie," and with that, the two fell into easy conversation. Lizzy explained to Georgie why she was on the island and Georgie responded that her family had a house on the island and she'd been there the whole summer. They had been together until it was time for Lizzy to go when Georgie suddenly asked Lizzy if she played tennis.

"If you're not busy tomorrow at this same time, would you like to play tennis with me?"

Lizzy nodded. "I'd love to. We could play while the kids are in lessons."

"Great!" Georgie beamed. "Then I'll see you here tomorrow - same time?"

"You bet." Lizzy assured her and went down to the dock to wait for the kids, whose sailing lesson was ending almost any minute.

Georgie and Lizzy met the next day and the one after that. Lizzy looked forward to seeing her and they became fast friends. They laughed and talked and enjoyed each other's company, although Lizzy noticed Georgie was reticent to talk about herself or her family, so Lizzy didn't press her. She knew instinctively that when Georgie was ready to talk about herself, she would. All Lizzy really knew about Georgie was that she had an older brother.

Lizzy had been at the Gardiner's for almost a week when she and Georgie noticed a sign posted on the bulletin board at the yacht club about a dance for the "young set" scheduled for Friday night.

"Are you going to the dance?" Georgie asked.

"I hadn't planned on it, are you?"

"I will if you will!" Georgie said, giving Lizzy a big grin, daring her to go.

Lizzy gave Georgie a sideways glance. "Is that a dare?"

Georgie had a secret plan in mind. She answered slowly, with an impish look. "May-be, maybe not."

Never one to turn down a dare, Lizzy responded with a laugh, "Sure, I'll go! It'll be fun!"

"Great! Maybe I can get my brother to go too!" Georgie wiggled her eyebrows. Lizzy guessed that Georgie was up to something.

"No way!" Lizzy flatly stated, shaking her head. "Absolutely not. No fix-ups!"

Georgie wouldn't take no for an answer. "Come on, Lizzy, my brother's nice, what have you got to lose?" She gave Lizzy her most pitiful puppy dog eyes. "Please?"

What do I have to lose? For a moment, Georgie's eyes triggered a memory of another's, but why, she couldn't put a finger on it. However, it made her realize there was nothing really stopping her. She blinked her eyes for a moment, trying to shake the image of him away. It's time to move on, Lizzy. She gave in to Georgie, who was still trying to impress her with her most sorrowful look. "How can I resist when you look like that?" Georgie jumped with glee and twirled around. "I promise you won't be sorry!"

Lizzy fixed her with a warning look. Sometimes, Lizzy was beginning to realize, Georgie was irresistible. It was impossible not to give in to this sweet young girl.

"You better be right!" Lizzy kidded her, and pretended to bop her on the head with her tennis racquet.

***

The night of the dance, Elizabeth entered the main room of the yacht club in her bright yellow sundress with the full swing skirt and simple scoop neckline. Hoping to recognize someone, she looked around quickly to see who was there. She'd made a few friends, aside from Georgie, and expected to see at least a few of them. She saw lots of teenagers laughing and dancing. While some appeared to be closer to her age, the majority seemed slightly younger. Maybe Georgie is here already, Lizzy felt a little nervous to be all alone. She said she was coming with her brother. Lizzy searched for her in the crowded party room while slowly making her way over to the refreshment table. Lizzy sighed, she didn't see Georgie anywhere.

***

"Georgie, you go off with your friends, I'll be all right over here, don't worry about me."

"Charles is always telling me how he hates to see you stand alone by yourself at parties, why don't you ask someone to dance?" Georgie suggested to her brother petulantly. She wanted him to have fun and enjoy himself instead of being a stick in the mud. I wish Lizzy would get here, where is she? She scanned the room, but saw no sign of her yet. I hope she's still coming.

He patted her head condescendingly. "Run along, brat."

She rolled her eyes at him. "I'm not a brat, Will."

He gave her a brotherly smirk. "That's what you think. Go on, I'll be fine." He smiled at her genuinely. Half convinced, she finally gave up and went off looking for her friend.

Lizzy continued to look for Georgie as she stood near the refreshment table, but instead a raggedy looking long white ribbon lying on the floor a few feet away caught her eye. Without thinking, she bent to reach for it and her head collided with something hard. Lizzy closed her eyes briefly as she saw stars for a moment, stunned from the knock on her head. When her eyes opened, her breath caught when she saw who was before her and she blinked her eyes again. I must be seeing things!

Seeing was one thing, but smelling was another one altogether. She breathed in a pleasantly familiar scent that made her heart beat faster. I know that smell. It is him!

***

Uncomfortable and feeling much too old for the mostly teenaged crowd, Will felt more like a chaperone. He fingered Elizabeth's ribbon in his pocket and pulled it out to look at. It was getting old and slightly frayed, but he cherished it and couldn't bring himself to part with it. He didn't care if it was dirty, it belonged to her, and it was the only thing he had left to remember her by. While he was holding it before his eyes, someone accidentally nudged him and it fell to the floor below. Intent on retrieval before someone stepped on it, he immediately reached to pick it up and was surprised to find someone else was reaching for it at the same time.

Anxious to rescue the ribbon, he deftly scooped it up, only to find himself immediately bumping heads with another. Surprised, he looked to see whom he collided with and didn't believe the evidence before his own eyes. He gasped aloud while looking into the lovely upturned face of the girl who had haunted his dreams for the past five months.

Both cried out simultaneously, "YOU!"

Lizzy was still kneeling as she looked up into Will's face. She was astounded, completely taken aback. Quickly pocketing the ribbon, Will reached out to her, taking her hands in his and helped her to her feet, even though his own legs were wobbly from the sight of her. Both of them were in a state of shock.

I can't believe it, someone pinch me, Lizzy thought to herself. It couldn't be, could it? It had to be her imagination, how could he be there? Lizzy wished she was dreaming. She was mortified by her clumsiness; unanswered questions had made her dizzy and lightheaded. Could this be a more embarrassing moment? What do I do? What must he think of me? What is he doing here? Her thoughts were all over the place and she was struck dumb looking up to his face, blushing profusely and finding it impossible to think clearly. All she could do was look into those deep, dark, searching eyes that appeared to penetrate into her very depths. Her knees trembled as she swayed toward him.

Sensing her unsteadiness, Will reached out instinctively and pulled her close, holding her upright against his chest. She could feel his heart beating rapidly as he held her close in his strong embrace. His familiar scent was overwhelming and she continued to feel lightheaded, but this time it wasn't the bump on her head making her feel that way. Please don't let me faint in his arms!

He locked eyes with her as his arms steadied her. He didn't know how it happened that he could suddenly be so lucky, but he'd be damned if he was going to let her go! He would savor this moment for the rest of his life if need be. All he knew was this girl - the girl he loved - his Elizabeth, was in his arms, and it felt so right - nothing could stop him now!

They stood momentarily oblivious to everything around them. Lizzy felt the tightening of his arms; she stopped fighting and gave in to them, relishing the feel of his strength. But all good things must come to an end. She realized she couldn't remain this way forever; she had to pull herself together. After another few moments, she managed a weak smile and spoke up, haltingly.

"Thank you... you can let me go... really, I'm fine now." She tried to disentangle herself from his grasp, and regretfully he let her go. He felt like kicking himself, She probably still hates me. How could I keep holding her against her will? It's just like the last time we were together. I'll never learn.

He looked into her face, which seemed so pale and fragile. "Are you sure you're all right? Do you need something to drink? Can I get something for you? You don't look well."

Oh great! I must look like a wreck! Uncomfortable with his concern, she became more distressed. Unconsciously, she licked her lips, unaware of the effect it had upon him.

"Really, I'm fine, I was just surprised, that's all." She tried to make light of the situation even though her insides were jumping all over the place.

Will didn't really believe her, but went along with it. "If you say so." They continued to eye each other, self-conscious, searching for something to say.

Eventually, they got past the awkward moment, and Lizzy realized she still didn't know what Will was doing there. Bluntly, she asked him, "Why are you here?"

"At the dance?"

"No, on Fishers Island."

"I live here," he answered plainly. "What about you? What are you doing here?" He waited for her response.

"You live here?" Lizzy was nonplussed. What were the odds? Of all places - she winds up on this little island - and it's Will Darcy's home?

"I had no idea." she said faintly, lost in thought.

Will was just as astonished as she, but he was determined to remain calm and polite. "I know, what are the chances? What brings you here?"

"I'm working as a mother's helper for friends of our family - the Gardiners. They have a house here." She was happy to be distracted with such a simple question.

Will furrowed his eyebrows while trying to place the name, "Gardiner...Gardiner...the name kind of rings a bell." He noticed she was looking around the room as if for someone in particular. It suddenly occurred to him that she may not have come to the dance alone. Is she looking for her date? He dreaded to ask her, but he had to know.

"Umm, are you here with anyone?" he asked apprehensively.

"No one, I came alone. I'm supposed to meet my friend and her br -" she looked at Will in a new light, realization dawning, "- brother." At that moment she knew exactly who Georgie's brother was.

"Does your sister go by the name Georgie?" Lizzy asked, amazed by the fates that seemed to have thrown them back into each other's path.

Puzzled, Will looked at her, "Yes."

Suddenly all of the unbelievable coincidences struck Lizzy as incredibly funny. Georgie was Will's sister! She'd played tennis with her everyday for the past week and had no idea! It was an amazing fluke!

"You're her brother!" she blurted out. "You're Georgie's brother!" Lizzy started laughing, it wasn't just funny, it was absurd!

Will didn't get the joke, "What are you talking about, Elizabeth? Just what's so funny?"

"Your sister and I have become good friends! We've been meeting here everyday. She's the one I was supposed to meet tonight!"

His sister had mentioned meeting a new friend. He briefly tried to remember - what was her name? Lizzy! Of course! Now Will fully understood.

"Won't she be surprised when she finds out we already know each other?" he laughed aloud at the thought. As Lizzy heard the rich timbre of his laughter, she realized it was the first time she had ever actually heard or seen Will laugh. She marveled at him. How handsome he looks. Their eyes met and the air crackled with tension. He quickly sobered as he was reminded of how they didn't know each other. The thought instantly brought him back to reality. He wished he knew what she was thinking. What does Elizabeth think of me now? Did she get my letter? Did she read it? Has she forgiven me?

An idea came to him as a new song started to play. Taking the initiative, he decided to find out his answer one way or another. Dancing was always enlightening when it came to Elizabeth. He took her hand in his, and indicated the crowded dance floor.

"Come," he said, his eyes determined but gentle. "Dance with me."

She bit her bottom lip, hesitating slightly. His hair looked attractively unmanageable as a curl lingered down upon his forehead. His eyes were willing her to join him. Warm at the thought of being close to him, she nodded, allowing herself to be led out onto the dance floor. The song had a relaxed medley, nothing too energetic, yet not too slow either - perfect for the tentative feelings each felt for the other. He held her at arms length, as she cautiously placed her hands upon his shoulders.

Click Here for Song

Before this dance is through
I think I'll love you too
I'm so happy when you dance with me

Will was determined to be on his best behavior with Elizabeth; he would not botch it up this time. Grateful for this second chance, he meant to show her she could trust him and prove his merit to her. They faced each other shyly as they danced to the beat.

I don't want to kiss or hold your hand
If it's funny try and understand
There is really nothing else I'd rather do...
'Cause I'm happy just to dance with you

He reminded himself, concentrating on breathing evenly. I won't push her. I can do this. I'll let her set the pace.

I don't need to hug or hold you tight
I just want to dance with you all night
In this world there's nothing I would rather do...
'Cause I'm happy just to dance with you

Elizabeth was still reeling from the shock of running into Will. So many thoughts were rushing through her head that she was unsure of herself, and of him. Does he still love me? I can't believe he asked me to dance after all I've said and done. How do I apologize for my behavior? It's so nice right now, I don't want to ruin things and bring it up. In the past, she'd always misread him, a mistake she didn't want to repeat. She looked up into his dark eyes, searching for an answer.

Just to dance with you
Is everything I need
Before this dance is through
I think I'll love you too
I'm so happy when you dance with me

Will returned her gaze, savoring the feel of her in his arms again. He had to keep reminding himself not to let his hands wander as he held her waist. Easier said than done. Gradually, he began to relax. It felt right, easy, a perfect fit. Nothing made him feel this good; he could dance with her forever.

If somebody tries to take my place
Let's pretend we just can't see his face
In this world there's nothing I would rather do...
'Cause I'm happy just to dance with you

As Will looked around the dance floor, he recognized the appreciative glances from the various guys watching from the sidelines as he and Elizabeth danced together. Jealousy swept over him as he perceived them to be ogling Elizabeth's figure. She was gorgeous in the yellow cotton sundress that showed off her lithe body and tanned legs. She's sweeter than all the girls. None of them came close to his Elizabeth. He was mesmerized by the sparkle in her eyes as she danced and every time she bit her bottom lip he imagined what it would be like to kiss her right in that spot. No way would he let someone else cut in on their dance tonight.

Just to dance with you
Is everything I need
Before this dance is through
I think I'll love you too I'm so happy when you dance with me

Elizabeth became more and more at ease with Will as their dance continued. For once there was no animosity between them. There seemed to be a tacit agreement, an understanding. Had they been asked, neither could have explained it, but they both felt the same way. Let's start over - fresh.

Will couldn't let her go after this one dance.

"Elizabeth?" he began, his dimples showing as he smiled down at her.

"Yes?" she answered, lost in his eyes as he pronounced her name.

If somebody tries to take my place

Her breath caught as he pulled her closer.

Let's pretend we just can't see his face

He was taking a chance. With a winning smile, he continued "Will you promise you'll only dance with me for the rest of the night?" She felt she would promise him anything as long as he held her like this.

She didn't hesitate. There was nothing else in the world she wanted than to dance with him. "I promise," she said dreamily, swaying in his arms.

In this world there's nothing I would rather do...
'Cause I'm happy just to dance with you
'Cause I'm happy just to dance with you

She felt as if God had looked down on her and given her a second chance. She wasn't about to mess it up this time. Her eyes were finally wide open, she knew what she wanted. She held on, giving him a tiny squeeze. Inwardly sighing, she sent up a silent, grateful prayer. Thank you.

***

"Mrs. Reynolds, it's too bad you couldn't have been there." Georgie told her story mischievously. "I have never in my whole entire life seen anything like it." Georgie buttered her toast and reached for the homemade raspberry jam from one of Mrs. Reynold's prize-winning recipes.

Mrs. Reynolds was listening attentively while expertly sautéing a cheese omelet before the enormous six chambered stove in the Darcy's immaculate kitchen. "Miss Georgie, do you mean to say," asked the kindly older woman who had been taking care of the Darcys at Pemberley ever since William was four years old. "He danced with the same young lady for the entire evening?" This was news. The young master never danced with anyone, much less the same girl all night! I have to meet this young lady.

"You should have seen them!" Georgie continued enthusiastically. "They looked like they were in another world or something, completely oblivious to anyone else. If I didn't know better," she stopped to take a bite of her toast, "I'd say that they were in lo - "

"Not another word, Georgie." Will cut her off and gave her a steely look that spoke volumes as he entered the kitchen. He acted as if nothing were different that morning, although there was a decided "chirpiness" and spring in his step that did not go unnoticed by his sister and Mrs. Reynolds.

Georgiana continued to munch her toast, casting 'I told you so' glances at Mrs. Reynolds while sticking her tongue out at her brother when she knew he wasn't looking.

***

The next morning, Elizabeth felt she couldn't do anything right. She was so distracted with thoughts of Will and of the night before that she was all thumbs and kept dropping everything. While buttering toast for the kids, she accidentally knocked the stick of butter off the counter into the open and waiting mouth of Achilles, the Gardiner's golden retriever, who was always under foot when there was food to be had. In one gulp he swallowed the butter whole. Then she knocked over the Rice Krispies, spilling them across the kitchen floor. Achilles immediately gobbled up all the crunchy little pieces that lay scattered. When finished, he looked up at her with his smiling face, licking his chops, ready for more. She rolled her eyes at him. At least someone's enjoying their morning.

Madeline Gardiner, aware of the difference in Lizzy that morning, was eager to sound her out about the dance. She loved Lizzy like a daughter and knew something had happened to her at the yacht club. When asked if she enjoyed herself, Lizzy blushed and answered yes, but gave no further details. Madeline was sure there was more to it, but she didn't press her. Lizzy was a sensible girl and would tell her when she was ready, but the older woman already recognized the telltale signs. It had to be a boy.

At the yacht club later in the day, Lizzy was with Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner as they watched the children's progress in their sailing lessons. Lizzy was able to relax and mull over the previous night's events, savoring every moment she'd spent with Will. It was a blustery warm day and the salty air felt good upon her face. She looked out across the bay before her, thinking of another time in another place when she had been near the sea and thinking of Will. It seemed like a million years ago. So much had happened since then. Her feelings were now so different towards him! She knew there was still a lot about him that could be considered arrogant, but at least now she was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and not misjudge him as she had in the past. They had danced the whole night together and talked and talked about everything.

***

Georgie had deliberately mentioned to Will that Elizabeth went to the yacht club nearly every day with the Gardiner children. Appreciative, he wasted no time in jumping in his Jaguar and heading down there from Pemberley. While driving, he remembered one of the conversations they had the night before that finally revealed the answer to the burning question he'd had ever since they first met.

They'd gone outside toward the water and the yacht club's dock, getting a breath of cool air after dancing. It was calm and quiet in the moonlight, although the sounds of laughter and music could be heard over the lapping of the small waves on the little beach used for launching boats. Will looked askance at the dock, remembering the last time they'd been alone on a dock. He deftly steered her toward the beach. Eventually, after standing together, soaking up the atmosphere, Will had gathered the courage to mention the night they first met.

Quietly, he asked her, "Elizabeth, what happened at Longbourn, why did you run away from me the night we met?"

"Boy, you get right to the point, don't you," she said looking away, with a nervous laugh. He kept watching her, waiting for an answer. She finally turned to him and said,

"Will, that was so long ago, can't we just forget it and start over?" He could tell from the look of uncertainty on her face that there was something she didn't want to tell him, almost as if she were embarrassed.

"Come on, tell me, it can't be that bad," he coaxed. She paused and a look of resignation came over her face.

"It was Caroline."

"What about Caroline?"

"When I went to the ladies' lounge after our dance that first night at Longbourn, she cornered me and told me she was engaged to you. She basically told me to stay away from you."

At last, the truth! Caroline! If he could have, he would have strangled Caroline at that very moment. The girl was an interfering witch, nothing but trouble! How dare she? He remembered the look of anguish on Elizabeth's young face that night when he had found her, and how she had told him to leave her alone. No wonder she was so upset!

He wanted to comfort Elizabeth then and there, to assure her that none of it was true. But, he had promised himself that if he were given another chance he would take things slowly with her, not rush her. He wanted her to be comfortable with him before he brought up anything further. He knew better than to take anything for granted when it came to Elizabeth.

He looked at her sincerely, taking her hands in his. "Elizabeth, that was never true - you know that don't you?"

She nodded in understanding. As Will looked back on that moment, he cherished the look on her face. As she stepped closer to him, her eyes seemed to be willing him to believe her; there was such earnestness in them. He had wanted to kiss her badly, but was too afraid that he would ruin it with her.

Almost missing the turn due to a lack of concentration, he drove up to the small yacht club and parked his car in the graveled lot. Looking around, he found her easily, standing next to a middle aged couple near the water. There were other people standing around, mostly parents watching their children in the cat boat races. Elizabeth turned and saw Will's approach. An immediate smile lit up her face. He hesitated slightly, not sure if he should come nearer, aware she was most likely with her employers, the Gardiners. She waved shyly for him to come over, and he took her action to be a yes.

Madeline Gardiner saw the radiant look and sudden flush on Lizzy's face. She turned to see a very handsome young man approaching them. She recognized him right away. Isn't that young Will Darcy of Pemberley? No wonder, she thought in understanding. I'd be in a tizzy too if I was Lizzy and Will Darcy was looking at me like that.

Will reached the threesome and Lizzy introduced him to the Gardiners. They talked together pleasantly, the Gardiners informing Will of the friendship they previously had with Will's father and how sorry they had been when he passed away three years ago. Will thanked them for their kind words. He was impressed with them and their relaxed attitude particularly since Elizabeth was their employee. Elizabeth had spoken of them the night before, telling him they were old friends of the family. She had told him she enjoyed working for them very much and thought of them as an aunt and uncle. Eventually, the Gardiners sent Lizzy off with Will, allowing the young couple some time alone. After they left to get a soda at the clubhouse, Madeline turned to her husband.

"Do you see what I see?"

"You mean, did I notice how those two couldn't take their eyes off one another?"

"Exactly," Madeline said as she wrapped her arm around her husband's waist. They began to walk down the long dock away from the beach and she gave him a knowing look. "I recognize that look on his face."

"Oh? And how is it you recognize 'looks' on handsome young men? Is there something you're trying to tell me?" he asked teasingly, giving her a squeeze.

"It hasn't been that long, you know, since you used to give me those looks," she said laughingly.

"Used to? Well, I'll have to remedy that, won't I?" He raised an eyebrow.

She laughed and gave him an impish look before turning back to look at the children's progress out on the water.

***

While Lizzy and Will drank their Cokes at the clubhouse, Lizzy brought up a subject that had been hanging over her head ever since she first saw him again.

"Will, I had a good time last night, but there's something I need to get off my chest."

She saw him look at her askance, as if he was worried about what she was about to tell him. She rushed to reassure him, placing her hand on his arm. "No, no, it's all right. But I need to apologize for my behavior that day at Rosings." She saw a look of protestation on his face as he attempted to stop her.

"No Will - let me say this," she continued. "I was rude and what I did that day to you was unconscionable." Again, he tried to protest, but she continued. "I was so ashamed of the way I treated you that day, especially after I read your letter. Now that I know Georgie, I feel even worse that I actually believed George Wickham's lies." She looked up into his eyes earnestly, "Please forgive me?"

He smiled down at her reassuringly. "Elizabeth, as far as I'm concerned, you never had to worry about forgiveness from me. You couldn't have known about George and he's a great liar. I'm willing to forget about it if you are."

She smiled in relief and nodded her agreement. She felt like they had a clean slate before them now.

After that, the days flew by as Will and Lizzy saw more and more of each other. Although Lizzy had her duties with the Gardiner family, which occupied most of her time, she still managed to play tennis with Georgie at the yacht club nearly every day. Will managed to find an excuse to be there just as often, usually at the same time as their tennis date. On Lizzy's day off, he took her and Georgie out sailing. As much as Will relished every minute he spent with Elizabeth, he was eager to spend some time alone with her. Unbeknownst to him, Lizzy was having the same exact thoughts about Will. She was beginning to wonder if he was purposefully avoiding "alone time." Why hadn't he asked her out for a date?

Finally, as luck would have it, he came up with a plan that would place them alone together for more than just a few hours. It was a secret he hoped she'd be happy about. From what he heard, this was the biggest thing to happen this whole summer. A few nights later, Will drove over to the Gardiners alone and asked Elizabeth to come out for a drive. Inwardly, she was ecstatic to see he was alone, but remained cool and calm as she asked the Gardiners for permission. They were waved off, the Gardiners telling them to have fun. She slid into the front seat beside Will, a little nervous at the thought of finally being alone with him again.

They drove to the beach and Will parked. She was surprised that he stopped, but at the same time nervously excited at the thought. Lizzy had heard that this particular beach was a well known Lover's Lane on the island for many teenagers. Her heart began to pound and she licked her lips nervously, suddenly shy with him in his car. He turned to her, jumpy with anticipation; he couldn't wait to spring his surprise on her. He leaned towards her taking her hands in his.

Her breath caught at his touch. All her old doubts and fears about him melted away, they were unimportant now. She willed herself to stop shaking like a leaf as she sensed something momentous was about to happen.

"I have a big surprise for you," he said, continuing to hold her hands. "Close your eyes." She closed them obediently. At that moment she was ready willing and able to fall into his arms. This is it! He's going to finally kiss me! The fact that Will had not kissed her yet had begun to weigh heavily upon her mind. In fact, it had become a full time preoccupation, wondering what a kiss from Will Darcy would be like. Now that they were finally alone together, she prepared herself for the ultimate moment. She tilted her head up to him, her lips suggestively puckered, ready for that first kiss.

Will looked down at her, biting his lip at the tempting invitation. But he had to stop himself. This wasn't where or how he wanted their first kiss to be - at the most obvious make out spot on the island. He had another surprise in store for her that moment. Stifling a laugh, he pulled out a pair of tickets and held them up in front of her face.

"Open your eyes."

Disappointed at not receiving the expected kiss, she pouted and opened her eyes, throwing him an unmistakable glance which nearly made him forget his noble intentions and kiss those pouty lips senseless. Before he could act, she saw the pair of tickets held up before her. She looked at them at first in confusion. Then she looked more closely at them and realized they had photos of the Beatles on them. What are these?

Will was grinning, waiting for her reaction. Seeing the look of bewilderment in her face, he felt he had to explain.

"They're tickets." He grabbed onto her shoulders enthusiastically and looked her in the eye. "Don't you want to see the Beatles at Shea Stadium?"




*The Beatles, "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You" - 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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