Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I Saw Her Standing There

Chapter 16

The morning after Will's call, Lizzy had trouble concentrating on her duties. Her mind focused on Will, and his successful efforts rescuing her sister from that awful liar, George Wickham. Will assured her that George would no longer cause them any problems. She wasn't sure what he meant exactly, but she was confident he had taken care of everything. She giggled to herself, thinking, He's like Superman! Was there anything Will Darcy couldn't do?

Lizzy continuously looked at her watch, counting the hours, trying to guess what time she would finally see him again. She drove the children to the yacht club for their lessons, and stopped at the farm stand for the fresh corn and tomatoes Aunt Maddie had asked her to pick up for dinner. Throughout all her errands, her thoughts continually drifted to Will. She wanted to see him so badly, to have him hold her again. She thought she'd go crazy; every minute seemed to take an hour. If only he would get here! Returning to the house for lunch with the children, she made them sandwiches before they went down to play by the water. Christopher Gardiner, who had recently learned how to whistle, was intent on finding as many snails as he could. He was convinced that if he whistled to them, he would be able to coax them out of their shells.

"I'll be right down - don't go in the water until I get there!" Lizzy called to the children as they made their way to the water. "I just have to put away the dishes and clean up."

Lizzy turned to the sink and absently washed the same plate over and over. Mrs. Gardiner, ever observant, could see how preoccupied Lizzy was with her thoughts and sympathized, giving Lizzy an understanding smile. "Don't worry, Lizzy, I'll go down and watch them myself. Why don't you stay up here and relax for a bit, I think you could use a break."

Lizzy turned and gave her a thankful hug. "Am I really that obvious?"

Mrs. Gardiner nodded and chuckled. "No, it's not that obvious, but I know you're anxious for your Will to get back so you can see him again."

"He's not my Will, Aunt Maddie," Lizzy responded, self-consciously.

"Oh, I beg to differ, Lizzy." She gave her a motherly pat on the back. "I can recognize love." Lizzy blushed.

Firmly but good-naturedly, Mrs. Gardiner took her by the shoulders. "This is an order. Take a break. I'll watch the children down at the cove. Why don't you read that book of yours and lie in the sun for a bit - that might take your mind off of things." Lizzy nodded, giving in. First, she insisted on finishing up the lunch dishes, and then she changed her clothes and got into her favorite two piece swimsuit, the one that allowed maximum tanning benefits.

As she made her way outside, book in hand, to sunbathe on the patio, she heard the familiar sound of a car on the graveled stones of the driveway. Her heart leapt hoping it was Will. He's here! She ran around the house to see and was surprised to see a big, black chauffeur-driven car stopping in front of the Gardiner's front door. "Who on earth -" she began, when, with a start, she recognized the woman peering out the back seat window of the car. Mrs. DeBourgh!

Suddenly self-conscious of her casual clothing - or lack thereof - she wished for at least a towel to cover herself. She thought momentarily of running to get a pair of shorts to put on - but too late! Mrs. DeBourgh had seen her.

"Miss Bennet!" she said emphatically. "I wish to have a word with you." Her chauffeur handed her out of the car with great ceremony. Mrs. DeBourgh stood, as if waiting for Elizabeth to come to her.

Lizzy hesitated; she had a bad feeling about this.

***

Of all the many nightmares Will had ever had, never was there one as appalling as the scene now taking place between Lizzy and his aunt Catherine.

"Tell me, once for all, are you engaged to him?"

"No, I am not."

"And will you promise me never to enter into such an engagement?"

"I will not! I will never make a promise of that kind!"

"I expected to find a more reasonable young woman, but I see now I was deluding myself. Look at the way you're dressed - or I should say undressed. You are in no way suited to be my nephew's wife. I am not leaving until you give me the assurance that you will not marry him."

"I will never give it. I won't be intimidated into anything of the kind. Will loves me and I love him. If he asks me to marry him, that's his decision, and if I accept, it's mine. You have completely mistaken me, if you think you can insult and coerce me into saying otherwise. Why would I make such a ridiculous promise to you - someone so wholly unconnected with me - when I know the man I love would be hurt by it?"

Will's heart swelled as Elizabeth stood her ground with his aunt, but he could not let things go any further. In his most compelling voice, he entered the fray.

"And I, Aunt Catherine, will not let her make that promise!" Will turned to Elizabeth as he said this. Gasping inwardly, he couldn't stop his eyes from traveling over Elizabeth's bikini-clad body. He swallowed hard, forcing himself to concentrate on the business at hand. Turning from Elizabeth, he questioned his aunt. "What is going on here? Just what are you doing here, aunt?"

"I was informing this impertinent miss," Mrs. DeBourgh looked Lizzy up and down with hawk-like disapproval as she said the words, "that you are already engaged to my daughter, Anne - and that she must end this indecent affair at once!" Will looked at his aunt incredulously. He tried to rein in the anger he was feeling toward her at that moment.

"Aunt Catherine," he began icily. "I must respectfully ask you to leave these premises this very minute. Your presence here is unwanted. I am not engaged to Anne, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever be in the future. Elizabeth loves me," he turned back to Elizabeth, his words caressing her. "- and I love her." Their eyes met, and the connection was palpable between them. Sheer willpower prevented him from taking her into his arms and holding her - kissing her.

Once again, he struggled to avert his gaze from Elizabeth's figure, now was not the time to dwell on luscious curves and tantalizing cleavage. Seeing her in nothing but a revealing two piece bathing suit was creating too much of a distraction. He had to turn away in order to maintain his concentration on the problem at hand. Briskly, he fought to clear his mind of the inviting image. Later man, later.

The now shrill voice of his Aunt Catherine conveniently interrupted his thoughts. "William, this is abominable! How dare you to speak to me in this fashion!"

"I can speak to you as I please, Aunt Catherine." Will was mindful of no rudeness, only aware that he needed to remove his aunt as soon as possible. "How dare you barge in here, uninvited, and accost Elizabeth! Enough!" He ushered his aunt to her car unceremoniously.

"I am seriously displeased! This will not be the end of this, young man!" she stated in her most queenly voice as he guided her into the backseat, while her chauffeur held the door open for her.

"I am not afraid of you, Aunt Catherine. There is nothing you can do to prevent me from acting upon my own wishes and intentions. Good day, ma'am!" He slammed the door, effectively silencing her; then waved the chauffeur off.

Lizzy stood, rooted to the spot, speechless. She watched Mrs. DeBourgh's car drive away; a dark thundercloud that had spoiled an otherwise perfectly blue sky.

Will brushed his hands together; his work was done. Turning to Elizabeth, he wasted no time in taking her into his arms. She looked into his brown eyes, a feeling of warmth and deep love overflowing. My hero! She laughed aloud at the thought.

Will pulled her closer to him, reveling in the softness of her bare skin beneath his fingers. With a rakish smile, he asked, "And just what is so funny, Miss Bennet?"

Lizzy looked at him archly, never mind how captivating it felt to be held in his strong arms again.

"I was just thinking..." she said mischievously.

He pulled her even closer.

"Thinking about what?" He brought his lips closer to hers.

Her breath caught. She was sure she would die if he didn't kiss her right away. Without taking her eyes off his lips, she kept up the tease. "I may have forgotten how to... kiss you..." She cast her eyes down demurely, enjoying their little game. "It's been so long..."

His eyebrow went up charmingly. "We can't have that now, can we? Allow me to refresh your memory." With that, his mouth came crushing down upon hers, kissing her hard, and refreshing her memory most effectively. Lizzy's arms reached around his neck as she gladly reciprocated. Burying her hands in his dark curls, she surrendered to the thrill of his fiery kiss and embrace. Lost in the moment, they came up for air gasping.

Lizzy giggled and licked her lips fetchingly, never removing her eyes from his. "Now I remember."

"Let's make sure, shall we?" Going in for another kiss, his lips met hers again. After a few more delightful moments, Will released her, remembering something she'd said to his aunt. His face was suddenly serious.

"Did you really mean what you said to my Aunt Catherine?"

"What did you say?" apprehension coming over her.

Will repeated the question again.

Lizzy tried to stall. "W-what part?"

"About...you know." Now Will was the apprehensive one.

Lizzy turned so he couldn't see her face, and took a few steps away, afraid of where this was leading. She had an idea, but she didn't want to go there just yet.

"I don't know what you mean," she said casually - a little too casually.

Will came up behind her, placing his hands on her bare shoulders; he turned her around to face him.

"When Aunt Catherine asked if you would agree never to become engaged to me..." He stopped, looking for a sign of encouragement.

She took a deep breath and nodded, her eyes fastened on his.

"Did you mean it?" he was suddenly afraid of her answer.

She knew quite well what he was talking about. She could see it in his eyes, the need to hear her answer. He wouldn't let this go.

"Yes," she answered softly.

He let out a huge exhalation from holding his breath.

She saw a dawning in his eyes - a huge burden seemed to have been lifted from his shoulders. She could tell he was excited, but was trying to restrain his emotions.

"In that case," he started searching for something in his pocket. "I - I didn't mean to...that is..." He pulled out a blue box with a white ribbon around it. He turned his back to her briefly, fumbling with the ribbon.

Lizzy stood frozen, unable to believe what was happening. What is he doing...no, it couldn't be...is he...? Tears were starting to form in her eyes. She had imagined this, of course, but never did she think it would really happen! With all their difficulties and misunderstandings she never believed it was possible. Could it be? Was this really happening?

Holding something small in his hand, he turned around and took her left hand in his.

"Elizabeth Bennet," he took a deep breath, and knelt down before her on bended knee. "Will you make me the happiest man on earth and marry me?"

Through blurry, tear-filled eyes, Lizzy looked down into Will's face. His earnest expression told her he was serious. She felt like she was swimming under water and couldn't come up for air. She looked down at her hand, now held in Will's. Waiting - he was still waiting for an answer. A sparkle caught her eye. A diamond. She couldn't think straight, she tried. She looked into his eyes once more - searching. They were shining, unwavering. He loved her. In that moment, that one split second, she knew. She had her answer.

"Yes!" she cried, finding her voice. "Yes, yes, yes!" He slipped the ring onto her finger and swept her up into his arms, lifting her off the ground in a twirl.

Will had never experienced such euphoria. He was ecstatic! He could barely contain himself. He set her down on the ground and promptly kissed her again. He couldn't kiss her enough! I am the luckiest man in the world!

But there was still one question that needed to be answered.

"Do you like it?" he asked, trying not to sound too anxious.

Lizzy was still on cloud nine. "Like what?"

"The ring!" he playfully tapped her left hand.

"Oh - the ring!" She couldn't believe she had forgotten all about it! "Of course!" She proudly held her hand out admiring the diamond solitaire that sparkled in the sunlight. She looked down at it tenderly, admiring it. "I love it. How could I not?" She looked into his soft brown eyes, glistening from unshed tears. "I love you so much, Will."

Click here for song.

I give her all my love
That's all I do
And if you saw my love
You'd love her too
I love her

He swept her into his arms again; he simply couldn't get enough of her as he answered her with a passionate embrace.

She gives me everything
And tenderly
The kiss my lover brings
She brings to me
And I love her

He pulled back and gazed at her earnestly, "I will love you forever, Elizabeth." Heedless of their whereabouts, Will showered her with kisses and gentle caresses, again, sweeping her off her feet in his strong arms. Neither was willing to end this magical moment.

A love like ours
Could never die
As long as I
Have you near me

Holding one another, they knew this was real: a true, everlasting love. They had come full circle since their first meeting when he saw her standing there in the ballroom at Longbourn. From their first dance, through all the misunderstandings and suffering they had each endured, there had been an undeniable pull. Now, having overcome their ups and downs, they had made it out of the storm at last. Their love was stronger than ever - nothing would ever come between them again.

Bright are the stars that shine
Dark is the sky
I know this love of mine
will never die
And I love her*

*"And I Love Her" - performed by The Beatles, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. (c) 1964 Northern Songs. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured.

Chapter 17


Three Months Later


"Charles, are you sure you really know what you're doing?" Jane asked politely.

"Yes, Jane, of course I know exactly what I'm doing - just give me a minute."

Fumbling with the foil wrapper, he tried to get it open with his fingers, which wasn't easy since he was nervous and his hands were shaking.

"Would you like me to hold it? Maybe that will help."

"N-no, no, I'm fine, I've done this lots of times before." He felt exposed and uncomfortable - this was neither the time nor place for mistakes. "Just lie back and relax, I'll be ready in a second."

I hope he isn't pointing that thing toward me. Jane nervously peered over at him once again. He did appear to be having a difficult time of it. She tried to appear calm as she rested her back against the bow of the boat and let her fingers skim along the surface of the water. Patiently, she waited for her true love to open the champagne bottle. Seated in a small rowboat in the middle of the Bingley's pond, she suspected something momentous was going to take place this afternoon. Why else the champagne? She didn't want to spoil it by making him think she had reservations - although, it would be silly for him to be worried about a thing like that. She adored him, as he did her. She quickly glanced over at him again, forcing herself not to cringe anxiously as she eyed him with the bottle.

Charles had insisted on taking Jane on what he thought would be an idyllic afternoon. Alone together, they would go to his favorite spot. He'd envisioned the two of them - a romantic picnic luncheon, sipping champagne in the sunshine - sailing upon the water. As luck would have it, this November afternoon turned out to be unusually warm. His favorite spot turned out to be what he considered "theirs". It was where he and Jane had first said "I love you" to one another exactly a year ago. Nearby the grassy banks that overlooked the pond, he intended to pop the big question. He had planned it all out. Unfortunately, the only boat on hand was an old rowboat he had dusted off and dragged out of the shed - the Leaky Bathtub. It would have to do.

After much cajoling, he finally convinced her to join him in the floating relic. He then manned the oars and rowed into the middle of the pond, practicing in his head what he was about to ask her. Inside a picnic hamper, he had prepared an assortment of their favorite foods: French bread with her favorite cheese, grapes, his favorite cookies - chocolate chip, and the pièce de resistance - Twinkies. The champagne chilled in a bucket. Once they reached the section of the pond Charles was aiming for, he lifted the oars out of the water to allow the boat to serenely drift while he attempted to uncork the champagne.

After a struggle, the cork finally flew with a loud pop, splashing nearby with a small plunk. Charles gave Jane a reassuring smile and she grinned admiringly in return. Allowing some champagne to fizz out of the bottle, Charles suavely proceeded to pour the chilled champagne.

It was very nearly a perfect moment... until, with a sudden lurch, the boat ran aground.

Charles assured Jane he could fix the problem in a jiff. He placed the champagne bottle in the bucket and handed the glasses to Jane as he stood up in the boat, ready to push off the mass of wet leaves and sticks that impeded their idyllic sojourn. With a grimace and one big press of his oar, he informed her of his intentions. "I just need to... push us off... this clump of leaves and then we'll be all set -" But instead, the boat teetered to one side precariously, throwing Charles off balance. In one quick moment, Charles flopped unceremoniously into the murky depths below. The shallow pond may have prevented him from completely submerging, but it didn't prevent the discomfort to his derrière - not to mention, his now very badly bruised ego!

Jane couldn't help herself. She burst out laughing at Charles sitting in the shallow water, up to his chest in pond scum, looking very dejected and sorry for himself. She quickly covered her mouth and tried to quash her laughter.

"I'm so sorry, Charles! I know I shouldn't laugh, but...but..." She burst into another peal of giggles when she thought about how funny he had looked falling in.

Charles did not see the humor in the situation. He continued to pout, feeling very put out that his perfect scenario was now ruined. Jane, noticing his discomfort, and the fact he was not laughing along with her, immediately stopped and tried to make amends.

"Let me help you, darling." She got up from her seat and reached out for him. He stood up, thoroughly wet from the neck down, water dripping down his clothes. He was dangerously close to losing his temper, but the look on Jane's face made him stop. It held such tender adoration and good humor that all the anger and humiliation he felt flew from his body instantly. A little clumsily, he climbed back into the boat. Now sitting, he hunched forward resting his chin in his hand, a glum expression on his normally genial features.

"This is not how I imagined this, Jane. Trust me."

She gave him a lopsided smile, and empathized with the frustration he must be going through.

"I wouldn't say that," she responded cheerily.

He looked up at her, skeptically. "No? Why is that?"

She looked him over thoroughly. "I kind of like it."

"Like what?"

"The look," she said simply.

Charles was confused, and he didn't like the way this cryptic conversation was going. He sighed in exasperation. "Jane, I'm sorry, but I don't know what you're talking about. Frankly, I'm not in a very good mood right now."

Sitting across from him, she couldn't resist reaching out and running her hand through his blond hair, now attractively dampened from his unexpected dip in the pond.

"I like you wet."

His eyebrows shot up in surprise. He wasn't quite sure what to make of her remark.

"You like me wet?"

She nodded and a big smile lit up her face. Suddenly, Charles remembered something Darcy had told him one balmy August evening a few months back. Realization dawned on him. One corner of his mouth curved as he began to smile again.

"Charles, whether you are wet or dry or whatever might befall you - I love you. No matter what, I will always love you." Her eyes did not belie her words. "It doesn't matter to me if things aren't perfect," she explained, shrugging her shoulders. "You've got me!"

His mood lightened upon hearing this, but he still felt dejected that his perfect moment was ruined.

"But, Jane, this afternoon, I wanted to ask...I wanted to -" She put her fingers to his lips shushing him.

Without taking her eyes off his, she calmly requested, "Ask me."

He looked surprised and doubtful at first, but her unwavering look told him to do as she instructed. He smiled at her, feeling in his pocket for the now soaking velvet box, which he prayed had kept its contents safe during its unexpected dunk.

Solemnly and with deliberation, Charles leaned in as he asked her the most important question of his life.

"Will you marry me, Jane?"

A tingle went though her as soon as she heard his question. With a crooked smile and glistening eyes, she nodded and threw her arms around him. She was so overcome by the moment that all she could do was whisper a "yes" in his ear as she held onto him for dear life.

Charles felt the most profound sense of relief as he hugged her back. They stayed in each other's arms, hugging for a moment more until he leaned back and looked her in the face.

"Does this mean we're engaged?" He didn't want there to be any misunderstandings.

"Yes, you wonderful man!" she cried, laughing and wiping the tears of joy from her eyes.

"Good, then that means I can give you this." He held out the dark blue velvet box to her, opening it so the contents would be in full view. Inside, upon a bed of white satin, sat a beautiful engagement ring. A large sapphire, surrounded by smaller diamonds in a platinum setting. Jane gasped as he took the ring out of the box and gently slipped it on the appropriate finger.

Jane gulped. "Charles, it's beautiful!" Tears began to flow.

He reached out, holding her again, kissing her tears away. "Don't cry, Janie. You should be happy!" He chuckled over how she cried whenever she was emotional, whether happy or sad.

"I am!" Jane choked out, wiping mascara stains from her tear drenched eyes. "Just let me have my cry, okay?" she laughed, realizing how absurd it must sound.

"All right. As long as I know you're the future Mrs. Charles Bingley, I'll let you do whatever you want." With that, she started crying all over again, and gave him a watery kiss.

"Mrs. Charles Bingley," she repeated dreamily and snuggled into his arms, in spite of the dampness of his clothes.

"I hope you like the sound of it, because you're going to be stuck with it for a long, long time."

Click to hear their song

Good day sunshine
Good day sunshine
Good day sunshine

I need to laugh, and when the sun is out
I've got something I can laugh about
I feel good, in a special way
I'm in love and it's a sunny day

Good day sunshine
Good day sunshine
Good day sunshine

Then we lie beneath a shady tree
I love her and she's loving me
She feels good, she know she's looking fine
I'm so proud to know that she is mine

Good day sunshine
Good day sunshine
Good day sunshine*

Jane sighed as the two of them continued to hold each other. Neither had ever felt as content as they did at that moment. It was indeed - perfect.

***

Almost a year later, Jane Bennet looked at her reflection in the mirror. She was dressed in her voluminous white wedding gown. Nine months ago, Charles had asked her to marry him and she had answered yes. No hesitations, no regrets. In a few moments she would be walking down the aisle, soon to be Mrs. Jane Bennet Bingley. She adjusted her pearl necklace and matching earrings with confidence. Putting the final touches on her coiffure, she had time to reflect on the past several months.

She hadn't expected it to turn out as it had. The months leading up to today's wedding had been full of anticipation. Successfully graduating from Longbourn, the parties, plans and good wishes - Jane had to admit it had been overwhelming at times. Through it all, she remembered she would be marrying her Charles, who, she was certain, was the most wonderful man in the world.

Looking beyond her reflection in the mirror, she saw her maid of honor: her best friend, her confidante - Lizzy. Lizzy paced back and forth; dressed, ready and waiting - impatient for the wedding to begin. It had been quite a year for Lizzy as well. Tumultuous didn't even come close to describing it. More like explosive at some times. Had it not been for that fateful night last February, Lizzy's father would never have come around, allowing his second eldest daughter to marry earlier than he had originally decreed.

That night, coming downstairs in his robe for a midnight snack, he came upon Lizzy and Will alone together. No one but those three knew exactly what happened that night, but after that evening, Mr. Bennet appeared to see the light, and sensibly realized it made much more sense for Lizzy and Will to have a double wedding with Jane and Charles. Never mind his wife's constant prattle and Lizzy's forever begging him to change his mind, it was that night that decided him. He relented, but he still insisted Lizzy graduate from college. Will and Lizzy agreed and Lizzy planned to continue her studies as a married woman.

Jane shook her head remembering Will and Lizzy. What a year! She and Charles, like most couples, had moments of doubt that never lasted - but Will and Lizzy! They were so full of passion, love and anger, she and Charles wondered on more than one occasion whether or not they were actually going to go through with the wedding at all! Not always seeing eye to eye in everything, they had broken off the engagement altogether after one particularly nasty argument. But, they persevered, and their love held true. Jane sighed, happy for her sister; even with their clashes, she didn't doubt they were meant for each other.

Lizzy's thoughts were not unlike Jane's; however, where Jane was calm, cool and collected, Lizzy was eager - to get the wedding over with. It seemed as if from the first moment she and Will had met, everyone and everything had been conspiring to keep them apart - she just wanted to be married already! Once the minister pronounced them man and wife, no one could interfere with their lives anymore. No more Caroline, no more Wickham - no more fathers!

The year since their engagement had been announced hadn't been easy for them. It had been one long, huge roller coaster ride of emotions. As wonderful as it was to be engaged to Will, the engagement also brought on a vast amount of frustration and tension. First, her father declaring they had to wait to be married, then one disagreement after another, culminating in the big one that broke them up for an agonizing four days. Unconsciously, Lizzy wrung her hands in remembrance. How did we get that way? What happened to us? She sighed recalling how they had made up. At least they had come to their senses and talked it out. If nothing else, it strengthened their relationship, cementing their commitment. They say love is blind, and so it is in many ways, but Lizzy was going into marriage with eyes open and head clear. She wanted this man, and nothing was going to stop her.

Mrs. Bennet interrupted Lizzy's thoughts. She was determined to make sure both Lizzy and Jane were well-prepared for the big moment, issuing last minute instructions . "Now remember girls, when you're walking down the aisle with your father - smile, girls, smile!"

"Yes, Mother." The two repeated obediently, trying hard not to giggle at their mother, whom they knew meant well, but was a bit over the top when it came to weddings. Giving both her daughters a last minute hug and an airy kiss to avoid smudging any make-up, Mrs. Bennet departed in a swoosh of chiffon and lace, anxious to take her seat up front as the mother of the brides.

Mr. Bennet joined his daughters, decked out in formal style. He looked at his daughters, giving each a tender smile, a sign of his fond regard, before holding out an arm for each of them to take.

On cue, the wedding march began from beyond the doorway.

"Ready, girls?" he asked them, a fleeting look of hope as he looked at his second eldest. She's so young. I pray she'll be happy in her new life.

Lizzy and Jane nodded, nervous and excited, as they each took a proffered arm.

"All right then, let's go."

Wearing his game face, Mr. Bennet proudly guided his two eldest daughters through the French doors that led to their wedding. High above the sea, upon the cliffs of Pemberley, his daughters were about to begin new lives.

***

Following the ceremony, the reception started off with a bang. Under a huge white tent that included a dance floor and tables set ornately for the multitude of guests, music boomed from the sixteen piece orchestra. The party began in earnest. The brides and grooms were welcomed with much fanfare and applause as they were introduced for the first time as Mr. and Mrs. Charles Bingley and Mr. and Mrs. William Darcy.

Among the many guests was, of course, the Bingley family, including Caroline, sporting a new look. She'd never have been welcome at the Darcy wedding; there was no choice but to have her because of Charles. Her 'career' in New York City, where she now lived, made her presence at Netherfield scarce, and it had been many months since anyone had last seen her. No one was exactly sure what she was actually doing to support herself since her father had made his famous ultimatum.

Holding up the Darcy side of the family were Georgie, a bridesmaid fresh out of braces, a pretty sweet sixteen. Richard was enjoying himself, having no difficulty whatsoever in flirting with the bevy of girls who flocked to him. No great wonder, as he looked devastatingly handsome in his smart Marine dress uniform.

Will's Aunt Catherine never forgave him for his decision to marry Elizabeth; she made it clear she would have nothing more to do with him. That was fine with Will, for there was no question he preferred his lovely bride over his disagreeable aunt. She was not missed at the wedding, though with some regret, Will wished his cousin Anne had been able to attend. He never meant any offense or harm to his cousin, whom he now pitied. It seemed she would be forever tied to his aunt; with no say whatsoever in how she would lead her own life.

Mrs. Bennet was in her element. Basking in the glow of marrying off two daughters at once to highly eligible men, she spared no expense in sending them off in style. She flittered from one group to another, ensuring that all enjoyed themselves and were getting enough to eat and drink at her party. For to Mrs. Bennet, this was her big party, the moment she'd dreamed of ever since her eldest daughter was born.

While rushing from one table to another, she came across Caroline Bingley standing alone, dressed all in black from head to toe. Her hair was cut short, pixie style, and her eyes looked positively sunken from the black eye shadow and mascara covering them.

"Oh, Miss Bingley! Is that you? You are Charles's sister, aren't you? I barely recognized you! Are you enjoying yourself?" Mrs. Bennet never paused for an answer. She had never actually met Charles's sister, but Jane had pointed out her picture in one of her yearbooks from Longbourn.

Caroline made a half-hearted effort at being polite to Mrs. Bennet.

"Yes...what a...a... a lovely party, Mrs. Bennet. You've really outdone yourself." Caroline tried to think of something nice to say. "But of course, at such a gorgeous estate as Pemberley, how could it not be lovely?"

"Yes, I agree. We were so fortunate to have Mr. Bennet agree to allow Lizzy and Jane to be married at the same time. Because of this, my son-in-law, William, graciously offered his home."

"Yes," Caroline replied, with a thinly veiled sound of disgust at Mrs. Bennet's obvious use of the term son-in-law.

"So, Miss Bingley, what are you doing these days? I understand you live in the city now?" Mrs. Bennet asked politely, keeping her eyes on the rest of the crowd.

"Yes." Caroline was eager to use this opportunity to talk about herself. "I live in Chelsea. It's very exciting and I spend most of my time at The Factory.1 You have heard of the well-known artist, Andy Warhol, haven't you? He is a great friend of mine. In fact, we're very close."

Mrs. Bennet wasn't familiar with any factories in New York, and could hardly believe that Caroline was admitting to being a "factory girl."

She replied vaguely, "Yes, how nice for you. If you'll excuse me, I see something that needs my attention right away!"

Caroline was only too glad to see her go as she eagerly accepted another glass of champagne from a passing waiter.

Meanwhile, at another end of the party tent, Lt. Richard Fitzwilliam was entertaining a group of young ladies, including the three remaining single Bennet daughters, who vied for his attention. He was shamelessly flirting and telling them of his exploits in Viet Nam, amidst "oohs and ahs" and "wasn't that dangerous?"

Lt. Fitzwilliam had been lucky so far, but some were not so fortunate, as Private George Wickham could attest, had he been there to ask. Shortly after his disastrous meeting with Darcy after his attempted kidnapping of Lydia, Richard had been very helpful in assuring Mr. Wickham would not be a bother anymore. Wickham had a choice: go to jail or Viet Nam. Wickham chose Viet Nam and found himself in the infantry, as luck would have it. Even though George Wickham was a survivor, it was a rude awakening for him - and a far cry from selling records at Korvettes.

After meeting the dashing Lt. Fitzwilliam, Lydia - miraculously recovered from her bout of Beatlemania - had taken a sudden interest in men in uniform, particularly men in Marine uniforms, and informed Richard that it was his duty to dance with her. She explained that as a bridesmaid, she was an important part of the wedding. He accepted his duty graciously and didn't have the heart to tell her that her sisters, Kitty and Mary, had used the same line on him.

Before long it was time for the happy couples to leave. Jane and Charles, amidst rose petals and good wishes left for New York, where they would spend the night in a suite at the Plaza Hotel, before their Bermuda honeymoon. Will and Lizzy planned to remain at Pemberley for their first night together before leaving for Paris. Both brides threw their bouquets into the crowd of squealing single young ladies. Charlotte Lucas, long since broken up with her old boyfriend, Bill Collins, caught Lizzy's bouquet of roses and Kitty caught Jane's. All in all, it was a very productive day for Mrs. Bennet. Two Bennet girls married and the younger ones all placed in the path of other rich men. She let out a great sigh of relief amidst tears and farewells to her two now happily married daughters.

*The Beatles, "Good Day Sunshine" - performed by The Beatles, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. (c) 1966 Northern Songs. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured.


1Andy Warhol, irreverent artist, noted for his pop art in the 1960's. His "Factory" was the name of his studio in the 1960's. The Factory became a social and artistic hub in New York for young misfits, avant-garde writers, artists, musicians, curators, actors and hangers-on to join in on cultural adventures. It was the place famous for its various artistic projects, and just having fun.

Epilogue


Later that same evening ...

Elizabeth appeared in the doorway, her slim figure silhouetted against the dim glow of the candlelight in the master suite. In a revealing floor length nightgown of delicate satin and lace, her long hair curled loosely down her back. The cream colored gown hugged her body, clinging to every womanly curve. As glamorous as the gown looked, she couldn't help but feel anxious as she saw her new husband waiting. He stood expectantly, casually dressed in a pair of cotton pajama bottoms that hung loosely on his tall frame, his chest bare.

Elizabeth had never looked more alluring in Will's eyes. He sighed at the vision before him, yet was aware there was still an air of innocence about her; he could tell she was nervous. She hesitated slightly in her bare feet before entering the candlelit bedroom.

Beside him a bottle of champagne chilled. He wasted no time pouring her a glass and handing it to her.

"Champagne?" Lizzy raised an eyebrow, an arch expression on her face. "Are you trying to corrupt me, Mr. Darcy?"

He smiled charmingly, holding the glass out to her. "Considering the special occasion...yes, Mrs. Darcy, I am."

Lizzy nervously smiled at his response. Although she liked the sound of her new name on his lips, she kept her eyes averted from his bare chest as she took the proffered glass.

They both sipped from their glasses, wordlessly. Lizzy glanced around her, noticing the ethereal atmosphere of their bedroom. Completely lit with candles, white roses everywhere; it was very tender and romantic. The effort Will had put forth to make this evening as special for them as possible was in the details. As her eyes wandered, Lizzy cautiously stole a peek at the four poster bed. She took another quick sip of her champagne. As lovely as everything was, she was still having trouble looking at her new husband. What is wrong with me, why am I so bashful?

She neared the windows, hoping the distant view of the pale moonlight on the water would ease her nervousness. From behind, Will tenderly pulled her to him and held her, encouraging her to relax in his soothing embrace. Lizzy rested her head against his naked chest, letting out a soft sigh of contentment. The champagne was starting to have an effect.

"Are you happy?" Will's lips nuzzled her hair, smelling the faint aroma of rose petals leftover from when they left the wedding.

"Very." Lizzy still couldn't believe she was here. Mrs. William Darcy. How did she get to this place? How did she become this lucky, to win the love of this very best of men? She recalled the moment he asked her to marry him.

"Tell me, what made you ask me to marry you when you did?" She turned her head to look up into his face, unaware of her puckish expression.

Looking down at her inviting lips, the momentous day flashed before his eyes. He smiled, "It had been coming on so gradually, but I believe my fate was sealed when I first saw you in that sexy bikini telling off my Aunt Catherine." With a rakish smile he began to drop kisses upon her neck, inching his way towards her shoulder.

She gasped, more from the feel of his kisses than his words.

"Although, I must thank your father," Will said, continuing his kisses across Elizabeth's shoulder.

"My father?"

"Yes, he gave me permission ahead of time, although, I broke my promise to him."

"Oh...that." Amusement danced in Lizzy's voice at the memory. "I knew he'd change his mind. See, my plan worked perfectly. I told you it would."

Will remained silent. He was still unsettled about the way they tricked her father. Privately, he agreed she was right and the plan had worked, but the aftermath had almost cost them too much. Concentrating on his new bride, he refused to dwell on it, especially since his mind and body were now more agreeably engaged.

Will leaned over gracefully and turned on music with one flick of a switch. He had chosen a particular song for this evening, something special for his bride on their wedding night, as they were about to embark on the rest of their lives together. Click to hear their song He knew their lives were destined to be entwined and shared; to grow stronger over time each and every day, and he felt the song reflected his feelings.

To lead a better life
I need my love to be here

"Will you dance with me?" he held his hand out to her.

His question conjured up a memorable moment not unlike this one. She gladly put her hand in his as he swiftly, yet gently, pulled her close, their bodies melding together as the words and music softly flowed over them. He tipped his finger under her chin, gently prodding her to look into his eyes.

Here, making each day of the year
Changing my life with a wave of her hand
Nobody can deny that there's something there

As they slowly danced, Will thought about the past two years. It had changed for the better since he met Elizabeth at the dance at Longbourn. She made him a better person, of that he was certain. He now had everything he needed and a future to look forward to, with his lovely bride by his side. He ran his hands through the thick tresses of Lizzy's long dark hair as their arms wrapped around each other.

There, running my hands through her hair
Both of us thinking how good it can be
Someone is speaking, but she doesn't know he's there

Will savored the feel of her - no longer girlfriend or fiancée - now his...Elizabeth. Caressing the silky smooth skin of her back, his hands slipped across her shoulders. His lips followed on her bare skin. He tried to move slowly, taking his time but was unable to wait any longer. He held her face between his hands, capturing her lips with his own. He kissed her softly at first, but kisses deepened as his love for her radiated through him. Holding her closer, kissing with more need, he wanted to make love to her.

I want her everywhere
And if she's beside me I know I need never care
But to love her is to need her

Lizzy clung to him, delighting in the sensations his kisses elicited. She looked forward to the rest of her life with her Will. As the music continued, the heady thrill of anticipation only increased the excitement of what was ahead.

Swimming from the champagne and the effect of his kisses, Lizzy broke away. Slightly out of breath, she raised an eyebrow, slowly inching away towards the huge four poster bed that lay in wait behind her. Beckoning with a crook of her finger, a tacit understanding was reached. Will followed her lead, breathless and enchanted as ever by his new bride.

Everywhere, knowing that love is to share
Each one believing that love never dies
Watching her eyes and hoping I'm always there

Mesmerized, Will watched as she slowly pulled a long, white, satin ribbon from her bodice. With a mischievous look in her eyes, and more bravado than she thought herself capable she asked, "Recognize this?"

He started when he saw it. "Where did you get that?"

"Never mind. I've had it with me all day -- here." She patted the left side of her chest above her heart. "Call it my 'something old'. It's my ribbon from the first time we met, isn't it?"

He nodded. "When I saw you standing there... I kept it to remember you."

With a naughty look and a soft cry of delight, she impulsively threw the ribbon around his neck and pulled him teasingly to her as she edged closer to the bed. With an unmistakable glint in his eye, Will followed, but he took it one step further.

"I think it's time to retire this ribbon now, don't you...Lizzy?" She unconsciously bit her lower lip, and her eyes sparkled with excitement at the sound of her name on his lips. With a roguish look in his eyes, he tossed the ribbon carelessly over his shoulder.

Leaning over, he pinned her to the bed, his mouth hovering dangerously close to hers. Her breath caught as she felt the rapid pulse of his heart beat in sync with her own. With a mirthful thrill, she nodded while sliding her hands up his bare chest. She gave him a breathless smile. "You know..." she whispered leadingly, pausing a moment to ensure he was listening. "I'm not just seventeen anymore." She licked her lips provocatively. "You know what I mean?"

He nodded and smiled at the familiar line before slowly lowering his mouth to hers with an unmistakable answer.

I will be there, and everywhere
Here, there and everywhere*

FINIS

*"Here, There and Everywhere" - performed by The Beatles, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. (c) 1966 Northern Songs. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured.


Authors love feedback. Please express your appreciation for Julie's story here