Posted on 2010-04-28
Liz Bennet sat at her desk trying to get through the last of the paper work for next month's exhibit. It was a complex show, with pieces on loan from around the world and enough paper associated with it to choke an industrial shredder. Next week she would have to...Liz quit typing and looked at her desk calendar, "Damn!"
"What is it, Liz?" Mary, the museum's education coordinator, called over from her desk.
"Oh, nothing. I just realized that you were going to be gone next week. Here I was thinking I would finally catch up."
"Oh, Liz. Is it that bad? I could change..."
"Mary Catherine Gardiner! You are not putting off your vacation again. We barely get benefits as it is, you are using yours! I'm sorry you heard me. It's not that bad really; you know I just get nervous with all the scholars coming in and out in the first week."
"I know, but I have all the folders set up, here on the corner of my desk. You should be really interested in this one guy, your parents and his…" Mary was broken off by Liz's phone.
"You speak of the devil and I smell smoke." Liz said, as she looked at the caller id. She frowned and picked it up. "Hello, Mother. What can I do for you? I've got everything on your list." Liz listened for some time, grimacing now and again, waving to Mary as her friend left for the day, all the while her mother talked on and on.
"...and I can't believe he is bringing that woman to your sister's baby shower! I don't see why she needs to come! Why.."
"That woman? Mom, Char has been his wife for 12 years now. They have two children."
"Don't you use that tone with me, Ms. Elizabeth. I'm still your mother."
"Look, Mom, I gotta go. I need to finish up here and get to the paint store. I'll see you tomorrow." Liz sighed deeply as she hung up the phone.
It had always been like this. Her mother always dissatisfied, always complaining. It was hard to imagine her laid back, mellow Dad ever being interested in the trendy Ms. Gardiner, but somehow they had managed to get married, for a short time, and create two children. Dad, a professor of British Literature, had insisted that his first daughter be named Elizabeth, and Patty, never a great book reader, didn't understand the joke. She agreed though, after he said she could name the next whatever she liked. Hence, Liz had grown up with the perpetual questions, "Where is Mr. Darcy?" and "Are you leaving now for Pemberley, Lizzie?" and her sister's name was Audrey Hepburn Bennet.
Her relationship with her mother had always been strained. They did try, but they were such different people. Her mother, a fashion editor, aware her marriage was done, had gone back to work as soon as blanketed Audrey was handed to her husband in the hospital. An astute trend spotter, Ms. Gardiner was welcomed back with open arms and offered a transfer to Paris as soon as she could fit back into her size 4 pencil skirt. She was happy being only a part-time mother; She actually thought she had the better end of it, summers and school holidays, and what girl wouldn't love spending summers in Europe with a mother in high fashion? Besides, her ex spent all his summers researching in England, so if she needed a babysitter he was just across the channel.
Except that it came to her mother so easily to complain, Liz could not understand her mother's attitude about Dad's second marriage. She said terrible things about Char, and eventually Liz's half-brothers, Lucas and Eddie. Audrey liked to think it was because their mother really still loved their father and hated to think of him with another, even though their parents had been divorced 22 years by the time he remarried. Audrey was like that. Liz thought her mother was just jealous that Dad was so happily remarried, to a woman just seven years older than Liz, and had a brand new family. Ms. Gardiner liked to mock his "stay-at-home" wife. The fact that Char was a published poet of some skill was nothing to the first Mrs. Bennet.
Both girls had made the most of their situation and benefitted from their mother in Europe and their father in academia. Liz, with summer after summer in the best museums in the world, had gone into museum studies and was now in charge of collections at a very prestigious small museum. She liked being behind the scenes. Ironically, her younger, shyer sister had ended up becoming the most public. The statuesque, willowy Ms. Audrey was a well-known writer of children's literature and a champion of children's health with her husband, Dr. Charles FitzWilliam, a pediatrician. They were expecting their second, and third, child in just a few weeks. This weekend was an all family event to prepare the nursery in their new house upstate. Everyone on his and her side was coming to help them paint and decorate the huge attic space converted into what Dad called "The Baby Suite."
Liz stopped daydreaming and hurried out to the car. If she didn't get enough of those flower stencils, after telling mom she had them, she would never hear the end of it.
Liz dropped into her chair, exhausted. Things had gone better than she hoped. Her mother so hated her son-in-law's snotty older sister, Caroline, a rival editor at an inferior magazine, that she was almost gracious to Char. In the end, it had been a nice time. Liz didn't often get the chance to see her brothers, and they all had great fun with their niece, Annabelle, just 18 months old and babbling incessantly. Annabelle loved to giggle and said all her words with a laugh of delight. Liz was practically asleep in her chair, "I need another weekend."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't see you at the door, can I help you?"
"Is your name really Elizabeth Bennet?"
Liz's smile tightened and she ground out, "I prefer Liz."
"I'll bet." He smiled.
The long and short of it was that he was just too toothsome to abuse, but Liz was a grown up and you just don't sit there and stare lustfully when 6'4" of gorgeous dark, curly-hair MALE walks into your office. "Can I help you?" she repeated.
"Yes. I was told that I could pick up the speaker's packet in this office. Since I was in the area I thought I would spare my assistant the trip."
Liz rose and started going through the folders, without looking up she said, "What's your name?"
Liz dropped the folders and said, "Look, I don't have time for this. I have a lot of work here…"
"Dr. William Darcy, apparently my parents and yours share a sense of humor."
Liz looked skeptical, but she gazed down the list. Damn! There he was. The keynote speaker, too! It figures. Embarrassed, she handed him the right folder saying wryly, "So is your father a professor of Brit Lit, too?"
"No, but my mother was a great believer in all things Austen, and my dad was a great believer in her." He smiled again and Liz relaxed. "So, do you have a sister named Jane?"
"No, Jane was too plain for my mother. My sister's name is Audrey."
"Your sister is Audrey Bennet?"
"Do you know her?"
"I know of her. My sister, Georgia, is an editor for a children's publishing company. Ms. Audrey is their top client."
"Georgia?" Liz asked with a raised brow.
"My dad loved my mother, to a point."
"Right. Well…" She didn't want to stop talking to him, but there seemed little reason for him to stay.
"Right. I guess I'll see you around." He put out his hand, shook hers, and then he left.
Liz, sat down in her chair and tried to gather her wits. Her hand, where he had held it just a second longer than strictly necessary, was still warm, and so were her cheeks. "Really, how old am I?" she reprimanded herself, looking around the room for something to ground herself, as if she wasn't already sitting. Her eyes settled on the last card from her father. He always sent her these things...a card of Regency dancers with the phrase, "It is a truth universally ack…"
Liz looked up form her card and saw Will Darcy standing in the doorway again.
"Do you think we could agree to ignore the jokes about our names and go out to dinner?"
"Yes, Mr. Darcy. I should be delighted."
Somewhere, in a classroom in New England, Professor Bennet chuckled to himself for no apparent reason whatsoever.The End