Posted on 2010-01-11
7pm December 31st, 2009
Tonight was the night.
It was New Year's Eve and after what had seemed like forever, Caroline Bingley was finally going to get what she always wanted. She had made certain that her dim-witted brother invited Darcy and after some snooping, she learned that he was attending the party stag. Now all she had to do was think of some way to get him all alone and let midnight work its magic.
Tonight was the night.
Too much time had been spent already arguing and Darcy had concluded over Christmas that if being right meant being lonely, then he'd rather be wrong. He had resolved that he would not start the New Year without telling Lizzy how he truly felt.
Tonight was the night.
The little blue box was tucked safely in Charlie's pocket and only awaited a "yes" before the brilliant Tiffany diamond ring it contained could take its rightful place on Jane's hand. At the stroke of midnight, he would beg her to make him the happiest of men and become his wife.
Tonight was the night.
Jane could not wait much longer to give Charlie the news and it seemed that with New Year's symbolizing new beginnings and all, that midnight would be the perfect time. She knew that it was soon, and he would be surprised, of course, but she hoped that he would be happy with the announcement. It was true that they had only been reconciled for a few months, but somehow Jane knew that this time it was forever.
Tonight was the night.
There would be an open bar. Open bars were Hurst's favorite thing as free liquor was infinitely better than liquor one has to pay for. Yes, tonight would be a good night indeed.
Tonight was the night.
Charlotte would attend tonight's soiree with her head held high despite knowing that her friend's had all been correct. They had all warned her she was marrying a man of little intelligence and mean social skills. They had all warned that her life would become one of constant sorrow and it had. Her husband's social gaffes and blunders made her unable to set foot out in public without cringing as people pitied her for being wed to such a fool. She would hold her head high and pretend, just for one night, that everything was fine.
Tonight was the night.
He would show them all! He was a successful in his career, had a fabulous home and a great wife. Even though when he sought their attention and approval last year they all had snubbed him, he would show them that he was a better man and held no grudges. At least with no one but Lizzy. He would show her how unbelievably happy he and Charlotte were together. That would teach her a lesson!
Tonight was the night.
Her husband would be so drunk that he would have to be poured into bed again, like every New Year. This year, however, it would work to her advantage. As distasteful a thought as sharing a bed with her inebriated husband was, it was so much better than what would happen if she didn't! In the morning, she would awaken Hurst, assure him he was the best that ever was, and in three weeks, she would give him the good news that he would have an heir at long last. Between her age and his assured lack of interest in attending appointments with her, passing off the full-term birth as an early delivery would be very easy. Louisa smiled at the thought that after she had done her duty with Hurst tonight, she would be free to enjoy the gardener with no further consequences for the next six months.
Tonight was the night.
She had been wrong about everyone and everything, and now she needed to do the impossible. Lizzy knew she owed Will several apologies at the very least.
He'd been right that Charlie had needed to be a man and make his own decisions. Without Will's interference, Charlie would have continued to seek everyone's advice on everything and Jane would have continued to make excuses for him. They both needed to grow up and the break-up had afforded them that opportunity.
He'd been right about George. Lizzy had never really taken George seriously but he had been very slick when he laid down his stories of the woes he'd suffered by Darcy, all of which she knew now weren't true at all. She'd finally listened to Darcy's side of the story and realized that George was nothing but a liar. Lizzy had been avoiding George for a month and a half now and gave him the brush-off whenever she happened to have unfortunate contact with him. Hopefully, he'd take the hint and leave her alone. She wished to start the New Year off with a clean slate.
Most irritatingly of all, he'd been right about her. Lizzy had been so in love with her own opinions that she had been unable to see what had been in front of her all along. Will had claimed to love her but she wondered how that was even possible. What about her was loveable? She had been rude, mean-spirited, ungracious, curt, and only spoke to him when she could say something that was rather sarcastic. She had called him judgmental, which was laughable in more ways than one. Lizzy had come to realize that no one was more judgmental than she! Was he deficient in some way? She knew he was not, and that was what scared her. Somehow, he had been able to glimpse beneath the tough façade she wore and he liked what he saw. She wondered if there was still any chance now that she knew he was truly the best of men. Lizzy reasoned that was highly unlikely as she remembered during one of their arguments he said that his opinion once lost was lost forever. How could she possibly recover his good opinion? She had no idea, but she would begin with an apology and go from there.
9:04pm December 31st, 2009
The crush of people in Charlie's ballroom was too much for Charlotte. She made her way to the balcony for a breath of fresh air and found Lizzy around the corner, carefully watching someone.
"What on earth are you doing Elizabeth?"
Lizzy made a motion that she needed to speak quieter. "Avoiding George, Caroline, Charlie, your husband and Will."
Charlotte whispered back, "I can see wanting to avoid most of them, but Charlie? Why would you want to avoid Charlie?"
Sighing, Lizzy answered, "Because he's making me insane by asking me questions about Jane! 'You really think she'll like this ring? Do you think she'll say yes? Do you think I have a brain?' Really! I thought Will had taught him how to man up!"
Charlotte giggled at her friend's predicament. "All men are nervous when they are getting ready to propose, it's only natural."
Liz knew that was not strictly true. When Collins had proposed, he was self-deluded assuredness personified. It was very different when Will had asked for her hand. Darcy's over-confidence was one of the things that had angered her most about it. He had expected her to leap at the chance to marry him! His arrogance, his conceit and his complete disregard for the feelings would have made it impossible to accept him even if she had liked him, which she didn't, at least not then. Since then, all her prior opinions had been completely overthrown and on the whole, it left Lizzy feeling off-kilter and uneasy.
"Well, whether that's true or not, I'm not sure, but I can say that Charlie's annoying!"
They both laughed quietly and for a moment, things felt like they had before Charlotte married Collins. Lizzy still felt guilty for the unkind things she had said to her best friend and knew that, once again, she had been in error with her judgmental attitude.
"Char, I am sorry. I know things have been awkward between us and that's all my fault. As your best friend, I should have been supportive of your marriage and given Collins a chance. Just because he wasn't the man for me, doesn't mean he wasn't right for you. Can you forgive me for being such a brat?"
Charlotte was quiet for a moment. She loved Lizzy dearly. Lizzy was like a sister to her and when she had disapproved of her decision, Charlotte had been deeply wounded. There were many things to admire about Lizzy, but she did tend to be a bit overly righteous in her opinions and heaven help those who weren't in complete agreement! The very fact that Elizabeth Bennet saw a need to apologize and had done so was a testament to how much she had learned this year. Perhaps if Lizzy finally understood that she had a few flaws, she might stop expecting perfection from everyone else.
"Yes, I can forgive you."
"Thank goodness. I have a lot of apologies to make and I wanted you to be the first." Lizzy laughed at how that sounded. "My God, I sound like I'm in a twelve-step program or something. Well, maybe I should be… a twelve-step for people who think they know everything but don't actually know anything. Maybe I could start my own chapter. Can you see it?"
Charlotte tried not to laugh too loud so she wouldn't give away their location. "Not really."
"I can. 'Hi! My name is Lizzy and I like to tell everyone what they should do.' I could call it Busybodies Anonymous. Oh no, I'm more like my mother than I thought. Lord help me!"
Charlotte shook her head and reassured her friend, "No Lizzy, you're nothing like your mom. And as far as twelve-steps go, isn't one of the philosophies something like knowing you need help is the first step?"
Lizzy could only chuckle. "I think you're right. Thanks for putting up with me for all these years."
"I don't know whether, given your newfound humbleness, I ought to tell you this or not, but you weren't entirely wrong about me and Bill. Don't misunderstand me, you were definitely wrong not to support my decision and the things you said were rather cold, but you were right about Bill himself. However, I'm a big girl, and as such, I'll live with the consequences."
"Oh Charlotte! I'm so sorry! Is there anything I can do?"
"Know any good divorce lawyers?"
"No, I really don't. I do know someone who does though. When I see him later tonight, I'll ask."
"Elizabeth Bennet… if you bring up the subject of divorcing the idiot I married to William Darcy on this night of all nights…well, I, I won't forgive you for that! Haven't you messed things up enough with him already?"
"Alright, alright! Even though you know that he'd be the best one to ask, I promise I won't."
Lizzy peered once more around the corner. "The coast is clear and I need to go find Jane. She's a nervous wreck tonight and she won't tell me why. I promise we'll get together soon. Happy New Year Charlotte!"
"Good luck making your amends Lizzy!"
"Thanks! I'll need it!" she said over her shoulder as she ducked back into the ballroom in search of her sister.
9:45pm December 31st, 2009
William Darcy was doing something very unusual. He was making an attempt to socialize.
Lizzy had accused him once having an unsocial, taciturn nature which might be improved if only he'd take the opportunity to practice his manners. Will believed that speaking voluntarily to the hapless, witless Collins must be worth a great deal of penance. He had previously thought that Charlotte possessed some sense but after speaking at length with her husband, he began to wonder about her reason.
Darcy was beginning to ponder how much longer he'd need to listen to Collins' endless descriptions of the architecture at DeBourgh & Associates before he could politely excuse himself. Luckily, he didn't need to wonder as he was rescued by Jane Bennet.
The normally serene Jane said rather boldly, "Collins, please excuse my interrupting your conversation. Will? May a have a word with you?"
Collins fawned, "Why yes, of course Jane! And please tell Charles that this is a wonderful party and how both Charlotte and I are very grateful to have been included with such august company."
As Jane led Will away from the still rambling Collins, he expressed his gratitude for being rescued. "Thanks Jane! I'm not sure how much more of his nonsense I could have withstood. I know that I need to try harder, and I've resolved to do so, but that man would try the patience of Mother Theresa!"
Jane could not help but laugh at her boyfriend's best friend. She and Will had only very recently learned they were not so very different from one another and, in discovering their similarities of character, a unique friendship had been born.
"Yes, I know Will. That's why I've come to rescue you. Well, that and to make sure that you haven't gone into hiding. Lizzy's here and when I saw Charlotte a moment ago, she said that Lizzy's on some sort of mission to offer mea culpas to everyone she feels she's offended this year. I expect she'll seek you out, so you need to promise me you won't pull a disappearing act!"
Shaking his head, he replied, "Your sister doesn't owe me any apologies. If anything, I owe her. And you. And Charlie. I'm sorry I was such an ass, Jane."
Smiling, she reassured him, "It's okay Will. We'll all be just fine."
Will noted the special emphasis she placed when she said 'all'. "You are going to tell him tonight, right? I hate keeping secrets. I know I owe you and all, but if you don't tell him soon, I can't guarantee that I won't. Does Lizzy know?"
"No, not yet. I can't believe, no offense, that you know before anyone else."
"It's not my fault! I had no idea that you and Georgie had the same doctor! I was just minding my own business, reading severely outdated magazines in the lobby when you came flouncing through with your happy news."
"I do not flounce."
It was now Will's turn to laugh, "Perhaps you don't normally flounce, but Jane Bennet, I can assure you that on that day, flouncing is what you were most certainly doing!"
"If you say so. I have heard it on very good authority from a close relation of mine that you, William Darcy, are never wrong."
"Don't tease me Jane. Tease me about anything but that. You cannot expect me to believe that Lizzy said that…did she?"
"She really did Will. I told you, she's changed her opinion of you. I'm not sure what exactly it is at the moment, but she knows she was wrong and that, I think, is a good sign."
Will grinned and kissed her on the cheek, "Thanks for the pep-talk Jane. And just in case I don't get a chance to say it before midnight, have a Happy New Year!"
"You too Will! Good luck with my idiot sister. Are you certain, absolutely certain that she's what you want?"
"I've never been more certain of anything in my life!"
She returned the kiss by giving him one on his cheek, "Then I wish the two of you all the best."
"Thanks Jane, that means a lot coming from you!"
10:10 pm December 31st, 2009
Charles Bingley was a nervous, but very happy, man. He just needed to find Elizabeth to confer once more over his special plans for midnight. He spied her caught up in a corner with that tedious Collins guy and he knew that despite Lizzy's frustration, she'd be indebted to him if he rescued her from her current tormentor.
As Charlie drew closer, he could hear Collins speaking the most absurd nonsense. "…and so, you see Elizabeth, that my dearest Charlotte and I will be able to travel to St. Lucia for Easter. I'm sure if you keep saving your pennies, that you might also get a chance to go somewhere warm…perhaps Branson?"
Lizzy answered most seriously, "Wow Bill. I couldn't possibly aspire to make it to Branson! Perhaps I might make it as far as Gatlinburg."
Charlie had to turn around. He well knew that should Collins look at him, he'd burst out laughing and as much as no one seemed to like the man, surely even he didn't deserve to be laughed at in the face!
When Charlie regained his composure, he stepped forward and asked Collins, "You won't mind if I steal Lizzy away for a moment will you?"
Collins was trying to think of something clever, something very witty to say that would once and for all show the high-and-mighty Elizabeth what she had lost. Before he could think of anything, Lizzy said, "I am sure that Collins won't mind. I was just getting the scoop on what happily married couples do for their vacations. He was also giving me some money-saving tips that I can use now that I'm a spinster."
Lizzy originally had intended to apologize to Collins as well, but his behavior towards her and everyone around him made that impossible. Charlie shot her a look of amusement, while poor Bill just excused himself and slinked off to find someone else to listen to his ramblings of how well he was doing.
Grabbing Charlie's arm, Lizzy leaned in and whispered, "Thank you Charlie! I swear, that man has some serious issues. He has no clue at all, about anything."
Knowing that it was safe to openly laugh now, he did just that. "He really is the most ridiculous little man! How can your friend stand being married to him?"
Joining in the laughter, while knowing that it wasn't appropriate, she replied, "She can't. She's looking to lawyer-up."
"Oh… I didn't know! I'm such an idiot."
Lizzy laughed at her soon-to-be brother-in-law. "You are, but not for that! Now, as much as I appreciate your rescue efforts, I expect that it wasn't solely a selfless act of kindness."
"Right you are, as always, Lizzy! I'm desperate." Elizabeth nodded her agreement and so Charlie continued, "I want just the right song played at midnight… to, you know, set the mood and all, but I'm not sure what that should be. Our song from before just makes her angry now and I'm not sure what the new 'our song' is now! Help me Lizzy-wan Kenobi! You're my only hope!"
"First, you are such a dork! Have I told you that lately?" Charlie acknowledged that she had. Lizzy then tried to calm him down by explaining, "Secondly, you have a reprieve for tonight. If you are still intent about asking her at midnight, have the band simply play Auld Lang Syne. Thirdly, that would actually score you all sorts of romantic bonus points because of When Harry Met Sally. She'll think you're brilliant and did it on purpose."
Charlie brightened up, remembering how much Jane loved that movie and knew that Auld Lang Syne would be perfect. He still had time to look up the movie on imdb and see if he could find the funny quote about the song and recreate the scene for his beloved.
"If Jane says yes…"
Lizzy interrupted, "When, Charlie, when she says yes!"
"Okay, so, thinking positive here. When Jane says yes, it'll be wonderful to have a sister that I actually love and respect. Thanks Lizzy, I love you!"
"Love you too, Charlie. And you're not so bad yourself."
"If anyone asks where I am, tell them I'll be right back. I gotta go look something up before I lose my nerve."
"Atta boy, Charlie!"
"Thanks again Lizzy-wan!"
"Happy New Year, Dork!"
10:28pm December 31st, 2009
Caroline had lost Will in the crowd again and the waiter that she had generously tipped seemed to have vanished. Feeling frustrated, she worked her way to the bar and demanded an Appletini.
As she quickly downed the drink and asked for another, a man stood next to her and asked for two double-scotches. Assuming he'd ordered one for a friend, she was surprised when he sat down at the bar and slammed both drinks back alarmingly fast.
Caroline looked at the handsome man who looked as miserable as she felt. "So I see your evening is working out as well as mine."
George Wickham ordered another double-scotch. "That depends. Is the object of all your hard work and efforts of the last six months blowing you off and pretending you don't exist?"
"Six months?" Caroline scoffed. "Try six long years!"
The desperate whine in her voice caught his notice. If Elizabeth was going to be a wash after all, it might not be such a bad thing to have a plan B in place. Wickham gave her an appreciative glance and offered some solace for her bruised ego.
"Six years? The man is obviously a blind or a fool or maybe both. You, my dear, are lovely. With your figure, you could be a model. Maybe that's why you seem so familiar… you must be a cover girl."
Caroline blushed at the compliment and demurred, "Why yes, I did do a little modeling in my teens, but that was at least five years ago."
George pegged this woman to be at least thirty, but she had a very slight build with some obvious enhancements that he found particularly alluring. Real or not, it didn't matter to George. He figured if a woman went to the trouble to make herself feel pretty and womanly, then it would only be polite for him to show his appreciation. She was blonde, which he knew was not real either, but again, he didn't care. It had always been his experience that the women who tried too hard with their appearance tried very hard elsewhere too. True, these women often had low self-esteem, but again, if he could help them feel wanted and beautiful, why should he not benefit from that as well? Her face had an all-too perfect symmetry which had obviously been crafted to be so. Yes, this woman would serve his needs much better than Lizzy would have anyways. The independent ones had too much self-respect and would also expect a relationship as well as sex.
It only took a moment for George to decide to cut his losses with Lizzy.
George took the glass from her hand and set it down. She was breathless as he took hold of her hand and brought it to his lips, bestowing a soft kiss upon it. Caroline thought those things only happened in the movies. Seeing that she was ripe for the picking, he smiled charmingly and asked, "So my goddess, my Venus, my Aphrodite, what earthly name shall I call you?"
Caroline was awestruck by such a romantic gesture. She'd been throwing herself at Darcy for years with no results, yet this man, this stranger, seemed to understand that she was a woman of value. She wondered if since the problem wasn't her, that maybe the issue lay with Darcy. Her alcohol-muddled brain had nearly made her forget that she'd been asked a question. When she remembered, she replied softly, "My name is Caroline."
"Ah, Sweet Caroline."
She withdrew her hand and rolled her eyes, "Yes, yes, I know…Sweet Caroline… blah-blah-blah… good times never seemed so good."
He captured her hand once more and looked at her very seriously, for seduction is a very serious business. "Oh, I've been inclined to believe they never would."
Caroline was now smiling. She hated that song with every fiber of her being. Her mother had been going through some sort of seventies music phase when she'd been born and was thusly christened after a Neil Diamond song. Somehow, the way he spoke the lyrics made it all seem right.
The more she thought about it, the funnier it became. "That is the absolute corniest thing I've ever heard! And what is the name of the Adonis that stands before me?"
He had watched her carefully. She was all sewn up and ready to go. "George Wickham, at your service."
It was now her turn to eye him. Caroline noted his trim waist and how well his shirt fit, which indicated he was strong and had a broad chest. His sleeves were casually rolled up, showing off tanned and muscled forearms. He had a terrific smile and hair that demanded she rake her fingers through it. Charlie and Louise were right. Darcy was never going to be interested in her. Six years was enough. She would not waste another six minutes!
Standing up, she grinned and said, "Excellent!"
"Your wish is my command, Sweet Caroline."
Grabbing his hand, she led him towards the back stairs which would lead to the family corridor where her room was. "I was hoping you'd say that."
10:42 pm December 31st, 2009
"Erick, I find that I am having a problem with mites of some sort on the African violets in my apartment."
Erick shook his head and smiled at his employer's sister. "I don't think that's very likely Mrs. Hurst. While in the wild, there might be aphids of some sort on your violets, indoors there is not likely to be mites of any type."
Playing the part of the master to the servant to the hilt, she dramatically stated, "Well then Erick, I suppose I must simply show you myself! I will not be pleased until you have done a very thorough examination of all my petals."
Erick knew he was not the only servant who played this game with Mrs. Hurst, but he liked to believe he was her favorite. "I promise I'll be very thorough. Until I'm sure that you're pleased, I'll handle all the petals myself until you declare out loud that you are satisfied with my work."
Having these thinly veiled conversations in a house full of people made the game all the more exciting to Louise. "If you can deliver on your promise, I'll see that you are satisfied as well as a reward for your many efforts."
Erick could hardly wait any longer. "You are a most generous mistress Mrs. Hurst!"
"And make certain you don't forget that. Now follow me to my apartment so that you can fully examine the petals in question."
Erick dutifully followed Louise Hurst up the back stairs. The way she sashayed her hips in front of him as she climbed the stairs was driving him insane with lust. What a fool Mr. Hurst was! He was married to such a spunky, sexy, insatiable lady. He preferred to climb inside a bottle for comfort instead of his wife's bed. Erick knew he would never understand the very rich.
Erick noticed Miss Bingley wobbling her way down the stairs looking three sheets to the wind. She was followed closely behind by the smooth operator he'd seen earlier trolling the room. It struck Erick as odd that anyone would want such an unnatural and hard woman when the soft and lovely Louise was around.
They had reached Louise's apartment and, not surprisingly, there were no actual plants for the gardener to examine.
11:05pm December 31st, 2009
Bingley was walking around the edge of the ballroom, studying the paper in his hand and not attending where he was going. He tripped over something and when he looked to see what it was, he found it to be his brother-in-law, Randy Hurst.
"Good God Charlie, watch where the hell you're going, would you?!"
Charlie knew something was wrong. There are many kinds of drunks: happy, loud, belligerent, angry, silly and many combinations in-between. His sister Louise's husband was the very best kind of drunk, a sleepy, silent one. Randy never yelled. Truthfully, he never said much of anything, in any tone, to anyone at all!
"Sorry Randy. I need to memorize this and wasn't watching. Sorry."
"It's okay." He said as he pulled his feet in as he sat himself more upright. "So are you going to ask Julie the big question or what?"
"It's Jane and yes. Tonight, if I can ever get my act together."
"That's right. Jane. She seems a good girl. Don't know where I got Julie from. They both start with 'J' anyways. As a long-suffering, sorry, I mean long-married man; let me give you some advice: don't get married for any other reason than love."
Not sure what exactly had brought this up, Charlie agreed and thanked Hurst before he moved on.
Hurst was left to sit and wonder at the turns his life had taken. He had loved Louise, once upon a time long ago. She had been beautiful and many men had wanted her, but she had picked him above all the rest. They were happy for almost an entire month. She believed herself to be discreet, but she wasn't. There had been the pool-boy at his parent's house, the water-boy at the club, and even the cabana boy when they went to Tahiti, all before their first anniversary. Now she was upstairs with the gardener and he found he no longer cared.
He wondered how this had come to be. Randy never drank until she started to run around. Perhaps if he'd been more attentive… It didn't matter. It was too late now. His one regret is that they never had any children and as they never shared a bed anymore, it was less than likely it they ever would.
11:26pm December 31st, 2009
Darcy was beginning to wonder if he was ever going to even find Lizzy, let alone have an opportunity to speak to her. He'd only managed to catch small glimpses of her throughout the evening and that was owed solely to his significant height advantage. He had seen her a few moments ago speaking with Jane, but she had once again disappeared.
He muttered under his breath, "Damn. I'm running out of time."
A hand clasped his shoulder as a cheery voice asked, "Time for what?"
In no mood for Charlie's boisterousness, he snapped, "Time to save my sanity from succumbing completely to a Bennet girl."
Charlie laughed, "Of all the things I miss, I miss my mind the most." Seeing that Will hadn't found the humor in the old saying like he did, he tried a different tact, "Seriously Will, you've already done the hard part."
Now, it's a well known fact that, especially in times of great stress, the only way to combat serial cheerfulness is with great heaps of sarcasm, which, luckily, Will excelled at. "Really? Astonish me, oh Wise One. What is this thing that I have already done?"
"You've already admitted to yourself that you love her and can't live without her. Once your mind deals with knowing that you are no longer solely responsible for your own happiness, when you finally realize you can't do it all on your own, it gets easier."
"I'd see the logic if I was in any way, shape or form certain of the outcome, hence, my dilemma. See, Charlie, I know that I can live with this ache. It would be awful, it would be painful, but I could do it. Should she reject me, again, well, that's another whole level of hell that I don't want to descend into."
"You won't. Man up, Darcy! I know a few things about a few things, and I promise you my friend, losing your mind, heart, soul…all of it, to a Bennet girl, will be the best thing that's ever happened to you. Trust me on that!"
"You're sounding incredibly brave for a man who's carrying around twenty grand worth of rock in his pocket."
Charlie leaned over and whispered his secret, "Brandy."
Confused, Darcy inquired, "Who?"
Shaking his head, Charlie cried, "Not who! Good Lord, but you're dense sometimes! Brandy, as in, liquid courage! Who, indeed! I never understood how you could have messed things up with Lizzy so badly until now. Lizzy-wan was right, but then, she usually is, isn't she?"
While he was glad that the Brandy business was cleared up, Will was still confused. "Lizzy-wan?"
"Oh yes, Lizzy-wan Kenobi is my Jedi Master. She's the one who's taught me the ways of the Force, how it surrounds us, penetrates us and binds the galaxy together. Lizzy-wan Kenobi is my only hope!"
Rolling his eyes, Will sighed, "I thought we agreed, no more Star Wars for you!"
"You're no fun! A few weeks ago, Janey, Lizzy-wan and I watched all six movies and my bootleg of the Christmas special. Lizzy-wan gives the best advice."
Will chuckled. "You, my friend, are drunker than you appear. Are you certain you'll be alright asking this most important of questions? I'm not certain Jane would appreciate you having no memory of proposing."
"Hey Will, when did you become such an expert on what my Jane would or would not appreciate?" asked Charlie a bit defensively.
Raising his hands up in surrender, Will answered, "Since we've gotten better acquainted, at your insistence I might add! It seems while you and Lizzy have lively, outgoing personalities, Jane and I both hold things in more than we ought. That's all."
"Good, good. So, let's cut to the chase here Darcy. Am I going to get to call you brother soon, or what?"
"Let's see what the New Year brings…"
11:47pm December 31st, 2009
Lizzy had followed Jane into the bathroom and was quite distressed to find Jane worshipping at the feet of the porcelain gods.
"Jane! Are you alright? Sweetie, do you want me to take you home?"
Glancing at her watch and seeing that she only had a few minutes to ditch her sister and go find Charlie, she groaned, "No! I'm fine, I swear I'm fine."
"If green is the new color that signifies fine, then yes, I'd say you're fine. Come off it Jane, you're not well and you know it."
Jane knew it was futile, but tried to reassure Lizzy. "I am well. What I have shall pass in time."
Growing fearful, she demanded to know, "What aren't you telling me?"
Looking at her watch once more, Jane stood straight, looked defiantly at her little sister and said, "I promise, I'll explain it all tomorrow. Right now I've gotta go and find Charlie. Don't look at me like that. I promise that I'm alright, but, if you're still so concerned, you can go and ask Will about it."
Lizzy felt insulted. "Wait. William Darcy knows some big, dark secret about you that even I don't know? How?"
"I don't have time for this Lizzy and neither do you. Don't you have someone that you needed to find?"
"Yes… but if you'd rather I stay with you…."
Jane opened the door and was forcefully pushing Lizzy through it. "I love you, you know I do, but I'd much rather kiss Charlie at midnight and I know that Will is looking for you."
"How do you know that?"
"I just do. I promise, all questions can be answered tomorrow. Happy New Year Lizzy, but get the hell out of my way!"
December 31st, 2009 11:56pm
Louise cooed into her husband's ear, "Happy New Year Randy."
"I think it will be." Hurst replied as he was taking in the picture of his wife as she was sprawled out upon the bed, waiting for him to join her.
December 31st, 2009 11:57pm
Collins was blathering on about what had brought them back to the area. "Well my love, isn't it amazing that we're here, ringing in another New Year together?"
Charlotte could take no more. "Have you made any resolutions for 2010 Bill?"
"None whatsoever! My life is exactly as I want it!"
"I've made a resolution."
"I'd be happy to hear it love."
"I want a divorce."
11:58pm December 31st, 2009
Elizabeth was exasperated. She'd checked off many of the things on her mental to-do list, but the most important one still eluded her.
The crowd was growing excited as the band leader called attention to the projection screen which now showed the throng gathered in Times Square. There were only a few moments left to fix the biggest error she ever made. It felt, and Lizzy knew this was a completely irrational feeling, like it was now or never.
People continued to pair up as midnight drew near, and now it was easier to see her way around the ballroom. Frantically searching for Will, she wondered how it was possible to not see such a tall man in a room full of people of decidedly average stature. Lizzy felt like crying. Feeling defeated, she put both hands on top of her head and drew them down over her face.
A deep voice spoke behind her. "Happy New Year Elizabeth."
Lizzy instantly knew to whom the voice belonged. She turned towards him, eyes bright with unshed tears, and smiled. "I don't have much time Will."
"Neither do I. I have something I'd like to say to you, if you'd care to listen to anything I have to say that is. I know that I'm not your favorite person."
"That's not true Will. I'll listen to whatever you wish to say, but I also have something I'd like to say to you too."
"Elizabeth, you don't have to spare my feelings. I'd just like to apologize to you. My behavior, the things I've said and done, it all is inexcusable. I am so sorry that I…"
Lizzy interrupted, "Stop right there. You weren't entirely wrong Will, about me or my family. I do think I know what's best for people… I guess that's something we both have in common. I should have listened to you about George. And you were even right about Charlie and Jane. I was so horrible to you and I can't bear the thought of starting the New Year with this awfulness between us."
Darcy's "Lizzy, I…" was met with Elizabeth's "Will, I…" when on the screen Ryan Seacrest announced the countdown was about to begin.
Realizing that he had nothing left to lose, he grabbed her hand and when she didn't tense up or pull away, he took the other one as well. Standing close together, they smiled as they each felt the majority of their anxiety pass away with the chanting of the crowd.
TEN! NINE! EIGHT! SEVEN! SIX! FIVE! FOUR! THREE! TWO! ONE! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
The band Charlie hired began to play Auld Lang Syne as everyone seemed to pair up for their New Year's kiss.
Elizabeth pulled her hands away from Darcy's grasp. He felt her rejection and hung his head while trying to think of the right was to word an apology for being, yet again, so presumptuous towards her.
Seeing his reaction, she realized she had misconstrued her actions. "Silly Willy!"
Lizzy had his full attention now. No one ever called him Willy. Looking at her with sad eyes, he was confused by the grin she wore.
She stepped closer and put her arms around his neck. "If you're holding my hands, how can I do this?" Lizzy crushed him tightly and tiptoed so she could kiss him.
Surprised, and exceedingly pleased, by this turn of events, it took but a moment to register that things might just actually work out even better than he hoped. Will returned her kiss and with it, expressed all the passion that he had long held for his beloved Lizzy.
"Now tell me Will, what resolutions have you made for 2010?"
"I made but one. I swore I would find some way to tell you that I love you and that I need you more than anything else in my life. Elizabeth Bennet, please consider giving me a chance to show you that I've changed. And if I can somehow convince you that I am different, well then just maybe perhaps I'd no longer be the last man in the world that you'd ever marry?"
"Hmm. Would you like to hear my resolution?" Will nodded yes. "I vowed to make sure that you didn't make any needless changes, especially on my account, as you are already the very best of men. I vowed to tell you how stupid I've been. I vowed to tell you, William Darcy, that I am hopelessly, shamelessly, fanatically, in love with you and then pray that your good opinion might not be lost forever."
Darcy raised an eyebrow and questioned, "Fanatically? Should I be worried?"
Lizzy was so excited that she jumped up and down. "Oh Will! I'm so proud of you! You've learned at last how to tease!"
Pulling her back in his arms, he contentedly sighed. Holding Elizabeth in his arms was a new sensation that he was sure he'd never grow tired of. "Tease me all you like, my dearest Lizzy. Just be warned that I reserve the right to exact the revenge of my choosing."
Elizabeth was positive she'd never been happier than this moment. "Do your worst. How shall you punish me? What sentence would a just man like you give to fit the crime?"
He kissed her tenderly on her cheek before he answered. "Well, in my time on the bench I've seen many repeat offenders. I think the only fair thing would be to protect society at large from your wit by keeping you under close supervision."
Lizzy laughed outright. "Parole? And whom shall the Honorable Judge Darcy appoint as my keeper?"
"It's a dirty job, but I suppose I must do it myself. For the good of the people, that is."
She smacked his arm lightly and he teased again, "Contempt of court! You, madam, are a menace!"
"Lord help me, I've created a monster! A giant, handsome, brilliant monster. I suppose it falls to me to protect the city from Darzilla… or maybe you're more a Mechadarzilla?"
He kissed the spot just behind her earlobe and then whispered in her ear, "Marry me?"
Lizzy sighed, "I thought you'd never ask!"
Darcy could not help but protest, "I did! Twice now! Do not toy with me Elizabeth…"
"Toy? With you? Never!" She kissed him once more and then declared, "Yes, Will! I will marry you!"
"Excellent! I have a suggestion for one more resolution that we can work on together, since we've managed to already accomplish our others."
"I'm all ears."
"I say that we resolve to always talk and work through our misapprehensions and try to always be open and honest with one another. I know I miss some things, well, many things really, but you can't expect me to read your mind anymore than you can read mine."
She smiled and knew that despite their differences and all they'd been through, that they would be the happiest of couples. "Agreed. Though I believe right now I can read your mind."
"Really? What am I thinking right now?"
Elizabeth was about to say, but then she realized they were not alone. She stood tip-toed once again and whispered her answer in his ear."
Darcy blushed and shook his head. "I have no idea how you knew, but I'll never doubt you again!"
They both laughed and just enjoyed the moment. It was a new start and a new year full of new possibilities!
12:09am January 1st, 2010
Standing on the dais, Charlie had the band leader call everyone's attention before he made his announcement.
"First of all, I'd like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year and thank you all for attending tonight."
The crowd applauded and Charlie waved his hand, indicating for everyone to be quiet. "I'm pleased to see that so many of you could make it out tonight and chose to share your holiday with us. As much as I love throwing a good party though, I need to announce that the annual Bingley New Year's party is cancelled for next year."
The surprise was audible and Charlie clarified, "I am sorry to disappoint everyone, but next year's shindig will be a private family affair. It pleases me more than I can say that Jane Bennet has agreed to marry me and I'd also like to announce that by this time next year, there'll be a new Baby Bingley!"
Everyone shouted out cheers and congratulations and Bingley let the noise naturally run its course. "Thank you everyone! Jane and I do feel terrible about next New Year's though and would like to announce that we'll be holding a Valentine's Ball. So, on behalf of myself and Jane, again we wish you a happy and safe New Year and we hope to see everyone in February!"
January 23rd, 2010
The Honorable William George Darcy was wed to Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Elaine Bennet in a quiet civil ceremony performed by Judge Richard Fitzwilliam at City Hall. Later that same afternoon, the new Mrs. Darcy turned in her resignation to the D.A,'s office, citing conflict of interest.
February 13th, 2010
Charles and Jane Bingley were married in a private ceremony for family and friends performed by their good friend Will Darcy at the Bingley home. The planned Valentine's Ball also served as a wedding reception of sorts and (nearly) everyone was pleased to see how happy both sets of newlyweds were.
March 9th, 2010
The marriage of Charlotte Lucas-Collins and William Collins was dissolved in family court. Lizzy had asked Will for a recommendation of a reputable divorce attorney after all. Charlotte had been very surprised when Will recommended his cousin Anne DeBourgh from the very firm her soon-to-be ex-husband worked for. Anne explained that as she knew, from working with him, how petty Collins could be. Anne believed it was the only way to assure that Charlotte would have fair and equal representation.
April 19th, 2010
George Wickham stood in court being arraigned on tax evasion and for attempting to flee the country during a Federal investigation. Darcy, of course, had recused himself from the case but sat inside the courtroom to watch his father's former prodigy get what he had long deserved.
April 27th, 2010
George Wickham was convicted of tax evasion, fraud, embezzlement and attempt of flight. He was sentenced to twenty-seven years, with the possibility of parole in fifteen. Darcy was a happy man.
May 22nd, 2010
Caroline Bingley married a seventy-nine year old wealthy, childless widower while on vacation in the south of France. She insisted that the news be known far and wide that she was now Mrs. Caroline Egastly, wife of citrus magnate Orin G. Egastly, and so it was. Caroline greatly enjoyed her fifteen minutes of fame in the spotlight on shows like Inside Edition and Access Hollywood.
June 4th, 2010
Citrus magnate Orin G. Egastly had a heart attack and passed away at home while attended by his young wife Caroline Egastly. Unfortunately for the new Mrs. Egastly, Orin G. had still considered them to be on their honeymoon and he had not yet altered his iron-clad will to include any provisions for his new wife. The entirety of his massive fortune was left to migrant farmers who worked on his orange groves in California. Caroline protested and was accurately labeled a fortune-hunter. She decided to take what little dignity she had left and start over again in Brazil.
June 25th, 2010
Erick the gardener sold a screenplay, based on a true story, about a young man who offered his tender heart to an older seductress only to have it smashed to bits. Jason Reitman was interested in filming it with Michael Cera in the lead.
July 1st, 2010
Louise Hurst gave birth to a healthy, full-term son who looked not one bit like the man named as his father on his birth certificate. Randy Hurst knew full well that he was claiming responsibility for another man's burden but had reconciled this and many other things with his wife. For the first time in their nine years of marriage, they were both happy. She had resolved to be faithful and try to be a better wife. He had resigned to stop drinking and be a more attentive husband.
August 7th, 2010
Jane and Charles Bingley welcomed Aiden and Adrianna Bingley into the world and to their family. The proud parents were ecstatic that they had been blessed twice over.
September 13th, 2010
Elizabeth Darcy announced her candidacy for City Council and, unsurprisingly,was endorsed by several local judges and community groups.
October 12th, 2010
Attorney William Collins is arrested for contempt of court when, during a trial, he threatened Richard Fitzwilliam. It seems that Collins had recently been informed by his colleague Anne DeBourgh that his ex-wife Charlotte was now dating the judge. While cooling his heels in a cell, Collins was informed by a very giddy Anne that his continued poor performance in court and his overly servile attitude had cost him his position at DeBourgh & Associates.
November 2nd, 2010
Former Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Bennet Darcy won the seat she sought for City Council by a twenty-four percent margin of victory.
December 25th, 2010
When William Darcy opened the gift from his wife, he was confused. Within a slim box, Will found a dozen or so brochures for various law schools around the country.
"Elizabeth? Once again, you're too clever for me. I'm afraid I don't get it. We already have our law degrees sweetheart."
Grinning, she replied, "Yes we do. However, I was thinking that it's never too early to start planning for the next generation."
Looking from his wife, to the pamphlets in his hand, and then back to his wife, he met her grin with one of his own. "Really?"
"Yes! Merry Christmas Will!"
"This is the best Christmas gift I've ever received! I love you my dearest, loveliest Elizabeth!"
"I'm honored, you Honor! I love you too, Will."
In 2011, it was Darcy's pleasure to return the favor that Richard had done for him by presiding over the nuptials of Charlotte and his friend. They were a truly happy couple and no one ever wondered again about Charlotte's good sense.
The Bingley twins were the very opposite of their parents. As the Bingleys were over-indulgent parents, Aiden and Adrianna were terrors until their teen years. Eventually, they settled down and were good students. The Bingleys continued to be as blissfully happy as people who only see the world through rose-colored glasses often are.
Caroline eventually married again. This time she made sure she was in the old man's will before the wedding. Even though her husband was thirty-seven years older than she, he outlived her as she died in a freak accident. The accident involved, ironically enough, a truck carrying pineapples for the Orin G. Egastly Company which ran her off the road, causing her to overturn her bright orange Jeep.
Collins moved out west and started his own law firm. He became well-known for representing people guilty of petty-crime and drunk driving. He even had radio and television ads featuring a jingle that went: Did you do the crime, but can't do the time? Call Collins. Did you get in a mess, but can't afford the best? Call Collins. Did you DWI and now wonder why? Call Collins. Bill Collins is the man with the plan, so call now, he'll understand! Call Collins.
Erick Stanley changed his name to Erick Gardener. After he won the Academy Award for best original screenplay for "African Violets", he became one of the new Hollywood elite. He continued writing a string of angsty-arty movies that garnered both critical and commercial success. Erick Stanley eventually found romance with a much-older actress who resembled, purely by coincidence, Louise Hurst.
Anne DeBourgh eventually took over the firm from her mother and DeBourgh & Associates' reputation grew as the firm in town. Jaded by her years as a divorce lawyer, she remained single but never alone.
And what became of the Darcys? Why they lived happily ever after of course! William eventually was elected to the State Supreme Court, while Elizabeth continued to work diligently for the city they both loved as a Councilwoman.
Their first-born daughter Elanna eschewed the entire idea of college and instead went to Cosmetology School. She eventually became a moderately successful beautician. The Darcy's second-born daughter Grace graduated with honors, but married immediately after college. Will and Lizzy's third child, a son, went to school and decided to follow in his parent's footsteps and did attend law school. Adam Darcy became a criminal attorney and eventually moved out west where he joined the firm of Collins, Feiger, Chiles and Cochran where Darcy eventually made partner.
The Darcys had long ago resolved that they would never push their own ambitions on their children. Where William and Elizabeth might have chosen different paths for their children if they could, their children were happy with the lives they chose and so they were satisfied and resigned to be happy for their children's sakes.
Eventually, Darcy retired from the bench and taught law at a prestigious university. Elizabeth whiled away her retirement years writing books on civic duty and activism. They enjoyed being grandparents and having large family gatherings as often as possible. Even in their latter years, they still teased each other and did so until the day, some fifty-eight years into their marriage, they were finally parted.The End