Beginning, Section II
Posted on 2011-09-27
When Darcy and Charles returned from their walk, they found Colin sitting with the others on the patio; Caroline was nowhere to be seen.
' - and thus, I had not only bought a donkey instead of the olives I wanted,' George was just saying, 'apparently I had also offered a spectacular amount of money for the man's spinster sister.'
'Yes, that was my honeymoon,' Emma said. 'With a newly-wedded husband who insisted he was fluent in Greek.'
'I did learn Greek at university!' George protested.
'It shattered all my illusions,' Emma said. 'Until then, I was convinced that George knew everything and could do everything - I mean, I was young and naďve back then -'
She patted her husband's knee.
'Yes, and then Emma took up the negotiations with the old farmer,' George continued for her. 'They conversed in the most abysmal French I've ever heard - for some reason, the man knew a little French -'
'Yes, and not only did I manage to buy the olives,' Emma said, 'he also gave us cheese and olive oil for free.'
'And thus, sheer stubbornness and a great deal of fluttering of eyelashes won over an attempt to be polite and converse in the native language,' George said.
'Oh, Fitz,' Colin said. 'There you are again. I wrote a card to Aunt Catherine - do you want to scribble anything underneath?'
'I can't say I want to,' Fitzwilliam said. 'But I suppose I had better do so.'
'It's on my bed,' Colin said. 'Stick the stamp on it when you're done. Oh, and there's also one for Anne, if you want to add anything to that.'
Fitzwilliam went inside.
'Where's Caroline?' Charles asked.
'I think she wanted to lie down,' Jane said. 'Or she wanted to read? I'm not sure. She said not to take it personally, but she didn't feel like sitting here with us, didn't she, Colin?'
'Hm, what?' Colin said. 'I thought she wanted to touch up her manicure or something.'
'Ah, okay,' Charles said. 'Eh, Colin, could I talk to you for a moment?'
'Sure, what's up?' Colin asked.
'Eh, in private,' Charles added.
Jane looked at him with confusion, so he mouthed, 'later.'
'Okay,' Colin said, obviously equally confused.
He set down his bottle of Splügen.
'Shall we go inside?'
They closed the French doors behind them.
'Well, then, Charlie,' Colin said. 'What can I do for you?'
Charles blushed furiously.
'Eh - this is about Caroline,' he said.
'Now, please don't take this the wrong way,' Charles said hastily. 'I, eh, I don't mean to interfere or anything -'
'There's nothing between your sister and me,' Colin said, emphasising the second word.
'I know, I know,' Charles said. 'It's just - eh - whatever you do, don't, you know, hurt her. I mean, I don't want to play the big brother here or anything, it's just, eh, she was really crushed the last time and if you don't feel the same way, I mean, just don't, eh - you know.'
He blushed furiously and ran his hand through his hair.
'Uhm, that's all,' he said. 'I guess I'll go back outside. Coming?'
'In a minute,' Colin said. 'I think I got something stuck under my contact - I'll just sort it out.'
He rubbed at his eye, more in pretense than anything, until he realised that he had indeed got something stuck under his contact. Angrily, he made his way over to the bathroom only to find the door locked. He could hear the tap running inside and knocked on the door. There was no reaction inside.
'Oh, come on,' he groaned. 'I only need to clean my contact, it won't take a minute.'
There was still no reaction.
'Oh, for heaven's sake, there's no reason to be a prude,' he said. 'I mean, it's not as if you had anything I haven't seen before, is it?'
The door was ripped open from the inside.
'I cannot fault you there,' Caroline said, 'although I don't see why you feel the need to brag about it all the time.'
Even with just one contact in, he could clearly see that she was wrapped in nothing but a thick yellow towel that ended far above her knees. Her hair clung to her head and neck; it was still wet, he presumed. There was an angry red bruise on her shoulder. Maybe an insect had bitten her, or she had got sunburnt, he could not tell.
'Sorry, I didn't know it was -'
'Who did you expect?' Caroline snapped.
'Fitz,' Colin said.
The scent of something fruity hung in the bathroom air. If pressed, he would say that it was lemon, although there seemed to be something else mixed into it. He wondered if it was her shampoo or her soap.
'Oh, well, then,' Caroline said and let him enter the bathroom. 'But be quick.'
He stumbled after her. The mirror was still fogged. He knew he had placed the solution for his contacts somewhere to the left of it and tried to look for it.
'You won't see a thing like this,' Caroline said and rubbed a bit of the mirror clean for him.
It was grapefruit, he thought, not lemon. She reached for a small jar with white content and began dabbing some of the white stuff at her face. She was standing so close that he could see drops of water running out of her hair and down her back. Her skin was already slightly tanned; thin, paler lines down her shoulders showed where her bikini straps had been.
'Shouldn't you be looking in the mirror if you want to get your contact out?' Caroline asked.
'I've already got it out,' he said. 'I need to get it cleaned and back in.'
He held out his hand to show her the contact resting on his finger tip. He could see the bottle of solution now. Forgetting that he was still balancing his contact and concentrating more on the vaccination scar on Caroline's shoulder than on the solution, he reached for the bottle and promptly sent both it and and his contact flying.
'Don't move!' he cried and knelt down to look for the contact.
'Oh, damn,' he muttered.
'What?' Caroline asked.
'I've lost the other one as well.'
'Wait, I'll help you,' Caroline said and knelt down as well.
Her face was inches from his now; it was so close that he could see how her thick eye-lashes curled upwards, how there was a faint trace of freckles across her long, thin nose, how the pout of her wide lips made her look a little like a duck.
'God, you're beautiful,' he panted.
'Yes, and you're blind as a bat,' Caroline said. 'Besides, idle flattery won't help you here. You'd better start looking for your stupid contacts.'
Dutifully, he placed his hands on the floor again. He leaned forward and heard the all too familiar sound of a small object breaking.
Jenna and Anne giggled when they sat down at the breakfast table.
'What's up with the two of you?' Georgiana asked.
'Aunt Caro helped us dress,' Anne explained.
'And we had some girly time,' Jenna said. 'We painted our nails.'
Proudly, both girls held out their right thumbs, the nails of which were painted a deep, dark red.
'We did Aunt Caro's feet too,' Anne added.
'I hope you don't mind,' Caroline said to Elizabeth and Jane. 'But I thought just one finger couldn't hurt -'
'Nah, it's fine,' Elizabeth said. 'Thanks for being such a good sport about sharing the room.'
'Uncle Colin never does girly time,' James complained. 'He snores and he looks like a panda.'
'A panda?' Georgiana asked.
'Ye-es,' James said, now a bit confused.
He had been quite sure that he knew what a panda was. He placed his fingers around his eyes to show his aunt what he meant.
'Glasses,' Elizabeth mouthed.
'Oh!' Georgiana said. 'That kind of panda! What happened to his contacts?'
'Trampled on them,' Caroline said. 'I must say, I haven't seen the glasses. What do they look like?'
'You heard it, my dear,' someone said behind her. 'Like a giant panda.'
Colin entered the kitchen, wearing, as James had indicated, a pair of thick black horn-rimmed glasses.
Upon seeing him, Caroline giggled.
'Actually,' she said, 'you look like one of those East German politicians.'
'If I could entertain you, I'm happy to be of service,' Colin said.
'That's all?' Caroline asked. 'No shrewd observation about out-dated world views? No reprimands about prejudices about our European neighbours? No defense of your choice of accessory?'
'I like to surprise you,' Colin said.
'Confuse me, rather,' Caroline said. 'Uh, my shoulder itches. It appears I forgot to put lotion on it.'
She reached across her chest to scratch her shoulder.
'I've got after-sun lotion, if you want some,' Colin said.
Caroline let her hand drop and stared at him.
'No, this is not how it works,' she said. 'You're now supposed to remark that some women will do everything, even risk their health, for a tan.'
'I think your tan suits you very much,' Colin said.
'Did he, uh, s-m-o-k-e something?' Caroline asked Georgiana. 'Did he bring any w-e-e-d or stuff?'
'I can still understand you, you know,' Colin said. 'You'll need to get a more sophisticated code if you want to keep me in the dark.'
'Now that's more like it!' Caroline exclaimed. 'Are you all going to the beach again today?'
'Yes,' Elizabeth said. 'We're meeting Emma and her family in half an hour. Do you want to join us?'
'I'll come later,' Caroline said. 'I'll cycle into town first; I'm expecting an e-mail and I want to pick up some stuff.'
'Well, I think we won't be difficult to find,' Elizabeth said. 'Just look for the bright yellow umbrella. What about you, Colin - coming with us?'
'Eh - Georgiana has offered me her board, so I was thinking about going surfing,' Colin said. 'Unless you want me to come to town with you, Caroline?'
'Oh, dear me, no,' Caroline said. 'Please, go surfing, Herr Honecker - if you can, with those glasses.'
Jane filled her bucket with sand and emptied it over the giant heap of sand Elizabeth was trying to mold into a fortified structure. Emma patted down the walls of what was meant to be the moat. Georgiana lay flat on her stomach and scraped sand out of the moat into her bucket.
'Remind me again why we're doing this,' she groaned.
'Because your brother promised his children they'd have the biggest sandcastle on this beach,' Elizabeth said.
'So he's your husband, you could have stopped them,' Georgiana said.
'Stop squabbling,' Emma ordered. 'Tell me how our love-birds are doing before the men return with the children.'
Elizabeth shook her head.
'I have no idea what is up with them,' she said. 'Colin behaved very weird this morning.'
'Yes, almost as if he were courting Caroline,' Georgiana added.
'No more Heyer for you,' Elizabeth said. 'Or you'll suggest that Charles should ask Colin about his intentions next.'
'Uh -' Jane said and accidentally upended her bucket in the moat.
'What's the matter?' Elizabeth asked. 'And don't do that. It's supposed to be the deepest moat in world history.'
'I think Charles, err, actually did ask Colin about his intentions,' Jane said. 'Not my idea, I should add.'
'He didn't!' Emma said.
'I'm afraid he did,' Jane said. 'Apparently, it was all on Fitz's urging.'
'I told him that I didn't think it was our business,' she said. 'What exactly did he make Charles say?'
'Something about that he didn't want Caroline hurt, and if Colin wasn't serious about this -'
Georgiana giggled. Elizabeth gave her a questioning look.
'It seems that was the wake-up call Colin needed,' Georgiana explained. 'Rather like Benedick, wouldn't you say?'
Caroline made her way through the deep sand towards the large yellow umbrella she could espy in the distance. The sun was burning hot on her back and she was looking forward to getting into the sea as soon as she had unloaded her bag and got out of her dress. As she came nearer, she heard voice from behind the umbrella. It was positioned in such a way as to block her view, but she guessed that it was only the women sitting behind it.
' - so I guess there is no need to let Caroline know about Colin,' Elizabeth was saying.
Caroline froze to the spot.
'Not much, no,' Emma agreed.
'But wouldn't it be fair to tell her he's, you know, fancying her?' Jane said. 'Now that he's -'
'Jane, this isn't sixth form any more,' Elizabeth said. 'Let them work it out for themselves, I say. They're old enough.'
'I think Jane has a point though,' Georgiana said. 'I mean, he's giving her all those smoldering glares and she has no idea. If she knew, she could decide what to do about it.'
'Yes, but what if she decides not to act upon her knowledge?' Elizabeth asked. 'She'd be incredibly awkward around him, trying to avoid him so as not to hurt his feelings, whereas if she doesn't know, she can act around him like she always does.'
'But she's mean to him!' Jane said.
'And he's mean to her,' Elizabeth said. 'I think that's just their thing, really. It won't hurt him if she snaps at him just like she always does, he's used to it.'
'There must have been a reason he fell for her in the first place,' Emma added. 'It won't have been for her sweet temper, I suppose.'
'Pah,' Georgiana said. 'Perfection is overrated anyway, if you ask me. Nothing's more boring than a perfect person.'
'And besides, if he wanted her to know, he could tell her,' Elizabeth said. 'Which I gather he hasn't done yet, so -'
'Maybe you're right,' Jane conceded. 'It's just - it seems unfair, somehow -'
'I'm sure it'll all work out, some way or other,' Elizabeth said.
'And if it doesn't,' Georgiana said, 'we can always give her a clue when - oh, bugger -'
A bucket rolled out of the shadow of the umbrella and Georgiana ran after it. She caught the bucket, then looked up and saw Caroline standing there, still rooted to the ground.
'Hi, Caro,' she said lamely.
Caroline gave her a long, unblinking look, then turned without a word and ran towards the dunes.
Random Information: Charles is a writer. He writes the 'Dino the Rhino' children's books series, under the name 'C. Bingley' (Hence Caroline's desire for a pseudonym). Elizabeth is a literary agent, that's how they met. She clashed horribly with Darcy when Charles asked Darcy to go over some contracts Elizabeth provided.
Posted on 2011-10-04
'Uh, that didn't go too well, eh?' Emma said.
'Why?' Georgiana said. 'I think she heard exactly what I would've wanted her to overhear, and now nobody has to have any scruples about whether or not we should lay a trap for her or not.'
'She didn't seem very impressed,' Jane said.
'She'll come round,' Georgiana assured her. 'How much deeper do we have to dig?'
'I think Anne intends to hide in the moat,' Elizabeth said. 'So, deeper.'
'We should organise a romantic date for them,' Emma said. 'Wait, what am I doing? I said I wouldn't meddle anymore.'
'A romantic date, yes,' Georgiana said. 'Any suggestions for a first date?'
'Charles took me to see a movie on our first date,' Jane said. 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I thought that was very nice.'
'Yes, because you have a crush on Sean Connery,' Elizabeth said.
'Lizzy's right, we need a better movie suggestion,' Georgiana said. 'A more romantic movie perhaps -'
Elizabeth made a dismissive sound.
'Fitzwilliam took me to see When Harry Met Sally on our first date,' she said. 'It was the worst date I've ever had.'
Georgiana dropped the bucket and sat upright.
'I've never heard that story,' she said. 'Spill.'
'There's not much to tell,' Elizabeth said. 'I was in New York, for work reasons, and I ran into your brother one day. I didn't know many people there, so when he suggested that we go to the movies together, I agreed. I didn't even know it was supposed to be a date, I thought we were just two legal aliens spending a night together missing dear old Blighty. Well, Fitzwilliam picked When Harry Met Sally, which had just come out, because someone had told him it was a perfect relationship movie -'
'Well, it is not bad,' Emma said.
'Shh!' Georgiana interrupted her.
'I even might have liked it,' Elizabeth continued, 'but the fact was, by the time Fitzwilliam came to pick me up, I was furious with him. I'd found out some things about him that, well - not nice things, anyway, and while I was still contemplating whether I should just confront him with them or not, somehow we were on our way and in the cinema and I didn't want to make a scene, so I decided just to go along with it and leave as soon as I could. Fitzwilliam went the whole way, bought me popcorn and all, and just when I was about to change my mind and think that maybe, just maybe, I had misunderstood Col- that is, the colleague I'd spoken with - just then, Fitzwilliam, well -'
'Well what?' Georgiana cried.
'He proposed to me!' Elizabeth exclaimed. 'In a dingy New York street, out of the blue, the idiot had the guts to propose to me on what I now realised was our first date. And, what is more, he did not even use his own words.'
'Whose words?' Emma asked eagerly.
'Billy Crystal's,' Elizabeth said. 'He actually was presumptuous enough to give me the whole Billy Crystal speech, you know, that whole nonsense about the rest of your life, almost verbatim, and expected me to be delighted by his advances!'
She rolled her eyes.
'Thank goodness he pulled his act together,' she said. 'If he were still the same man as then - mind you, I had come to some very false conclusions about his character, so that reality check helped us both in the end, but still. Well, our second first date was nice enough, and very memorable, so we prefer to only think of that one.'
Jane shot her sister a meaningful glance.
'Was that the one where -'
'Yes,' said Elizabeth with an indignant expression.
'Oh, the one on -'
'Yes, Georgiana, the very one,' Elizabeth said.
'You make me curious,' said Emma.
'Me too,' Georgiana added. 'I've never heard the full story. Please, Elizabeth - and I promise, I'll make this the deepest moat mankind has ever seen.'
Elizabeth sighed in defeat.
'Oh, very well then,' she said.
Emma clapped her hands in anticipation.
'No clapping,' Georgiana said. 'Dig, or she won't tell the story.'
'Shh,' Jane said. 'This is good. I want to hear it.'
'So, then,' Elizabeth said. 'This was a couple of months after that first date in New York. We were both back home and, well, a lot of things had happened. Fitz had realised he'd been behaving like a complete idiot, and I had realised he wasn't a complete idiot - but anyway. We'd just recently met again because he needed me to go over some contracts with him - or I had asked him about some contracts, I don't quite recall - anyway, there were some papers we needed to look at together.'
'Get to the point,' Georgiana said. 'I mean, the actual meeting.'
'Dig faster then,' Elizabeth said. 'As I said, we wanted to look at some papers together and for some reason or other, we agreed that he'd come by Jane's and my place after work. Now, I knew that Jane would be out that evening with her new boyfriend -'
For some reason, Jane grinned.
'- and I really, really wanted Fitz to stay for as long as possible, without actually telling him so,' Elizabeth said. 'I wasn't sure whether this was an actual date or not, or what it was -'
'Oh, it was a date, definitely,' Georgiana said. 'You should've seen him beforehand. He got home from work early and shaved and changed his shirt thrice and then kept asking if I thought he should've gone to the hairdresser's. I ended up shoving him out of the door and locking it behind him so he couldn't come back and change his shirt again.'
'Yes, but I couldn't know that, could I?' Elizabeth said. 'All I knew was that he might want to get this done with as quickly as possible. So I got some curry from the take-out and heated that in the kitchen; I set the table and everything and waited. And waited.'
'Because Fitz was still busy fretting about whether to wear a tie or not,' Georgiana said.
'As I said, I couldn't know,' Elizabeth said. 'I was worried I'd misunderstood, or that maybe he had stood me up because he wasn't interested anymore, and so I went into the other room and switched on the telly to distract myself, when finally, he rang the door.'
'Gee, I was almost worried myself now that he wouldn't come,' Emma said. 'What happened then? Did you talk?'
'Not at first, no,' Elizabeth said. 'Well, we talked, but we didn't talk. We ate the curry and made small-talk over that - horribly stilted, that was, and we ended up talking about nothing but the weather, really. Then we had a look at whatever documents they were and did whatever it was we needed to do with them and suddenly, out of the blue, Fitz asked me if I'd like to go and see a movie.'
'Oh, what movie did you see?' Emma asked.
'None,' Elizabeth said. 'I agreed of course and grabbed my coat and my handbag and we were just about to leave when I noticed that in the other room, the telly was still running.'
'So?' Emma asked.
'Ah, Lizzy's been withholding crucial information,' Georgiana said. 'Emma can't know what happened next without it.'
'What then?' Emma asked. 'What information?'
'It wasn't just any old Thursday in November,' Georgiana said.
'It's my story, I tell it,' Elizabeth said. 'You dig.'
'What next?' Emma asked. 'I'm on tenterhooks here!'
'As Georgiana said, it wasn't just any old Thursday in November. It was the ninth of November,' Elizabeth said. '1989.'
'Yes, indeed,' Elizabeth said. 'When I came into the living-room, there was live footage from Berlin on the telly. I was so shocked, I even forgot about Fitz for a moment, I just stood there, watching what was happening. Fitz followed me to see what was keeping me - probably thought I was getting cold feet by then - and also needed just one look at the telly to be silent. Then we sort of ended up sitting next to each other in the sofa, both still wearing our coats, gaping at the telly with open mouths. I still couldn't believe it, but somehow, it came to me just what this meant, just how incredible this was and -'
'- you started crying like a baby,' Jane finished for her.
'I didn't!' Elizabeth said. 'Well, a little perhaps. A very little.'
'And then Fitz comforted you,' Jane said.
'No!' Elizabeth exclaimed. 'Well, yes. He did. Sort of. Somehow. Anyway, we ended up kissing rather violently and err - well, eventually I needed to breathe again and I just looked at him and said something like, 'what the hell was that?' and we began discussing just what it was and that it was a good thing and we wanted it to continue and that sort of thing, and then, we, err, kissed some more and, uh, eventually discarded the coats and, uh, more, until -'
'- until the door burst open,' Jane said.
'Yeah, until the door burst open,' Elizabeth said. 'And someone shouted -'
'Someone shouted, 'switch on the telly, Lizzy, you'll never believe what just happened!'' Jane finished.
Both sisters began to giggle.
'So that was you then?' Emma asked.
'Yes, and Charles as well,' Elizabeth said. 'Storming into our flat like a herd of elephants, when Fitz and I were not entirely dressed for company and -'
'Well, we had no idea of knowing that,' Jane said. 'You never told me he was coming over, or I'd have rung the bell before.'
'I didn't want to tell you!' Elizabeth said. 'I had no idea if it was a date or what it was, and I didn't want to jinx it.'
'Anyway, it was so funny,' Jane said. 'Lizzy went red all over, not just her face, and Fitz made a noise like an over-excited rabbit, and Charles just stood there, gawking at the two of them, and all the time, the telly was still blasting live pictures from Berlin -'
'And then finally, Fitz got his act together,' Elizabeth continued, 'and he sort of stammered, 'it's not what it looks like!' because Charles was still gaping at us and Jane had begun to giggle like mad -'
'And then Lizzy started giggling too,' Jane said, 'and she looked at Darcy and said, 'actually, sweetheart, I think it's exactly what it looks like,' which would have sounded way cooler if she hadn't been desperately searching for her -'
'Yes, no need to go into detail,' Elizabeth interrupted her. 'I think they got the gist. How's the moat doing?'
Random Information: Currently, Elizabeth is on maternity leave; she's not quite sure yet when she'll return to work. Fortunately, Darcy earns enough for her to take her time. Elizabeth contemplates having another child; they grow up so quickly. Elizabeth's guilty pleasure is watching Friends. She'll tape the episodes when they're broadcasted and then watch them at night when she's nursing the baby. She really hopes Ross and Rachel will get together for good eventually.
Posted on 2011-10-11
'If this were Much Ado About Nothing, now would be the time for Claudio to accuse Hero of being unfaithful,' Georgiana said to her sister-in-law when they were cleaning the dishes. 'The stage is laid out, they both know how the other feels - now they've got to act!'
'You will, if you please, not instill some fanciful notion about me within my husband,' Elizabeth said.
'I hadn't meant to!' Georgiana said hastily. 'I'm sorry, Lizzy, if I gave that impression -'
'I believe that Fitz' and my relationship is healthier than that,' she said. 'However, my dear, I also believe that there is nothing you can do right now - nor anything you should.'
'But it's so frustrating!'
'Georgiana, if the pitiful beginnings of my romance with Fitz tell us anything, it's that these things will happen in their own time,' Elizabeth said. 'Can't you find something else to obsess about?'
'There's this book that Emma lent me,' she said. 'Something about an orphaned wizard in a wizarding school? She said it was just newly out and she picked it up because she thought it was a picture book, only it wasn't, and then she stayed up half the night reading it and couldn't put it down at all.'
'Well, then,' said Elizabeth. 'Why don't you read that?'
'But didn't you see how Caroline blushed to the roots of her hair when Colin asked her for the salt?'
'I did,' Elizabeth said. 'I also saw how Colin upended the sugar bowl when Caroline accidentally touched his shoulder, and I saw how Caroline accidentally stirred jam into her coffee this morning when Colin entered the room.'
'Yes, that's exactly what I mean,' Georgiana said. 'We've got to help them. They're hopeless!'
'Georgiana, they're adults - older than you, in fact.'
'But they're seriously romantically impaired,' Georgiana argued. 'Do you know, Caroline still thinks that C.C. is the heroine of The Nanny, and that the real question of the series is whether she'll end up with Maxwell or with Niles.'
'Nevertheless, I'm not going to meddle anymore,' she said. 'And I'd ask you to do the same, please, Georgiana. Trust me.'
'Right then,' Georgiana said. 'I'll read that stupid wizarding book. But I don't think I shall like it.'
'Join us outside for coffee when you're done pouting,' Elizabeth said.
'Any news from your father?' Elizabeth asked Emma, who was just flipping her phone shut.
'Indeed,' Emma said and groaned. 'He can't come tomorrow, he forgot to return some library books. But he's certain he shall be coming the day after.'
'Right,' George said. 'I'm all anticipation. What is my son doing there?'
'He's getting his nails done, I believe,' Elizabeth said. 'Ever since Caroline let the girls paint their thumb-nails, they've been playing manicure, and now your son's their latest victim.'
'They're not using actual nail polish, are they?'
'Just crayons,' Jane assured him. 'And I see your son's chosen a dark blue, so no need to fear about his masculinity.'
'A Splügen on that!' George said and raised his glass.
'A Splügen on what?' Caroline asked, coming out on the patio. 'Colin not here?'
'Ah, he's digging for his contacts prescription in his suitcase,' Charles said. 'But he said he left that book you'd been wanting to read on your bed, in case you were still interested.'
'He also asked if you really didn't want that after-sun lotion,' Georgiana added. 'He said it's in the bathroom if you wanted it.'
'Oh, how can he -' Caroline wheezed and rushed back inside.
She found Colin in the room he shared with James, bent low over a suitcase in which he was rummaging.
'How dare you?' she cried.
'How dare I what?' Colin said and stood up.
'You know!' Caroline exclaimed. 'All this! Being nice to me! That's not - that's not right -'
'I'm sorry, I didn't know being nice was a crime!'
'It is, when you have these kind of feelings for me!'
'I can't help having whatever feelings I have for you!'
'Oh, yes, you can,' Caroline said. 'You can.'
'Then tell me why I should,' Colin said. 'Maybe I'm happy the way I feel.'
'You have no right to that!'
'No,' Caroline shouted. 'None at all! Because if you did care about me - if you really cared about me - you wouldn't have not showed up and then shoved that stupid letter under my door, like I was just one of your countless little adventures!'
'You are an adventure alright,' Colin said hotly. 'But never, ever just a little one. And I did show up!'
'Ha!' Caroline exclaimed. 'When was that, in your dreams?'
'No, that very evening!' Colin shouted. 'I admit, I was a bit late, but I was there. I knocked on your door for hours, but you wouldn't open, and the reception said they couldn't phone you because you'd told them you didn't want to be disturbed.'
'Yeah, of course I didn't want to be disturbed,' Caroline said. 'I was expecting you, wasn't I? Only you weren't there! I waited for hours, but you didn't come!'
'So maybe I was a bit late then!' Colin said. 'But that was no reason to dump me like that, without even a note. If you'd had second thoughts, you could at least have told me in person. I wasn't that late, I'd gone to have just one drink before, just to calm myself.'
'Was the prospect of being with me so very frightening then?'
'You have no idea how frightening - I mean, Caroline, I'd known you for ages, and suddenly, in the months before the wedding, you were so completely different and I just knew, if I went into your room that night, and messed it up, there would be no turning back - I knew that whatever happened that night, if we crossed that threshold -'
'Do you think it wasn't frightening for me?' Caroline shouted. 'Because it bloody was! I knew that you coming to my room would change everything between us, forever, and I was completely scared of ruining it! I mean, I wouldn't have emptied the whole mini-bar otherwise, would I, and passed out on the bathroom rug, would I?'
'Why on earth did you do that?'
'Because I love you, you complete idiot!'
'You love me?'
'Yes, and I don't care if you like it or not!'
'Fine then!' Colin shouted. 'I love you too, you nonsensical shrew!'
He took a step towards her and she one towards him. They were now standing so close their noses where almost touching.
'Fine then,' Caroline said.
She leaned a little forward so that her nose was brushing his. Colin reached for one of her curls and tugged at it.
'Shall we risk it?' Colin asked. 'What do you say, will it be worth the risk?'
'We won't know unless we try,' Caroline said. 'So, what do you say, shall we?'
'Hell, yes!' Colin exclaimed.
'I believe that after such declarations, it is customary to, eh -'
'Well then,' Caroline muttered and leaned her forehead into his. 'Wouldn't want to go against tradition, would we?'
She carefully reached for his glasses, pulled them off his nose and tossed them onto the bed.
'No, we wouldn't,' Colin breathed against her cheek. 'Hysterical hag.'
'Insensitive git,' Caroline whispered before her lips touched his.
James stood in the door of the patio and looked at his parents.
'What's the matter, young man?' Elizabeth asked.
'I want to go to bed,' James said.
'Teeth brushed?' Elizabeth asked. 'Face washed?'
'Then into your jammies and off to bed with you,' Elizabeth said. 'If you're quick, I'll come and read you a story before you sleep.'
'Can't,' James muttered.
'Why not?' Elizabeth asked.
'Uncle Colin's tie is tied to the door,' James said.
'His what?' Elizabeth said, thinking she had misheard.
'His tie,' James said and pointed in the general direction of his bedroom.
Elizabeth got up and went inside, followed by everyone else still on the patio. Just as James had said, there was a striped tie fixed to the doorhandle of the room he was sharing with Colin.
'Well, then, Jamie,' Elizabeth said. 'I think this means you'll sleep in Aunt Caro's bed tonight.'
'And Aunt Caro?'
'I don't believe she'll need her bed tonight, Jamie,' Georgiana said.
Random Information: Darcy secretly hates 'Dino the Rhino' but he hasn't yet had the guts to tell anybody.
Posted on 2011-10-18
'They're here! They're here!'
Elizabeth hastily stepped aside as her fifteen-year-old daughter rushed down the stairs and to the front door.
'Where's my cape?' another voice came from upstairs. 'Mum, I can't find my cape!'
'I put it on your bed, darling!' Elizabeth called. 'Where is your brother?'
'I'm coming,' James said, as usual the only one not resorting to shouting. 'Mum, can you please tell Anne that that's my phone?'
'Nobody's taking their phone tonight,' Elizabeth said. 'You'll just lose it in the queue.'
'But what if Jenna texts me?' Anne asked.
'You'll see Jenna in thirty minutes, you'll survive,' Elizabeth decided. 'Now, look, there's Robbie coming up to the door, why don't you open it for him?'
'Mum!' Anne squealed, suddenly turned shy at the mention of Robert Knightley.
James, always far too good for this world, opened the door for his sister, and greeted his friend with a complicated hand-shake that reminded Elizabeth of a secret brotherhood.
'Hi, Robbie,' Elizabeth said. 'Where's your mum?'
'On the phone with grandpa,' Robert said. 'Something about how he thinks he may have caught SARS?'
'Cool shirt,' he said in Anne's direction, with promptly sent Elizabeth's eldest blushing.
'And Kathy didn't want to come with us?' Elizabeth asked.
'My daughter thinks she is too cool for children's books,' a voice came from the doorway. 'She's at a pyjama party where they'll be fawning over some vampire or other.'
'Oh my God, Emma, what are you wearing?' Elizabeth asked.
'Cool, isn't it?' Emma said and swirled around in her many skirts. 'I'm Bellatrix Lestrange, see?'
'I only have this,' Elizabeth said, reached for one of her more skewed attempts at creating a wizard's hat and sat it on her head.
'Mum, this is like, so embarrassing,' Anne said.
Robert only shrugged. He'd long given up on his mother.
'How's George?' Elizabeth asked.
'Same as ever,' Emma said. 'He's spending a boys' night with William. He's going to explain the rules of cricket to him, or so he says.'
She rolled her eyes. Elizabeth gave a good-natured laugh.
'Right, is everyone ready?' Emma asked.
'I should think so,' Elizabeth said. 'Kids, do you have everything? Are the computers switched off? Mobile phones left here?'
'Mum!' Anne groaned.
'My cape!' Richard cried.
'Darling, it's on your bed,' Elizabeth said, 'quick, go and get it. I'll just get Emily; she fell asleep in her car-seat.'
'We're still dropping Emily off at Jane's then?' Emma asked.
'Yes, Fitz just couldn't make it,' Elizabeth explained. 'But Jane says she's delighted, and I know Charles loves having his clientele around, and since we need to go there anyway to pick up Jenna -'
'And Andy doesn't want to come?' Emma asked, following her friend into the living-room.
'Just like William, he just doesn't get what the fuss is about,' Elizabeth said. 'Right, I've got her napkin bag, I've got a change of clothes, her teddy-bear - oh, wait, the cooler with the milk - just a moment -'
Emma followed her friend into the kitchen.
'I've just been on the phone with Georgiana,' Elizabeth said. 'She says she'll save us spots in the queue, just in case it gets really full before we get there.'
'I can't wait to see her again,' Emma said, 'it feels like ages.'
'She's thriving,' Elizabeth said. 'And do you know, she just told me the best of news.'
'Guess who's pregnant!'
Emma thought for a moment.
'No!' she finally said. 'Surely not -'
'Oh, yes,' Elizabeth said and grinned. 'After all these years of saying she'll never, ever have kids -'
'She's happy though about it?'
'Thrilled,' Elizabeth said, 'from what Georgiana told me. And Colin no less. They've already started renovating the spare room. I'm going to ask her for coffee next weekend, do you want to come?'
'Do I!' Emma cried. 'Of course I do. I want to hear all the details. When's it due?'
'Christmas, so I heard,' Elizabeth said. 'Apparently, Caroline's already been asked to write a column about her pregnancy, so you'll be able to read everything about it soon enough, from the surprise at the gyno's office to all the grisly details of her confinement.'
'Of course,' Emma said and grinned. 'Does that mean that Colin will finally make an honest woman of her?'
'Not in this life, if she has any say in it,' Elizabeth said. 'And from what Georgiana told me, they're both decided that the current situation won't change that.'
'And I suppose we should be off, before the kids leave without us,' Emma said. 'Here, let me take Emily's bags for you -'
'Thanks, that's better,' Elizabeth said. 'Right, my mini-van or yours?'
Random Information: Baby Emily was very much a surprise for both Elizabeth and Fitz, who'd given up hoping for another child about ten months before her birth. Fitz still gets an incomprehensible thrill out of contractual law. His wife doesn't understand it, but she's sympathetic. After all, he never complained the day he had no clean shirts to wear because she was too caught up with reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Elizabeth is still very much a house-wife, and loving it. She has, however, done a proof-reading stint for Caroline when the latter's first compilation of snarky columns hit the book-market. Charles continues to be the most popular parent in school pick-up runs. His wife was recently promoted to deputy headmistress. When young William was old enough, Emma joined the work-force again. She got her first gig as a photographer through Caroline's contacts in the newspaper world, for which she's eternally thankful. Georgiana has long broken up with Mark, but she has recently added him on facebook. She completed her studies in German and managed to secure a position with the government. It's not clear what exactly she does there. She tells people she's responsible for the cow census in Essex, but nobody knows why she would need an expertly forged Swiss passport for that, where her name is given as Anthea. Colin has lived at various ends of the world, wherever his company saw fit to send him. Caroline accompanied him on all of those trips and gained much fame with her 'Caroline Grey Abroad' columns, which formed the base of her much-acclaimed first book. She is currently working on the second compilation, hoping that Elizabeth will help her with the editing once more. Colin and Caroline returned for good about a year ago after Colin was promoted, bought a snug little cottage and renovated it themselves. It has a beautiful office where Caroline can write and a vegetable patch where Colin can release pent-up aggressions from the office. They're going to name their child Beatrice if it's a girl and Benedick if a boy. Dino the Rhino continues to be the second most popular series of children's books ever.The End