Posted on: 2010-12-23
Elizabeth Darcy sat at her computer, staring at the screen in total disgust. She'd just spent three hours surfing from one catalog site to another, trying to find something her husband might enjoy for Christmas. Yes, she could buy him another book; he'd have no objection to that, but even on that front, she was running out of ideas. He bought books as soon as they hit the shelf in the bookstore and ordered more when he came upon news of an interesting title. Blowing a stray strand of hair from her face, she again reached for her mouse and clicked on the next link Google suggested.
Riding Gear for the Horseman. Didn't Will have everything he could possibly need in the line of tack and outfitting? Yeah, he did.
E-book Readers for Everyone in the Family She lifted her eyes from the screen to glance around the room, taking in the filled shelves of the floor-to-ceiling bookcases that lined every wall of their shared study. Nah, Will wouldn't like that; he enjoyed the feel of a book, its weight, the texture of the pages in his hands too much to settle for an electronic screen.
Lingerie to Please Ah, now there was an idea. She scrolled down the page, taking in the skimpy bits of silk and satin. Why waste the money, even if they had more than enough? They could put it to much better use.
Then an idea hit her, more like slammed her square between the eyes like a solidly packed snowball. With a mischievous twinkle in her eye, she closed her web browser and pushed back her chair. She didn't need to spend a cent. She had everything she needed to create something special just for him.
Elizabeth and William stood at their door, waving goodbye to her family and his. When Fannie Bennet had arrived for dinner that night, she made no effort to disguise her decided disappointment at not finding a multitude of packages under the tree labeled for dear Will. At one point during the evening, between glasses of brandy-laced eggnog and carol singing, Elizabeth's mother had grabbed her by the arm and dragged her into the kitchen. There, she had demanded an explanation for why only one very thin envelope for him lay under their far too-simply decorated tree.
"What is wrong with you, Miss Lizzy?" she admonished. "Don't you want to keep that husband of yours?"
Elizabeth looked at her, confused.
"He's such a fine specimen of a man, and rich; you need to show him how much you appreciate him. Shower him with presents. What will he think about some trifling love note?" The woman tsk-tsked. "He'll think you couldn't be bothered to unearth something special for him."
"But, Mom –"
"No! No 'but Moms' from you, missy. That man probably spent a small fortune on a gift for you, diamonds, rubies, emeralds." Fannie Bennet punctuated each of the last three words by moving her head ever so slightly closer to her daughter; her eyes fairly glowing at the thought. "You figure out a way to produce something extraordinary for that man before you discover him waltzing out the door and into the arms of some more deserving woman."
Lizzy rolled her eyes. It was Christmas Eve, and stores were locked up tight until the day after the holiday when early morning shoppers would come pounding on their doors, expecting bargains. It's not like she hadn't tried to find something remarkable and wonderful for her husband, material objects to wrap and place under the tree. She smiled wryly as she realized just how much her attempt mirrored the old adage, What do you get for the man who already has everything? Not much. He didn't play golf, so there went the flashy new set of clubs. No need for soft-as-butter cashmere scarves to guard his well-formed neck from the winter chill; he had a box full of them sitting in the closet. He didn't wear French-cuffed shirts, except for rare formal occasions, so no need for fancy or quirky cufflinks. She had tried; she really had. How could she make her mother understand?
Taking a deep breath, Lizzy decided to throw caution and modesty to the wind and attempt to explain her plan. He mother was an adult and an avid promoter of marrying off all five of her daughters. Surely, she would grasp the concept behind the gift Elizabeth had decided upon for Will. She quickly began speaking in a low voice, laying out the details. Fannie listened, blushed, tutted, and, at long last, nodded her half-hearted approval.
"I suppose," she said, resignedly. "It just seems so … little, so ordinary." She swept her eyes over her daughter's still firm and supple body, not quite convinced that the gift she intended to present to Darcy would be enough to retain the affections of such a husband. He was, after all, a handsome, robust man who had been hounded by every single, and not so single, woman, before he married her second oldest. She gave her head a slight shake; she didn't understand Lizzy's marriage. The older woman still considered the whole thing a fluke, too tenuous, even now, after two years of their union, to allow her to think of any possibility other than the likelihood of one of those seductresses snatching the man away. Her daughter, while intelligent and somewhat attractive, really didn't posses much in the way of skills needed to hold onto a husband. Why, look, two years in and still no child! Her eldest daughter Jane, just a little older than Lizzy and married four months earlier, was already working on her second with her marvelous Charles. Letting out a sigh, she tried to set aside her worries about Darcy; she never had had any success in figuring out exactly what he saw in her daughter. She began walking toward the door, her lips pulled tight into a skeptical frown. "Very well, Lizzy, if you're sure he'll appreciate the gesture. I still say it's not enough."
"Trust me, Mom," she answered, seizing the opportunity to escape the unwelcome interrogation. Snatching up a plate of cookies in one hand and guiding her mother toward the living room with the other, she added, "Will will love it. He's always had things, possessions, so they don't really mean much to him. This; however, is sure to capture his attention; I'm almost positive he'll find it personal and pleasurable." She shot a confident smile her mother's way. "He'll treasure the memory of this, or my name isn't Elizabeth."
Will closed the door and leaned back against it, heaving a sigh of relief. "They're gone," he said with a weak smile.
She grinned back, stepping into his waiting embrace. "Yeah, they are; I thought they'd never leave."
They laughed against each other for a moment, and then his arms tightened around her. He leaned his cheek against the top of her head, noting, yet again, how perfectly formed they were for each other. He murmured, not moving, "Shall we leave clean up for the morning?"
Lizzy stiffened and pulled out of his arms. "Oh, no, mister," she growled, poking a finger against his chest. "We're not leaving this mess to greet us when we come down to open our presents."
Nodding, he agreed, then added, "Think we can open one package each before we begin?"
"Weeellll, I don't know." Her fingers saucily stroked her chin in mock-thought, a smirk playing about her lips, her eyes flashing with devilry.
It was too much for her husband. He abruptly pulled her into his arms and kissed that smirk away. After some time, they separated, breathless, and Darcy couldn't restrain a moan at their parting. "The hell with presents; let's go to bed."
Suddenly, releasing a small pant, she blurted out, "No, we can't. We must open at least one." Taking a moment to gain some small degree of self-control, she added, a slight tremor in her voice betraying a hint of panic, "It's tradition. We did it last year, after all; it's tradition, our tradition."
Leaning his forehead against hers, he tried to rein in his raging desires. Taking a deep, calming breath, he lightly bobbed his head, disappointed, but clearly resigned to his wife's wish. "Okay."
Lizzy, grabbed his hand and began pulling him after her as she made her way toward the tree. "Here were go," she tossed over her shoulder as she leaned down, made a pretense of searching through the packages, and lifted the envelope. Turning, she handed it to him. "You go ahead and open this. I won't be long." With a smile, she headed toward the stairs, calling out, "Just the one. No surreptitiously opening any others."
He looked after her, confused. Why didn't she want him to wait for her to return? He shrugged and admitted his curiosity to himself. Slipping his thumb under the sealed flap of the envelope, he tore it apart, reached into the now opened pocket, and pulled out a single sheet of paper. Shrugging, he turned his attention toward the stairs, wondering what Lizzy was up to. The house seemed unusually quiet. His wife possessed an animated attitude toward life and was always singing or humming or dancing about. It seemed very odd that he heard none of that.
He rotated the cream-colored sheet of stationery in his hand, aligning it properly for unfolding. Hesitating, he felt he should wait for Lizzy to come back, so he could select a gift for her to open at the same moment. He took great pleasure from sharing such special times with her.
From the landing at the top of the stairs, hidden from view, his wife shouted, "What are you doing down there, Will? Have you opened your present, yet?"
He hollered back, "I'm working on it. I was waiting for you."
"Oh." All fell silent as several uncertain seconds ticked off on the mantel clock. "Please, don't wait. I need a few more minutes. Go ahead and read it."
Totally puzzled, he asked, "Are you okay? Can I help you with anything?"
"I'm fine. Just go ahead and read."
Shrugging, he pulled apart the flaps of the paper, and smiled at seeing his wife's neat, precise script on the page. His eyes again wandered to the stairs, and he debated the merits of going to check on her. She'd just assured her that all was well, so he returned his attention to her message.
My wonderful, adorable, delicious Will:
I'd like to think that you comprehend how special you are to me, but I know it's not possible. Words are flimsy agents that try to represent the depth of my admiration and ardor for you, but, as you see, they fail me miserably.
His hands began to shake with the emotion flooding through him.
Come to me, my love, and let me show you everything I feel for you.
I enthusiastically await your appearance, my swain.
Merry Christmas, with much love,
Your eager and yearning damsel, Lizzy
Crumpling the paper in his fist, he charged for the stairs, taking them two at a time. He slowed as he approached their bedroom door, drawing in a steadying breath. He wanted her; oh, how he wanted her, but he would do nothing to alarm her. At the moment, his overwhelming passions could do just that. Taking another few seconds to curb his eagerness, he attempted an air of nonchalance, then turned the knob, pushed open the door, and leaned casually against the jamb. Gasping in a breath, his feigned appearance of relaxation evaporated. There, on the bed before him, lay his wife, all but her arms, shoulders, and head swathed relatively neatly in holiday-themed wrapping paper, a large red bow firmly stuck at the level of her navel.
"Did you read my note, my brave knight?"
Stammering, the sheet of stationery still clamped in his tightly curled fingers, he managed, "I – I don't understand."
Elizabeth, blushing in the glow of candlelight, laughed. "I'm your present, silly." In a lower, sultry tone, her eyes locking on his, she added, "And this present is one that keeps giving, all year long."
He stood, dumbstruck.
With a chuckle, she added, provocatively, "Don't you want to open it?"
Acting instinctively, rather than consciously, he moved swiftly to her side and, with only a hint of hesitation, tore off the wrapper. Without further delay, they began to show each other the depth of their feelings. When dawn approached, they discovered that they had no need to bound down the stairs to see what Santa had contributed toward their happiness. They each felt sublimely, deliriously, contented and knew that they had received the best gift possible.
As Will turned over, fighting a yawn of exhaustion, he pulled his wife closer and murmured sleepily in her ear, "Lizzy, my dearest, you're the only present, wrapped or unwrapped, I ever have or ever will desire. Merry Christmas, my love!"
May you all have as blissful a holiday as Miss Lizzy and her Darcy.