Posted on: 2012-05-30
It's dark as they lie there. No, not dark; dim. There's one bar of light from the landing throwing yellow to the crevasses of their skin. His tongue tastes her, Worming its way from collarbone to neck, then back again.
Outside the dirt and the finger smudged window lays the passacaglia of city life. The on-off vibration of an old soul struggling to claw its way to the surface. It should just give up, Elizabeth knows. She knows this more than her own name. Isn't that what people do, surrender when the fog clouds too densely across their eyes?
It's what she did. Isn't she people?
"There's a party next week" There's always a party; A Night Out. One drink. Five. Elizabeth thinks as she stares at the ceiling and wonders what drowning feels like. She hums in agreement, feeling Wickham tighten his hand on her hip, his fingers branding her with this memory.
"It's for work. Christmas party" His lips move into her skin, sucking one earlobe between two rows of teeth and giving a possessive tug. His day old stubble rubs across her skin. She usually doesn't mind it; it makes her know what it feels to be a man. Elizabeth turns to him suddenly, disengaging her ear with a painful drag. She shuffles between the stark sheets and rolls towards him.
"A Christmas party?" His face is barely see-able in the dim, yet it is there. The bulb of light merging the sharp line of his nose. The faint stab of his eyes. It's not dark enough to be intimate; it's not light enough to be loving. It's an appropriately adrift feeling. Neither here nor there. Neither giving nor taking.
"I need someone pretty on my arm" (And nothing more).
He supposes it was meant to be a joke, but honestly they both knew it isn't. There's nothing more she has to give. Strange, how the one thing they both share is the understanding that they will never understand. A rare gift for finding pleasure within the pain.
The constant rolling and shifting but never the click - the key pushing harder and faster the torturous drag the hollowness of pleasure of two people riding together then,
That was all they ever could be.
Two wrecked voyages lost in a stormy sea.
And so Elizabeth finds herself leaning against a black cab, waiting for Wickham, inhaling the smoke from the cabbies cigarette. The cabbie leans beside her, clouding his senses with the sweet tar. Clinging to his lungs like a child gripping onto their parent. He needs this, he needs this release. It gives him some consolation, some warmth, in comparison to this dark day. The constant perpetual motion of the city blurs around him, he doesn't remember past faces, past places, past memories. He remembers the feeling though. The feeling of being rooted, being drowned, whilst some business man on his blackberry slips in and out of his cab as easily as slipping on a glove. The business man belongs here, he owns this city. There is no room here for struggling cab drivers, with nothing waiting for him at home besides a cigarette and a well of loneliness.
"Where are you headed next?" The cabbie asks when the silence becomes too unbearable for the both of them. They have been standing side by side for five minutes now. Neither realising their gifts for attracting lost souls. Elizabeth wears a deep purple dress which falls to her knees; the cabbie wears a flat cap of beige tartan. Elizabeth shuffles uncomfortably in her heals - she has never been able to stand the pressure, the curve of the foot. The cabbie where's ancient black dress shoes, he taps his foot to a rhythm of a long forgotten symphony he never had the passion to finish.
"It's a Christmas party. George has the address" She offers in return, turning to give him an apologetic smile. He doesn't understand why, she isn't the one leaving him stood here in the bitter December air. He doesn't mind the wait; it gives him a chance to smoke. He allows himself the time to study her face, as he has it. It's usual, no defining feature which is just hers. The cabbie doesn't think he'll remember her face, but he wants to. He wants to remember the look in her green specked eyes which he sees in his every time he catches his reflection. A shadow of their former lives, a whisper of promise.
"Do you think it will snow again?" She asks in way of conversation, Wickham is five minutes late and she needs something to take her mind off the raising anger. The cabbie contemplates this, as if he is a zealous follower of BBC news. He goes to reply but they both hear the click of a door opening. The cabbie turns to see a handsome man in a suit stepping quickly down the steps. He is shoving something into his back pocket which he later realises to be a wallet. He steps up towards the woman in the purple dress with the empty heart and kisses her lightly before they both slip into the cab. All mention of the weather is forgotten. The cabbie flicks his cigarette to the curb and shrugs. Nothing new, he wonders if his unfinished conversations outnumber his finished.
It's expected of him to return their pleasant conversation; it's also expected of him to drop it when it's most convenient to them.
It's easy for them to slip into the party. They're running slightly late ('Fashionably late' Wickham tells her as he leads her down the steps into the throng of people). They're walking together now, through the crowds. Wickham keeps a heavy hand on her arm, and glances around. A predator stalking out his pray. Elizabeth thinks back to the cab driver, and wishes she had that freedom to just move on through the city. She looks to her arm, being tightly gripped with Wickham's hand and wonders how many other marks he has impressed into her body.
Into her mind.
It takes Darcy a while to even notice they are here. When he does it is with a spike in his heart. He sees them together at the bar, Elizabeth sitting lightly on one of the stools while Wickham stands with his back against the bar, scanning the crowds. Why was Darcy even surprised? He had known Wickham would sneak in - he hadn't expected it of Elizabeth though. Then again, what would he have expected of her?
When Wickham's eyes find him, it's obvious that he has been the person he was scouting out. A small smirk spreads across his face, one that Darcy had seen so many times before it seemingly haunts him. With slow languid movements Wickham presses himself to Elizabeth's side; Darcy turns on his heel and walks away quickly.
(Keep walking. Walk. Walk. Don't show it. He can read you)
She brushes past him, not noticing he's there. Darcy knows that walk, the speed, the swing of her arms. He turns his head in the direction she had passed him from. There's Wickham, a blonde in his arms, skin pressed to skin.
"Here, you look like you could use another drink" Darcy offers softly as he approaches her. She's leant against the stone wall running along the edge of the balcony. She flicks her gaze in his direction, not allowing any comfort to spark across her eyes.
"Thank you" Her voice sounds as if she has just been crying, she hasn't. She knew when this day came she wouldn't be able to shed any tears. When she doesn't reach forward and take the champagne glass from Darcy's hands he places it beside her. His strong fingers pulling away slowly. "You don't need to stand out here with me. You should go back in, it is your party after all"
"No, no. I'll stay, I want to. You know how uncomfortable I am at… these things" Elizabeth watches as he trails his fingers absentmindedly up and down the curve of the glass. His index finger running along the edges, sweeping a circle along the top. Elizabeth imagines it's her body, her curves. His strong hands tracing patters up the cracks of her skin. It would be different with him. It wouldn't feel like she was dancing on the lip of the cliff, it would feel like she was stood at the heart of a forest.
The image scares her.
He scares her.
"Yes" She smiles softly "I remember"
"I thought you had come with Charles and Jane, then I realised you came with Wickham"
"Yes, he invited me to" hang off his arm "arrive with him. I didn't realise leaving with him wasn't part of the bargain"
"I forgot you two were together" He admits after a pause, taking another sip. Passing off the lump in his throat for a swallow.
She lifts her head backwards slightly, and gazes up at the stars. The consuming black. "The operative word is together, there is nothing together about us" She laughs again, pressing her palm to her forehead. "I was a fool for letting it go on this long. I knew he did this, and I don't care. It still just hurts"
"It's not just you he's done this with, if it's any consolation" He sounds pained. "He… plays with a lot of women"
If you could call Georgiana that.
She nods, understanding. Thinking of the blonde in his arms right now. Thinking of all the times she let things slide. The underwear she once fancied she saw shoved in the dash of his car. The missed phone calls, the uncertainty.
"It was my sister"
"Who he played around with. Last year, I thought it was fine at the time, they had always been close; he had always been kind to her. I didn't think it was anything serious, it was and she just wasn't telling me. Soon he lost interest - he went behind her back. Soon he got sloppy and she… saw for herself what he was like"
There's a pause. Nothing passes between them. Just silence building up like a glass wall. One which is almost unbreakable.
"And he still works with you?"
"He doesn't work for me. Did he tell you he still did?"
"Yes, that's why I'm here for this party - I'm so sorry, Darcy. I'm so sorry I've just gate crashed your party, I didn't realise. You must think I am so arrogant"
"No, of course not. Well I did, in my eyes you had just gate crashed and acted with no guilt or shame"
"If I had known - I"
"It's fine" He smiles at her slowly. "I'm glad you're here"
From where she stands, Elizabeth hears the slight clink of Darcy's teeth on the pristine glass. She can see the ebbing lights of London pulsate around her, crimson, emerald, and golden.
The air is bitterly crisp but her mind is heavy. It feels like honey dropping down the edge of a knife blade, the ooze tearing - but so slowly now it almost feels natural.
She turns her eyes to him slowly, watching silently as he stands pressed against the balcony railing throwing him forward, towards the city. It seems unnatural; he doesn't belong to the vast ever changing rotating jungle. Like a fair ground ride of colour and tinkling controlled by an overzealous Sadist. Elizabeth wonders if he is just as lost as she is.
A gentle breeze crescendos around them, spilling a symphony which tangles her fingers into the dark tips of his hair. Pulling him back to her once more. Pulling his heart back to her.
Always to her.
"I don't want to be alone tonight" She admits when he finally (finally) silently asks. She doesn't address him; she knows she won't be able to handle the rejection in his eyes. She faces the rippling wind as if it holds the answers to all the questions she has ever known. She splays her fingers onto the stone work and absentmindedly runs her thumb along a particularly prominent crack. She hears Darcy shuffle beside her, sees the edge of his black suit lift itself off the stone and waits for the inevitable moment when he too leaves her.
What she doesn't see is Darcy slipping his jacket from his broad shoulders. His hands start to tremble slightly as he catches it. Hoping, praying that he doesn't drop it and then proceed to look like an idiot. He needs this to be perfect. He never thought he would hear her say those words (I want you, you, you). For as long as he has known her there has been no other quite the same. Now he has seen the master-key, no other cut slots into his heart quite as smooth.
With shaking but sure fingers he presses his jacket around her shoulders which have picked up against the slight breeze. Elizabeth closes her eyes, catching her bottom lip between her teeth, and feels the slight press of him against her back.
"Neither do I" It's low and honest, whispered into the valley joining the back of her ear to her neck. Elizabeth enjoys the drag of his smooth cheek against her skin, the fingertips of something at the fluttering of his eyelashes on her ear as he pulls away.
She stays standing there for a few minutes, her fingers clenching around the edges of his jacket, her head turned in the direction of his retreating figure. He shoves one hand into his pocket as he walks, making the material of his shirt stretch slightly over his shoulder blades; the slight silhouette of bone makes something painfully hot shoot up Elizabeth's spine.
From that moment on Elizabeth is sure something is shifting between them. She stays outside a few minutes more, trying to trace his outline through the crowd until he disappears from view. She slips off his jacket, shuddering slightly against the rub of the silk-lining against her shoulders. The room is loud and hot as she re-enters, the twittering voices buzz around her uncomfortably. She wonders what disaster it would take to clear the room. She wonders if he would still want her afterwards.
It doesn't take her and her fevered heart long to find him within the swimming crowds. He's the only person in the room that sets everything around him ablaze. He's talking to two gentleman, he's smiling. As he speaks and listens he is unconsciously rolling up the sleeves of his shirt allowing everyone to see an expanse of skin, solid and hers. Her heart coils tight, tight enough to grip her stomach in its clasp and squeeze until it hurts. And it does hurt, more than anything. She just wants this, she needs him.
One of the gentlemen notices her as she approaches, his gaze rakes over her until she forces her eyes down in oppressive humiliation. She realises she shouldn't feel like this now, she's an equal to them. She should be an equal to them. She's not though. The chess game of gender politics is one she has yet to learn.
"Thank you for letting me borrow your jacket" She raises her eyes to him, and him alone. Holding out the jacket towards him, hoping for the shock of skin on skin. Anything to set their hearts into an everlasting motion. Darcy doesn't allow this, however. He gingerly accepts the jacket with a small smile. Elizabeth watches him assess the jacket, his eyes flickering wildly for a heartbeat, trying to find the closest point of contact which is as far away from her fingers as possible.
It makes her want to grab his exposed arm. Press her palm stretched wide across his chest and wait for him to feel the burn. The same burn she now feels, he must understand.
Instead, she smiles at him politely before turning away - wondering if she was dreaming. Wondering if she had dreamt everything about him. Hoping she will wake up alone and shivering. She would rather lay alone with this fantasy, than live with this humiliation.
It soon becomes clear to her that Darcy is teasing, and doing so with a keen eye. He sparks around her for two hours. (10,567 heart beats too long). Darcy revels in the frustration he sees in Elizabeth's eyes when she smiles politely as she speaks, but constantly seeking him. Her green eyes turn sharp, she knows his game. She realised when he allows his finger tips to trail along her lower back, tracing the line of her underwear carefully, and applying pressure when he hears her voice hitch as she replies to some tedious business associate.
Two hours later Darcy can't go on. He needs her. Now. Right now, he doesn't care who she is speaking to, it could be the Queen for all he cares. There is nothing to snap his agitation, his frustration. The primal desire he has never been acquainted with the yearning to claim and thrill. Something deeper, deeper within himself. Her. Just her.
"I can't believe you organised this all by yourself, Mr Darcy" It's Mrs. Tompkins, and Darcy has never heard anyone speak to slowly in all of his life.
"My sister Georgiana usually helps me, however she preferred to stay home at Pemberley this year" Darcy nods his head at her gently, allowing himself a heartbeat's pause in order to glance pointedly at Elizabeth standing opposite him. She understands him straight away, her eyes fall towards the floor - somehow a feeling of responsibility for the closing up of his sister rising in her throat. Something sits heavily in her chest; they were together last year, when did I meet Wickham?
"So Darcy had to organise it himself, he wouldn't let me help him at all" Charles chips in brightly, almost stepping forward into the centre of attention. Elizabeth looks up at him, smiling warmly at the doting expression she finds in Jane's eyes.
"That's because last time you helped me with something you set a pair of curtains on fire" There is general laughter around the circle when Darcy speaks. Elizabeth was always jealous of this trait. He was able to charm, flatter, and entertain - like the magicians of her childhood, the ones where she could never work out how they do those things. Elizabeth would never understand how Darcy, with apathy to large crowds, was able to bewitch.
"It was an accident"
"I don't think anyone else at your daughter's first birthday party saw it that way" Elizabeth supplies. Darcy looks at her and a mutual understanding passes between them. It was as if, in supporting each other, they were in essence building up the loss between them. Forming a bridge between their minds.
Elizabeth Bingley's first birthday party had had its ups and downs. Everyone was there, it was early evening and the cake was sitting ready in the kitchen for the candles to be lit. Darcy had organised most of the day, so naturally everything was running like clockwork. Jane was knelt beside Elizabeth's highchair, while the two Godparents stood side by side to the edge of the scene, smiling fondly. No one was quite sure how Charles managed to orchestrate the next few moments. The lights had gone dim, and the usual round of 'Happy Birthday' had begun. Before anyone could get through the first two lines there was a crackle and the living room curtains had burst into flames.
It was Darcy again who had remedied the situation, rushing forward into the kitchen for the jug of water he knew to be sitting on the counter next two the tea towels. With three strides he was back in the room, throwing the water into the heart of the fire and cautiously placing the tea towels down to quench the rest of the flames.
The room remained silent; the only noise was the gentle coo of Elizabeth from her high chair. Darcy turned to the child's aunt, who stood there, her pale dress now splattered with water and dark ash.
Charles, blushing furiously, had told them they could both shower in the upstairs bathroom, and borrow some clothes from the bedrooms. Elizabeth went first, Darcy was ever the gentleman, and he was leaning outside the bathroom door when she emerged. Her hair was damp; she wore Jane's vest and leggings. Darcy stepped forward and met her in the doorframe. Her smelling of soup and shampoo, him smelling of ash and fire. The mix was almost too much to bear for the both of them.
"That's beside the point. The point being that you, Darcy, are a workaholic. How many hours did you say you worked last week?"
"Eighty three" Elizabeth shakes her head of the memory, glancing at Darcy. Feeling his eyes heavily on hers. Begging her to understand some message.
"I thought you said it was nighty"
"I was exaggerating. It was definitely Eighty three"
"Come in" His voice seems choked now, they both know they won't be able to speak, the don't need to speak. Not now, not ever to understand each other. She steps into the room without a word, her eyes scanning over the clean palate of the hotel room, accented only by him. His black tie hanging over an oak desk chair, twirling itself around the edge like a ribbon floating downwards in a pool of water.
He steps out from where he has been hovering in the shadows. He finds preference in the shadows, they are cool places built for those whose minds are stocked with treasure. He approaches her and Elizabeth notes the stretch of his shirt as his hand reaches for hers.
Their hands fold over one another like a swan's wings settling after flight.
All the moments, all their breaths, all their heart beats gathering up to this one.
They lie together on the bed. Darcy pulls himself up as smoothly as possible and glances at the clock on the bedside table. Elizabeth traces his birthmark as he does; the time for talking is yet to come. As she presses her fingers harder the faded outline reveals itself clearer to her. They both know it's there. Neither of them acknowledges how they know. How many sinking hours were just spent following the invisible maps of their skin. There is no indication in Time apart from the elephant in the room. The child busy with its own beginning. Elizabeth adds more pressure until it flutters a darker shade, the secret brand burned into the dip of the valley of his stunted wings.
She wonders how many people have seen it, how many people remember it. (Two in six-billion). It's the one thing that Elizabeth knows she will never forget. The paint splattered darkness against his pale skin. It's an imperfection - the only one he can't hide. He can't control. Elizabeth wonders if she were to trace it with her lips, with her tongue, would it be hers. If she brandishes it as her own could she control it - could she control a tiny corresponding part of his heart? Would he surrender this blemish to her?
Would it count for anything?
She moves forwards silently and presses her lips there, covering the mark. Darcy's shoulders prick back as she rests her forehead up and into the back of his neck. Digging her crown into his thick locks. He feels like six a.m. on the 17th of December, buried deep within the cave of white dreams when the shaking tree branches tap-tap-tap at the window pane, but there's no need to be accommodating (So they tap-tap-tap and you let them).
He feels like home. His warm skin smells heady of cologne and fire.
She inhales again.
Posted on: 2012-08-05
Two Years Later.
Coincidentally it is the same cabbie as this day two years ago who takes Secret-Keeper Elizabeth, Young-Elizabeth and James across London that morning. Their eyes catch each other's as Elizabeth helps the two children into the back seat. He isn't able to remember Elizabeth's eyes after all. He has fallen into a deeper trap whereas, with the birth of James, Elizabeth's life is now half full. They were headed across town, to one (of a small chain) of bookshops which Elizabeth owns. They all call it the 'capital' - as it was the original shop her father owned before Elizabeth took over and he settled into a comfortable retirement. People always wonder if Elizabeth took over because she wanted to, or because she couldn't displease her father. She had wanted to. It gave her space, time, and a whole lot of distraction.
Things had been harder since James was born (He was a month early, unexpected. Elizabeth had to do it alone. Everyone is left alone) The company had been expanding - they had opened a new shop in Meryton the day he was born. Elizabeth had heard that he was visiting family the next town over. She waited, knowing it was impossible, for him to visit and cradle their child to his chest.
He never came.
Of course not.
As the cab rumbles down the London streets - the light snow licks the windows, and young-Elizabeth (Orphaned for the weekend as her parents lie in the lingering Italian sun) presses her hands against the smeared glass. Years of fast food grease, sweat, and things Elizabeth didn't even want to think of cloud the view. Setting the men in long grey coats and windswept umbrella's in a hazy blur on the pavement. Elizabeth turns her head towards James. He sits quietly as usual - the live-in Elephant in the room of her every conversation. His origins… unknown expect to her. People tend to like him; people tend to like all babies at first. But they always comment on one thing… he's so quiet. He reminds me of… then they can never find the right person. Elizabeth is secretly relieved they can't.
His calmness seems to frustrate other parents - he sits silently and observes, whilst other off-spring scream and exhibit. There's nothing rushed about the gently wavering of his dark brown eyes.
However warm and inviting the bookshop is in comparison to the snowy streets, it doesn't dim Elizabeth's frustration as she calls up a supplier, and is left dangling on hold for a half hour. At least the music is calming Dvorak: Song To The Moon. She suspects they searched 'calming cello pieces' and it was the first answer to bound back at them. She doesn't mind it, but as the crescendo sends slight chills up her back for the third repeating time, she can't help but think she's been here before. Been in this dead end situation before. Elizabeth watches the customers come and go silently. The shop is warm. The walls are maroon and framed by large dark oak bookcases. There is a leather sofa by the till. Young-Elizabeth is settled into the worn brown sofa, tracing the folds and creases of her book with her fingertips. Her eyes are flickering as she falls into her own world. (A world Elizabeth wishes she could follow her into). She's as tender and sweet as a three- year old can be, her sun streaked ringlets sit on her shoulders and her pale lips fold themselves over words which she whispers to herself like secrets. She's at the holding on age - Jane and Charles are aware of this every time they look at her. She's starting school next September. She'll be starting Junior school after that. Senior School. Sixth form. University. Job. Husband. Children. 50… etc.
Looking at it like that, it all seems to happen in blocks, but it never does. Everything always twists together until even you, you the protagonist, can't disconnect one thing from the next.
Antecedent and Consequent.
James sits resting on a cushion on the floor, he has a profound distaste for chairs; but no one really knows the reason why. Elizabeth wonders if it's a genetic thing. She holds onto that hope, as it gives her son something to connect to his father with. He located a stack of post-it notes fairly quickly, ripping them off and sticking them to the warm leather. He's playing a game with himself; how many post-it notes can he keep stuck up at once. Customers join him occasionally - he doesn't say anything; but Elizabeth can tell by the heavy look in his eye that he thinks they're helping him cheat.
"Excuse me… I was wondering if you could - oh" It's the first time a customer has spoken to her since she's been on hold. Her back is against the till as she gazes idly into the spare room at the rear. She jumps slightly and turns around.
If the earth could stop rotating on its axis then it would have then. Fitzwilliam Darcy.
(Don't look at him. Just don't. It will be okay. It will be okay. He'll leave - then it'll be over)
There he stands, his dark coat wrapped around a suit, which Elizabeth can tell is tailored to fit him perfectly. She thinks of his birthmark suddenly; wondering if it's still hers.
"I didn't expect… ever to -" She shoots a quick glance towards the sofa. Her eyes hastily drift back to his, which are wide and brown and the same colour as his hair right now. The warm lights in the shop lighten it through - the locks thick and could never look out of place.
"No, I didn't realise you worked -" He turns his head and gestures around him; Elizabeth watches the light against his hair like lightning. It's been two years, but she still can't forget.
But she still can't possess him.
If only he knew.
"Oh… it's good - great in here"
Just as they both feel themselves falling towards each other they are thankfully pulled away.
"Fitzy! Fitzy!" He turns and sees young- Elizabeth wriggle off the sofa, toeing towards him with a wide smile. He bends down and receives her into his arms. He catches movement out of the corner of his eye, and they flicker to James.
Elizabeth wonders how one second can change everything. Most people think a single second is insignificant - it passes and it's gone. Vanished. Forever. It's not like that, she realises. A second is everything. A second can change more than a thousand years can. A second can kill someone, raise someone, ruin an empire, and raise a new one. A second can spark an idea. A single idea that would ferment and change everything.
In that second it completed someone - even if they didn't know it.
Darcy dropped his eyes away and turned back to the girl in his arms. Why would he keep his gaze on the small boy? He didn't mean anything to him, after all.
"Hey, Lizzy. It's been so long. Have you grown? You must have" His voice was the sort of voice you would speak to a child with - it was light and pleasant, but it wasn't patronising. Elizabeth's heart warmed at that.
"I haven't grown. You must have shrunk"
"You may be right. I'm very old" Darcy hears Elizabeth stifle a laugh and he turns to her. His expression quickly drops to one of confusion.
"We had a stock crisis; Charlotte asked if I could come in. My babysitter… her husband was rushed to A&E. I had to bring in Elizabeth and James"
"Yes" She nods towards the small boy with the post-it note still on one of his fingers. The small boy who bridges the gap between them. "My son"
"Your - oh. Okay"
Darcy allows himself to be led over to the sofa, closer and closer to the truth, by young- Elizabeth. He bent down, his knees getting slightly marked from the floor, and turned his attention back to the child. He couldn't help it - he had to look. He had to stare him straight in the eye, the thing that was causing his dreams to slowly slip away. Wickham's child. Darcy hadn't even been aware of him - it hurt him in some way.
James sits very still, stiller than Elizabeth has ever seen him sit before. Something rises high in her throat. She regrets showing James pictures of Darcy, she couldn't help it - he at least deserved a father. Even one who must never know. She is terrified, terrified that James will open his mouth and say the one thing that would bring her dimly constructed life crashing downwards.
There's a silence, which even young-Elizabeth can feel as she shuffles, in which the two surviving male Darcy's silently confront each other. The father judging son, not with cold indifference, but an expression that doesn't hold any love. Son gazes up at his father, into the eyes he inherited exactly, with a look which almost makes Elizabeth crack.
Finally Darcy turns away back to young-Elizabeth.
"Now…as your aunt is busy working, would you like to help me chose a book for my sister?"
"Can James come?" Darcy glances at Elizabeth who just nods.
"… Of course" He picks up James in his arms, who folds himself immediately against his neck - Darcy steps away with them to the corner of the shop as the bell rings. He doesn't want, need, this child clinging to him. He doesn't want to think of the way the child is able to fold himself against his chest - the way his forehead sits perfectly into the curve of his neck.
Elizabeth sighs and finally hangs up, she needs to watch this scene unfold, and she needs to know if James speaks up. She can only watch in horror (in awe), never thinking Darcy so handsome, never been so protective over her son.
There's an elderly woman approaching Darcy now, like death creeping up behind someone unexpected; and Elizabeth is left in a suspended silence to watch the last few moments of Life As We Know It (for that is what it is). The realisation of what she is going to ask hits Elizabeth like a train. And there is no way she can dive across the shop in two seconds - so she does all she can do. Stare and wait. Elizabeth knows she is going to ask Darcy if James is his son, she's going to completely rule out young- Elizabeth (because she looks nothing like Darcy and James does on an alarming level), and Darcy is going to say no. No, this child is not my son…yes I am sure, I would know if he was.
She sees him now shaking his head, but she also notices the way his grip against James tightens a little by instinct; Elizabeth locks that image somewhere deep in the back of her mind labelled: 'What Ifs…'. Elizabeth turns away from the scene and leans against the counter for support; because honestly, what else is she supposed to do? Everything she has tried to hide from the blaring white lights of reality (the sterile room of sanity) is now dangerously close to being revealed. As if her body is finally overturning an unwanted wound and working it to the surface of her skin.
She feels sick and relieved - as if the secret is slowly starting to drag her under.
And it is.
It is without Darcy.
"The boy is definitely his son" The old woman is directly behind Elizabeth now. She clutches a book about cooking, or gardening, or knitting; Elizabeth doesn't take it in because she doesn't need to care about that right now. She turns back to serve the woman, who is the type of slightly-bug-eyed-off-the-wall old pensioner who could, quite reasonably, approach you on the street and pull a dead pigeon from her handbag.
Even though she looked slightly inhuman in her insanity and really shouldn't know anything on the matter, Elizabeth feels comforted by her words. As if all this time she had been living a lie, she had taken a susurration of a rumour (and there had been rumours, the most heart gripping one , and ridiculous in their opinion, being that James was a Darcy) from the wind and moulded her story around that. As if until today no one believed her secret. Now someone did.
"I know he is" Elizabeth murmurs as she scans the book and keeps one eye on Darcy who is bent down talking to young-Elizabeth. Secret-Keeper-Elizabeth wonders if he's purposefully trying to break something in her chest, something she is fairly sure is called a heart. If ever there was an epitome of father figure, Darcy would fit the bill. He is engaging himself in conversation with her niece, and listening hard; which Elizabeth knew must be hard because he's watching her gesture, something she only does when it's truly ridiculous, with a frantic flickering in his eyes. James, on the other hand, is taking the opportunity to study the-man-who-he-knows-is-his-father-but-hasn't-realised-yet with a violent interest. His hands are working themselves in Darcy's hair at one side causing it to stick up. Darcy turns to him, entrapping James' eyes with his, with a sad sort of smile and runs his thumb across James' hairline gently until he, in return, stops tormenting his hair.
Elizabeth turns back to the woman when Darcy looks up and catches her eye. She realises later (much later at 1am when she's cried too much) that she must have looked like his eyes had burnt her. And they did.
"Well he doesn't know it" The woman continued accepting a small logo'd bag Elizabeth has slipped the book into and tied it tightly closed in a messy teal bow. She knows the woman is only hanging around to get more information on the drama she has just inadvertently stumbled upon. Elizabeth knows the woman knows this too.
"It's complicated" Was all Elizabeth gave in response until the woman left the shop. Darcy continues to look over at her, both of them aware what damage, what ideas, that woman had sparked off in their minds.
Darcy can't place his finger exactly on how he feels; but after flicking through the back catalogue of emotions he decides its pity. He is James Wickham: Son of a cad. He always will be known by that title, it was inevitable.
Little did Darcy know that in being James Darcy, he had already been raised a little higher in the world.
Darcy pays slowly, after leading the two cousins back to the sofa, shuffling his fingers against the crisp notes in his wallet for longer than necessary. He doesn't want to leave this shop - but he knows he can't bear to stay and face the child again. Something sinks deep down in his chest and he feels like all chances are ruined. He didn't know what he had thought when he saw her here, that Elizabeth would want him? Even after she left him that night two years ago? (Not just alone. Empty) Now, because of that child - all his hopes were ruined. He could never understand how one single human could ruin another with no recollection of ever doing so. Ruin another by simply existing.
"He's handsome" Darcy remarks softly, throwing his eyes towards were James was curling and unfurling his fist around a pillow; his dark locks falling across his pale forehead. Darcy doesn't wait for Elizabeth to answer - he can't bear to listen to what praise of Wickham (His Father) would fall off her tongue. That tongue that had explored him. With one last look of a man losing everything he's gone.
"Darcy! Darcy wait"
Darcy turns at the call of his name, and sees a man, the very man he never wished to see again stepping towards him. "Oh. Hello, Wickham" He replies, instead of doing what he really wants to do and stabbing him in the leg.
"Is that how you greet an old friend?" Wickham hadn't changed much in two years - perhaps his hair is a little longer, cut in a certain different way. Darcy doesn't see any change in his countenance which speaks father to him.
"Last time I saw you, you had gate crashed my Christmas party"
"Touché" They stand in silence for a few moments, Wickham rubbing his hands together against the cold and stamping his feet softly to keep moving. Darcy knows that Wickham wants him to make the next move, to speak or move on, but Darcy isn't in consequence to pleasure him. "Have coffee with me, there's a place around the corner that does the worst tea"
"I'm headed back to the office" He replies bluntly.
"I called there first; they said you were out for the afternoon. I've been trying to find you"
"What do you need me for?"
"Tea first? Please?" Even Darcy can't avoid the pleading tone in his voice. He nods once and Wickham juts his head in the direction of a side street, silently asking Darcy to follow him. The place is small, but surprisingly nice. They both order and find a table together towards the back. Darcy feels uncomfortable - the woman behind the till looks at them separately with hope, and then again with disappointment as Wickham pays and Darcy glares. He didn't like being mistaken as being friends with Wickham, let alone being in love with him. He supposes it is plausible to the stranger's eye - you could cut the tension between them with a knife.
"I need something from you" Is the first thing Wickham says as they sit down, Darcy rolls his eyes and stares intently at his tea.
"Like you haven't already taken everything else which is rightfully mine" He mutters as he swirls his cup.
"What does that mean?"
"You know what that means"
"Look, if we're talking about your sister again then I -"
"I don't mean that. I meant James"
They fall into silence and Wickham recoils slightly in his seat. He has seen Darcy angry, furious, before - but… never like this. He has never looked so torn before. So open and ragged.
"Darcy… what - I have no idea what you're talking about"
"Just admit it, Wickham. I know. I know you've probably been waiting for me to stumble across your happy little family just for this moment. Just for the moment where you have everything I ever wanted"
"Listen. I honestly don't know what you're talking about. I just need money from you, that's it. Trust me if I had something to use against you, and this sounds pretty big, I would slap you in the face with it so hard you would bleed"
Darcy stands quickly, a familiar pair of dark brown eyes, familiar curve of the eyebrow swimming in front of him. He tugs on his coat and Wickham can only stare indignantly.
"Where are you going? What about the money!"
"Get a loan" Darcy calls behind him as he sweeps out of the shop.
To: Charles Bingley
Message: I need you to get me invited to dine with your in-laws. Don't ask any questions. Just do this for me? - FD
The invitation comes sooner than Darcy expects. It comes the weekend after the dreaded day in the book and coffee shop. Darcy hadn't been able to walk down that road ever since… since that moment. He doesn't feel at all prepared as he stands on the Bennet doorstop with a bottle of expensive red-wine in his hands that he once saw at Elizabeth's and really hopes she enjoys it. It's ridiculous how undone he feels; because he's a Darcy. And Darcy's are always composed. But then again, he doesn't suppose any of his ancestors had to come to terms with something like this. Come to terms with the fact something which is half his, and half the woman's he's been in love with for longer than he cares to remember, has settled into the world for two years.
The door opens suddenly, and he comes face to face with Elizabeth. They stare at each other for a long moment until Darcy hands her the bottle and almost trips over himself when she remarks that it's her favourite.
They both manage to remain calm and civil during dinner, although it is a matter of time before one of them comes undone. They are seated opposite each other at the table and occasionally their feet press heavily; they both know it's the other, as their eyes meet quicker than lightning, Mr. Bennet notices this - he also notices his grandsons eyes in Darcy's face. Although, he noticed that a long time ago.
Darcy is polite and charming during dinner, and Mrs. Bennet falls in love with him a little bit more over the gravy dish between them; but Darcy doesn't notice any of that. He notices the folded pram in the hallway, he notices the half-finished drawings on the side. He knows his son is here.
He discovers that Elizabeth talks about him a lot, and he also discovers that he knows nothing about his son. He is left hanging onto every word that Elizabeth says when she recounts anecdote after anecdote. He feels so out of place. If he was a true father he would be sat beside her, one arm across the back of her chair and throwing in the occasional comment which makes Elizabeth want to laugh and throw her drink over him at once. He wants to be that person, more than anything. He needs to see his son.
The opportunity comes at 8.30. (As planned before hand with Georgiana) his phone rings at the exact time and he slips out of the room, whispering his apologies and throwing in a joke about work which everyone laughs at. Elizabeth notices that he purposefully shuts the door behind him.
The long creep up the stairs was painful, he kept to the edges - trying to remember which steps make a groan and which didn't. He counts all fourteen steps in his mind and stands at the top of the hallway. The air is cool and unsettling - he feels as if he's about to stir something which has been lying dormant for a long time. He knows which room is Elizabeth's because he's been there before and he treads into it and shuts the door behind him.
It takes a few minutes for Darcy to turn around and face the room. His breath is quick and painful and his heart beating against his throat - it's a feeling that makes him want to run and hide but he can't. He wouldn't be able to live with himself if he did. The room is dark, lit by the moonlit window which is framed by gentle chiffon curtains which pull back to nestle into heavier ones if wanted. The cot is on the right hand side and he can hear the sway of James' breathing before he is close enough to see his curling figure. He drops to his knees, like a man praying before a shrine, and something reflective catches his eyes, he slides his fingers through the bars and drags out a photograph.
It's a photograph of him. Taken the night where it happened. It's worn around the edges and Darcy can tell James has the image imbedded into his memory by now.
Darcy's fingers knocked against James as he pulled the photo out and he begins to stir. Darcy holds his breath and pleads (please please please) with him silently not to cry. He needs more time alone with him, and if someone, anyone, hears him they'll take this moment away from him. Darcy stands up sharply as James rolls over and stares at the darkened stranger in his room, he slowly opens his eyes wider and pulls himself up sleepily.
Nothing concerning sleep passes across James mind as his eyes focus back into the figure. His father stands before him for the second time in the flesh. James has tried, tried so hard, to keep the secret in. He can't do it anymore. Not while his father was alive, smiling and there.
Posted on: 2012-10-07
'You tell me you've planted an oak
in the middle of the top field
When I ask how long before
it'll be fully grown, you nod your head
and say 'some time'
and I realise I should have known.
After all, you planted trees for our arrivals.
One for each of us at the north, south and west of the house,
and now you have planted this -
A finger- thick sapling drawn by the breeze into a long bow
loaded with the promise of what it will become,
silhouetted against a reddening sky
that could be the setting or the rising of a sun.'
- Trees, Owen Sheers.
Elizabeth's silence is unbearable in the dining room. Her eyes scan, skit across everywhere as if trying to look for an answer, a way out, an anything. She knows (By God she does) that her father is watching her, trying to catch her attention with that unwavering look which is nothing James has. James' ability to melt ice with a flick of dark eyes is so much more than her father.
It's everything his father has.
It's five minutes until even she can't stand it; it's five minutes until she wants to scratch against her skin, so she looks at her father. Really looks at him and everything is confirmed. Her eyes are sure and steady but deep within them runs a fear (Please. Please don't speak. Just Know). Mr. Bennet shakes his head once, drops his gaze, and nods towards the closed door.
Find him. He's not stupid.
When she steps out of the dining room it's like stepping outside on a cold day. Or drowning.
She won't ever decide which.
The stairs cast long figures against the wall, the edges and curves make grabs for her - pushing her upwards until she's stood in the landing. Far too soon and far too close to facing this.
She really doesn't want to do this. Doing this means something, something which she's never been ready for. She wonders how easy and hard it would be to turn away from this. How long would it take Him to leave if she just hid? She gained (Lost) two years the last time she ran. What would be the price of running again?
They're sat on the window sill together; Darcy's legs press along the spacious run of dark wood - etched and marked with all the careless movements she's ever made. They're both black against the night and their shapes blur and mould together until they just are.
Darcy's wide palm is supportive at the small of James' back as he rocks forward, slamming his palm on the window to press prints into the condensation.
Every palm print reveals more of the blanketed sky. The stars. The Everything.
Every star revealed wipes clean the mist until they look at all the places lived under by the fathers and sons before them.
His voice is thick with a deep imbedded amusement. It's as if they've always existed together, and Elizabeth isn't sure whether to cry, simply disappear, or catch fire.
James turns towards Darcy, his palm sliding down the glass in an act of being caught red-handed. Darcy shakes his head, only the flicks of his black hair striking light, and gently pulls James' back against his chest.
Elizabeth follows the firm line of Darcy's profile. Elizabeth follows the soft curve of her sons.
She steps forward.
The moment she does is the same moment Darcy turns to her. His head resting back against the calloused wall, his eyes dark and heavy. There's a large shield between the two of them. James is on Darcy's side (His concentration is solely on his father's arm wrapped across his chest). Her son is on His side, and Elizabeth feels lost (alienated) from the body, heart, thoughts, memories, she raised.
"I don't understand" James joins the staring now, like a silent assault. His eyes explode with recognition and Darcy is terrified (more than he could ever explain) that James will pull towards Elizabeth.
If he does, if he even twitches, this is over for Darcy.
Everything was in the hands of this child.
James doesn't move away. He blinks. He turns back to his playful assault of Darcy's jumper, padding the material and gripping tightly.
"James. Your - he's your son -"
"Yes, I -" Darcy responds like a child, like a child without any knowledge of the world.
And he hates that.
That uncertain feeling where your knowledge stops (Like the Heights - the churning feeling and wondering if you could fall. Could allow yourself to fall) and you're dropped into a world which spins and sways around you until you scream and slit at the murky blur.
"And I couldn't tell you"
"That is what I don't understand"
When Elizabeth takes James from his arms, Darcy wonders if he'll ever feel him beneath his touch again. He wants to hold on and snarl until the world sighs and leaves them be. He doesn't. He hands James back to Elizabeth and follows her silently to the cot.
They stand together, watching him blink once more, smile once more, fall asleep once more.
Darcy leans forward to touch his curls gently and Elizabeth watches - watches the solid lines in his arm (The sort of arm which could stop anything if it needed to). His fingertips barely trace across James' skin, but the set expression of his face does more. The underlining stability shuffles and clicks.
"Come outside with me?" Darcy draws his eyes deliberately from James and he nods. He nods because she has to seem him agree with everything he is.
It's easy to slip back through the house, the too close hands, and the fumbling lovers' steps. Everything seems different as she leads him down the back of the garden. The shed there is dressed for dinner in ivy and moss, and it arrives in a cocoon of hedges and shrubbery.
It's a place you would take your first boyfriend (Elizabeth never had. There was never anyone which compared to him) when you snuck together out of your house at night.
It's a place for soft, silly romance - not the place to take the newly discovered father of your child.
It doesn't fit them (but what does?), but it's cool and dark and it suits them.
Darcy leans against the garden wall, sliding down until he's sat on the crumpled stone slabs and pulls his knees up lazily. Elizabeth draws the moss off the shed as she sits against in; adjacent to him.
Darcy seems relaxed (an eerie lake waiting to be disturbed), but there's a sense of foreboding. A spiritual stillness about him.
"You're not angry"
"No, I'm not angry" She doesn't even need to ask, but somehow she must have.
"I have my son. James, I - I love him and -"
"You don't know him!" She bites out bitterly.
He knows that isn't his fault. He doesn't remember ten minutes ago, but he can taste the freedom scratch off his tongue and knows that he can't taste it again. The feeling is familiar. The acceptance is the same. He realises now that it doesn't twinge the same way this time.
He wonders whether it would affect him at all next time.
"Sorry, I just…" She grapples with it, raking at her hair. She doesn't know he could (would) understand. There was no way to tell. There was no faith between them. "No one understands. They think they do - but, it's just the surface, and beneath that they just… they can't feel it"
He's wintery as he looks away, his lips flaking up into shadowy reminder.
"I know a lot about that"
He doesn't mean her. This isn't like that. He means himself, but in a way that he can't grasp, can't wipe away like water.
It's something that's always been there, inherently throbbing at the back of his mind.
He knows it's the Darcy curse.
He can't help but wonder why it only seems to be him alone who can't keep afloat.
Why it's only him who balances on the edge, unable to keep his flesh and soul entwined.
"Do you ever look at something and know you'll never have it. As a child did you ever look at what your parents achieved and know, really know, you'll never be good enough"
"Yes" Of course he does. He thinks of Him now, he thinks of telling Elizabeth that he stopped believing in following in someone's footsteps a long time ago. (He gave up following. They were too carved. Too distant)
He always was striving to become the man his father was. Now he just feels out of place.
He decides that conversation is for a different day. He isn't ready.
He may never be.
"I just look at all they have, and it's so much but so little. I just feel broken and I did this because of them" She turns to him now, her voice picking up momentum - she knows if she doesn't get this out, it'll never be able to become un-jarred, unstuck from her throat.
"I couldn't tell you because of them" He looks at her as if she's just pulled out a gun and taken a shot at his shoulder.
"I know, I know, they just stay together for us. And I didn't want James to grow up with two parents who were unhappy together. I knew if you found out while there was still time then you would have proposed or something else proper"
"Who says we wouldn't be happy?"
She looks at him and he looks at her.
She wants to stop there, stop all the clocks, and just have the feeling of her heart unfurling grip her for eternity.
She would isolate herself if those words could be the last she ever heard.
"I was going to tell you"
It starts again.
"I went to your office; I sat outside the door for God knows how long" She laughs and gives him a look. His heart spikes up with a white burn - it's the lint of her voice. She's chastising. "You were talking about children and family with a woman in there. You said that you didn't want it - you don't have time for that. This was already changing my life I didn't want to change yours and have you resent me"
There's a beat and then Darcy laughs: "I was talking to Caroline Bingley. I would have done anything to get away from her"
"It's true though, of course you wouldn't have had time because -"
"Because I'm Fitzwilliam Darcy"
He can't escape the name.
It's indented into history.
Warped until he
"I know who I am. What I am. I thought I had a plan: love, wife, children" He trails off and looks away "I'm not sure where it all went wrong…I imagine it was when I met you"
She thinks he's angry, it was all she ever feared and so she hid. She hid because there was nothing else for her to do. No other path for her to take.
He's looking at her though, his strong face more open and broken than it's ever been and Elizabeth isn't sure if she can glue it back "It's okay, honestly. I know what it's like to feel broken and lost… but" He swallows thickly and stops.
"But… it's all changing" The emotion scares her. He scares her, but this man has been something… She corrects herself: this man has been nothing; yet the closest she's ever come to something.
She turns away and looks out across the dark garden, as if she can still see the small features of the place. She realises that everything is darkening from her memory. She doesn't belong here. She can hear the slight clatter of people in the house. She can hear the slight breeze, see the darkened shapes.
But they can feel each other.
They can feel their small child asleep upstairs.
"Do you like chairs?"
"Do I li- … what?"
"Do you like sitting on them? I mean - James doesn't, he really dislikes it. The only time he has to sit in a chair is to eat and he doesn't kick up a fuss… He just looks at you - like that. Like you're looking at me now. He looks at you like he can't even comprehend what you're doing to him"
She looks at him, and he's smiling. Beaming. It's a smile (The smile) which illuminates and blurs the years off his face, but adds years at the same time. "We don't know why he doesn't, and I just wondered if…"
"Well, I sit on them now. It would be a little unprofessional if I insisted we all sat on the floor during meetings" He pauses and almost sighs, he knows she needs this. He needs this too. He needs the connections; he wants something spiritual which ties them together. The whole world, everything he's ever known sits on the desperation to reach out and take someone's hand. Their hatred of chairs. That could be their start.
"Although, I think I preferred the floor as a child"
"What about… Oh no, he definitely gets that from you"
"What is it?"
"He's such a snob"
"They never said, but yes, I think they do. I think my father always knew - even before James was born"
Darcy nods, and glances, feeling his heart caught (protected) somewhere far off. An unearthly shudder runs down his arm and thighs as all corners of his heritage pull and tighten together. It's like being spitefully mournful (or mournfully spiteful, he isn't sure), merging the mess into a gripping fever which will always beat darkly within his chest. The feeling of being lost (starved away from your parents) and knowing that you can never be collected in the same order again. The thick ends of Fitzwilliam's hair tangle at his brow; the flesh forged by those who are irretrievable.
"Well, I don't know about you, but I'm going inside to brag about my son, who I don't know, because I actually have one and no one can stop me"
"It's not just James… I -" Her sigh is deep and exhausted, something beyond her years - but she is. Her dark pupils drop as if everything is seeping from wounds which Fitzwilliam has opened with one flash of obscurity. She has managed alone for so, so, long now; struggling against the monumental backlash of the world. Everything pushing against her and now she wonders whether that's why people love.
(How people love).
It isn't about flowers or feeling good, it's deeper than that.
It's about knowing that when the world presses tight against your shoulder, there's someone beside you on your side.
Perhaps love is just a fleeting, splitting, hope that you'll survive this (This. Life).
"You can have me, too"
Elizabeth flickers down as she prepares to grapple for her spindling heart-strings when they snap from their china-relic hold on him (and it hurts when Fitzwilliam stands). He steps away and back into the biting air. Elizabeth shifts to track him and his eyes flicker over her. The constant rolling and curling but not the click - the key pushing harder and worming (working), the torturous drag, the hollowness of searching, and then,
He holds out his hand, palm up towards her.