Posted on 2010-10-10
'We're going where?'
Charles Bingley sighed and replied patiently; he had already explained this twice. 'We are going to spend Thanksgiving with Jane and her family.'
'Thanksgiving? With your new girlfriend's family?' William Darcy gave his friend an incredulous look. This was not how he had intended to finish up his visit with his long time friend.
'Yes; it's a Canadian holiday.'
'I am aware of that. Why?' Before waiting for an answer, he added, 'It is also celebrated in the United States, but I was under the impression it was closer to Christmas.'
Seeing he was not finished, Charles waited.
'Very colonial,' William added.
'Don't be such a snobbish Brit, Will. We go, we eat, we give thanks.'
William's only reply was a well practiced glare he aimed at his friend. He knew there was no way he could get out of it.
William and Charles together made the forty minute drive from the city to the Bennet family's rural home that Sunday, although the actual holiday was on Monday. Charles admonished William to be pleasant and consider all he had to be thankful for. A 'New World' holiday or not, it was never inappropriate to spend some time thinking about all one had to be grateful for.
William, although he had met and liked Jane – Charles' girlfriend of several months – was not entirely pleased at the prospect of having to socialise with strangers on one of his final vacation days. He was never very comfortable among people he was not well acquainted with and, knowing he was unlikely to ever see any of the Bennets in the future, he felt even more reticent than usual. He saw little need to exert himself to be friendly. Civil, yes, of course and always, but he could foresee no pleasure in the day that went beyond sitting back and watching Charles yet again fawn over Jane. And, if he was especially unlucky, he would be forced to watch some dreadful sport game on television. He thought there might be a tradition of Thanksgiving and American-style football. He suppressed a shudder at the thought.
As they approached the Bennet's home – a slightly run down, three storey white clapboard structure surrounded by mature trees and open land – Charles reminded him, "Remember. Think of things you are thankful for."
William didn't bother to respond. He rolled his eyes and scowled.
Charles and William were escorted into the principle sitting room and introduced by Jane to her parents and three of her younger sisters: Mary, Cat and Lydia.
'Lizzy should be around in a few minutes,' Jane said apologising for her sister's absence.
Great, thought William; another sister. And one not even polite enough to be here when guests arrive.
He looked around with little pleasure. The mother was fawning all over Charles and the younger two sisters were looking at him almost lasciviously. Given he was at least ten years older than they were it was nothing short of creepy. The father didn't bother doing more than quickly greet the two men before returning to his newspaper. The other sister – Mary, he thought – returned to another room from which soon emanated the sound of a piano being played very ill.
I'm thankful Georgiana doesn't play the piano like that, William though, remembering Charles' admonition to think of things for which he was thankful.
They sat down and William began to think very dreadful thoughts of retribution. Charles would pay for subjecting him to this! He had come to Toronto to visit his boyhood friend who had moved to Canada earlier that year to work in the Canadian headquarters of the Darcy family's publishing company. The two men, despite being friends for over two decades, were very different in temperament. Charles had quickly settled into his new life and after a few months had met Jane Bennet at a nightclub. They had immediately hit it off and had been dating ever since. Charles had told William he believed Jane was the woman he had been waiting to meet all of his adult life. After two months of cajoling, Charles had managed to convince William to visit him so that he could meet Jane. After ten days in Canada, his visit was almost over. He would be returning to London in two days.
Sitting silently with only part of his mind listening to Mrs Bennet rattle on about something apparently having to do with a neighbour marrying and the paucity of decoration at the wedding, William was trying to think of a way of getting through the afternoon. He had to corner Charles as soon as possible and get him to agree to an early departure time. He fantasised about faking a migraine. Although he hated deceit of any kind, if the younger sisters continued snapping at each other and Mrs Bennet didn't stop talking in that high pitched voice soon, he thought he might well develop a real one and it could be a means of escaping for at least a while. He could claim a need to go sit somewhere quiet.
I'm thankful for painkillers, especially really strong painkillers.
No sooner had these thoughts played out in William's mind than Elizabeth came bounding into the room, her deep brown curls bouncing and her beautiful hazel eyes shining. William was instantly struck by her appearance and watched her intently as she moved towards where he was sitting with Charles. He stood and faced her.
'I am so sorry for not being down to great you,' she said, her voice displaying real regret. 'I was getting some work done earlier and I'm afraid I feel asleep at my computer.' She looked horrified, but amusedly so. She smiled brilliantly and gave Charles a quick kiss hello, then turned to look at William, awaiting an introduction. William still stood silently, looking at her closely. He had heard her words, but found them hard to take in; there was something about her…
Elizabeth looked at Charles' friend and could not help but notice how handsome he was. He was tall and had lovely, wavy brown hair and blue eyes and, she noted, seemed to be looking at her rather intently. They regarded each other momentarily, both feeling a sense of connection, as though recognising a kindred spirit in the other. Elizabeth smiled and William smiled back, unnoticed by Charles or anyone else.
I'm thankful for those eyes.
'Will, this is Jane's next youngest sister, Elizabeth. Liz, my friend William Darcy," Charles said.
'My sister doesn't usually fall asleep over her work,' Jane said, before either Elizabeth or William could say anything. Elizabeth turned to her and smiled fondly at her. 'She's just returned from overseas and I'm not sure she's entirely sure what time of the day it is!'
Elizabeth laughed and agreed.
I'm thankful for that laugh.
'Where were you?' William asked without thinking.
Elizabeth turned back to him and smiled lightly again before replying, 'I was in London.'
William started. 'London? As in England?'
Charles laughed and clapped his friend on the back. 'Yes, Will, that London. You two probably passed each other in the air. I think Liz left for London about the time you arrived.'
'And if it wasn't for the holiday she would still be there!' Mrs Bennet interrupted to reprimand her second daughter. 'She wanted to stay longer but I insisted she be here for Thanksgiving. It is a family holiday and family should be together. Who would she spend it with if she was in London?'
'They don't celebrate Thanksgiving in England, Mum,' Elizabeth said soothingly, 'And I could have spent it with the Gardiners.'
'The Gardiners,' Mrs Bennet said dismissively.
'Yes, yes, the Gardiners,' Mr Bennet said, getting up from his lounge chair and walking over to pass by the group. 'You remember them, my dear. Madeline and Edward. Your brother,' he said giving her a quick peck on the cheek as he drifted by. 'I'm going to my office. Let me know when dinner is ready.'
'My brother,' Mrs Bennet said, and William thought he detected a note of disapproval in her voice. 'I don't know why he ever moved to London. Who lives in London these days? He should have stayed here in Canada. Or at least in the United States.'
Elizabeth caught William's eyes and shrugged apologetically. She mouthed the word 'sorry'. He smiled, thinking she seemed overly concerned by her mother's reaction. He could not be insulted by it, certainly not with Charles and Jane watching him closely in addition to Elizabeth's actions.
'Well, shall we sit down?' Elizabeth said, hoping to avoid any further embarrassing comments by her mother. 'I could use a cup of tea. Would anyone else like one? Or coffee?' She looked questioningly at William, who she found was still looking at her.
'That would be lovely, thank you,' he replied.
I'm thankful for that smile.
Jane waved them over to a sofa, along with Charles, saying she would get fresh tea for them all. Elizabeth led them to a corner of the room away from her youngest sisters, whom her mother had moved to join.
Once they were seated, Charles asked, 'So how was your trip, Liz?'
'Very good, thanks. Productive, certainly.'
'What is it that you do?' William asked, curious about this woman who for reasons he could not yet articulate seemed so unlike the rest of her family or indeed anyone else he had met.
'I'm a policy analyst-slash-researcher. I work for an organization that analyses government policy and attempts to explain why it will or will not live up to its expectations and what the possible outcomes and implications are, moving beyond the rhetoric.'
I'm thankful for her intelligence.
They spoke about Elizabeth's work for some time, William quickly appreciating the depth of her intelligence and thoughtfulness. She was charming and lively and when she spoke enthusiastically about a recently proposed global policy, her eyes sparkled even more and her curls bounced and William found himself wishing he had the time to get to know her much, much better.
I am not thankful that she lives here and I am returning to London in two days! he thought petulantly.
Soon enough it was time for their Thanksgiving feast. William was assured it was a traditional meal (aside from the Tofurkey that graced the table along with a turkey). William gratefully partook of the alternative, along with Elizabeth and to his surprise the dreadfully loud and silly two younger sisters. Beyond the turkey and alternative, there were roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes baked with apples and maple syrup, cranberry sauce, two types of gravy, baked squash, carrots and Brussels sprouts and mashed turnip (which Elizabeth refused to even look at as it passed by her). Dessert was pumpkin pie and/or apple crisp with vanilla ice cream. It was an impressive and delicious display and everyone ate heartily.
William found himself seated by Elizabeth, for which he was very thankful. The two spent the meal talking primarily to each other. He asked her about her impressions of London and was surprised when she answered briefly and in an undertone, looking anxiously at her parents who were seated at either end of the long table. She smiled apologetically and they talked about other matters instead. It felt, to both of them that they were not strangers who had just met, but rather friends who had finally met. Their conversation flowed easily and they discovered a great deal of compatibility in their interests and thoughts, but not so much as to be monotonous.
Towards the end of the dessert course, Mr Bennet clanged a spoon against his coffee cup and the table fell silent, all eyes turning to him as he stood.
'Thank you for the lovely meal, my dear,' he said, nodding to his wife. 'I understand my younger daughters had a hand in it as well, and yet it was still quite acceptable.' Cat and Lydia ignored their father's tease. 'As we do every year, we will now go around the table and say something we are thankful for. We have two visitors this year who I know are not used to having to account for their blessings in this manner, but I ask that they indulge us. I will start. I am thankful to have my very own library in which I can escape the female-dominated atmosphere of my house.'
With this he sat down again and turned to Jane, sitting at his left.
'He always says that,' Elizabeth whispered to William low enough that no one else heard.
'I'm thankful for my sisters and all of my family,' Jane said, smiling fondly around the table. She turned to Charles and the positioning of her arm suggested she was resting a hand on his leg under the table.
'I'm thankful to be sharing this holiday with all of you,' Charles promptly said, smiling happily and turning expectantly to Mary.
'I'm thankful for all of God's blessings,' Mary said, looking to William a little smug; he didn't understand why and stopped trying to figure it out when he saw Elizabeth roll her eyes.
Lydia said, 'I'm thankful I'm graduating college this year.'
Mrs Bennet looked startled when it was her turn and looked about her trying to find something to be thankful for. Her eyes settled on Charles and rather pointedly she said, 'I'm thankful for new friends.' Her eyes darted between Jane and Charles and William could swear he saw visions of weddings dancing in front of her face.
'Um, I'm grateful…thankful I mean that…um, we're all together,' Cat said. She then shrugged, not entirely pleased by her performance but also not particularly bothered by it.
William felt everyone's eyes turn to him and he looked about quickly, hating the sensation of being put on the spot. The last face he saw during his quick perusal was Elizabeth's. I'm thankful I met you he thought. Aloud he said, looking again around the tale, 'I'm thankful for my sister.'
Charles smiled at him, knowing as no one else at the table did that William's statement was really a quite personal one. His sister, Georgiana, was the only remaining close family he had and William did love her very much. Elizabeth didn't know, but she did feel that there was a deep sincerity behind his statement.
'I'm thankful for good books, good conversation and the prospect of a good long walk to work off some of this dinner!' Elizabeth said, making everyone laugh to one degree or another.
The meal soon ended and Elizabeth organised a walking party. Only Jane and Charles and Cat and Lydia agreed to come along. The destination was a place called Oakham Mount, William learned, although of course it meant nothing to him. Cat and Lydia soon went off on their own walk into the town to call upon some friends. Jane and Charles walked quickly ahead of William and Elizabeth. The latter couple was moving more slowly as Elizabeth kept pointing out various aspects of their surroundings to William who displayed an interest in learning about the local community – ecological and human.
As she talked and walked, William listened intently and asked questions. It did not stop his mind from wandering.
I'm thankful for the way the wind makes your cheeks pink and your eyes sparkle. I'm thankful for the enthusiasm you show about so many things. I'm thankful for the way you almost bounce when you walk. I'm thankful for knowing you.
After some time they arrived at the top of Oakham Mount. Charles and Jane were nowhere to be found, but this didn't seem to bother Elizabeth at all and so William did not allow it to bother him. They stood at a lookout and the view was, William remarked, truly lovely. The trees below and around them were in full autumn colour – the reds, pinks, browns and yellows mixing with the green still apparent on the evergreens and in the meadows.
After standing silently for a few minutes, William heard Elizabeth sigh. He looked at her questioningly, not sure he should ask what was on her mind.
Noticing his look, she said, 'Oh, I'm sorry. I was allowing my mind to wander for a moment. Are you very familiar with the English countryside? Or do you spend most of your time in the city?'
'I have a country home in Derbyshire that I like to spend as much time at as I can,' he said in reply.
Elizabeth nodded. 'Derbyshire,' she repeated. 'I haven't been to Derbyshire. I'll have to try to get there.' Her remark seemed somewhat cryptic to William, but he was thinking furiously of a way to say that he would love to have the opportunity to show her his home county and city home and really anything or place she would like to see. That I would be truly thankful for!
'I'm going to miss this,' she said softly. She turned to look at William and laughed self-deprecatingly. 'I'm sorry. I know that must sound cryptic. I've got a secret.'
They looked at each other, William for some reason holding his breath in anticipation.
'I'm moving to London,' she said, watching him closely. Slowly a smile spread over his face and Elizabeth allowed a similar look to develop on hers.
'England?' he said, echoing his earlier statement.
'England,' she confirmed. 'It was settled when I was there last week. I'm moving to a new position in the London office and I cannot wait to start. It is exactly the job I dreamed of when I was in school and I love London. But I dread telling my family.'
'You're moving to London?' William asked, stunned and wanting to be sure there was no misunderstanding.
'Yes,' Elizabeth said, pleased by the happy look on his face. It seemed to reflect her enthusiasm for the idea.
'When?' Soon, please say soon, his mind raced. I will be forever thankful if you say it will be soon.
'It will be almost immediately; within the next two weeks if possible, certainly within the month.'
William could not say anything to this right away. Too many thoughts and plans were running furiously through his mind. Finally, he managed to say, 'And will you…can we…?'
'I'd like that,' Elizabeth said decidedly. With a mind of their own, their hands found each other's and they stood for some moments, not speaking but both thinking of the wonderful possibilities ahead and the strange workings of fate.
Soon they made their way back to the Bennet's house, Elizabeth sharing her concerns about telling her family about her move along the way. She told William that as much as they had their oddities, she included, her family was quite close and she knew her parents in particular would not be happy to see her move so far away. She would miss them, and her sisters, but knew without a doubt she was doing the right thing. She had felt it when she was in London and had been faced with making the final decision about accepting the job and transfer. Left unspoken was that the correctness of her decision was now confirmed. She would be telling her family that evening, once Charles and William left.
The rest of the afternoon passed quickly. William found a way to get his contact information to Elizabeth without drawing attention to his action and she likewise gave him her email address and mobile number. Both knew there was no need to extract a promise to stay in touch.
Before long, Charles and William were taking their leave, thanking the Bennets for their hospitality. As he was saying goodbye to Elizabeth, William leaned in and whispered, 'I'm thankful for you.'
Elizabeth managed to make it to London within three weeks of Thanksgiving. Her family had greeted the news unhappily, but with resignation.
Elizabeth and William had remained in touch during her transition period, exchanging regular email messages and talking on the phone when possible. Elizabeth stayed with her aunt and uncle when she first moved to London, with the idea being it would give her some time to get settled before finding a place of her own. The couple met up the day after she arrived and confirmed their connection that had formed at Thanksgiving was real and worth pursuing. They spent a lot of time together – as much as possible given their work schedules and Elizabeth's need to settle into a new job. Within the month, they both knew there was no need for Elizabeth to find a flat; she moved from her aunt and uncle's house to William's. He delighted in showing her around London and Derbyshire and she delighted in making him laugh, realising both that it was something he didn't do often enough and that it brought out the most delightful dimples in his cheeks.
The Bennet family visited en masse at Christmas. It was quickly obvious to them that Elizabeth and William had formed a deep bond and they accepted that she would not be returning to Canada to live. Seeing how happy she was made it easy to accept that it was the best thing for Elizabeth, as much as they missed her. Visiting also gave them a chance to renew their relationship with Mrs Bennet's brother Edward and his family which they were all very pleased about.
Time only strengthened Elizabeth and William's love. They married the following spring at William's country house in Derbyshire. The years that followed were to bring two children – both with brown curly hair and musical laughs. Although they were based in England, they celebrated their own Thanksgiving every year on the second Monday in October. Both were forever thankful for each other and for Thanksgiving, the holiday that had brought them together.The End