Posted on Wednesday, 14 April 2004, at 3:20 p.m.
Gently easing myself onto the garden bench, I suck in the air around me. Breathe, Lizzy, I tell myself. The air will help you think. Gingerly I tuck my petit legs under me, well aware that I'll pay the price in pins-and-needles later. Grateful to be out of doors, I drunkenly gulp the sweet scent of honeysuckle, allowing the heady fragrance to intoxicate me.
It had been far too long since I have allowed myself to indulge in pleasant thoughts. I've been too full of recriminations and self-loathing to do that. For months my mind has been consumed by a complete verdict against my character, based on my lack of discretion and discernment. I could not stop berating myself for being so prejudiced, feeling that I deserved the torture that I was going through. But now, fortunately, things are better, clearer, than before, and I accept that I am only human, and I make mistakes like everybody else.
It was a series of events that brought me to my unfortunate state. I was introduced to William Darcy at a party, and was highly unimpressed with his apparent lack of manners and his stifling pride. I use the word stifling because it seemed to me that, while intelligent and attractive, William's pride smothered any positive traits he had. If I hadn't been so instantly offended by a comment that shouldn't have been made, I would probably have given him at least a small chance, and I would have realised that it was shyness that was stifling his excellent personality, not pride.
Anyhow, we kept coming into contact with each other, but I took as little notice of him as possible. As a freelance consultant, I travel to all sorts of different companies. I kept meeting him at Netherfield, and then at Rosings, two companies which I advise. We had almost nothing to do with each other, generally keeping out of each other's way. Until he asked me out, all the while spewing all manner of things bound to make the decision a negative on my part. We had a huge altercation in which I showed a complete lack of tack and accused him of every terrible thing. Well, only two actually, regarding George Wickham, and my dear sister Jane. He sent me an e-mail explaining himself, but the damage had been done.
I didn't see him again for months. When I did, I felt like a complete intruder. I was spending the morning doing some minor work at Pemberly, his business. I was told that he was away, due to return the next day, and did I thank my Guardian Angel for arranging that. But he did return that day, and after an awkward pause, we were able to be civil to each other.
I won't dwell on what happened next. Even in my head, it's just too embarrassing. The following day I received news that my youngest sister, Lydia, had run away from boarding school, and was reported to be with a known drug dealer. A drug dealer known to William, by the name of George Wickham. You can just imagine how I felt, given what William's mail had explained.
Fortunately, the Lydia issue was sorted out, but not without a lot of angst and worry. And Charles has now returned to Jane. Which was how I came to be in my happy state of oblivion this fine afternoon. Charles has taken Jane to the country for a picnic, and I had some blessed time to myself.
So, back to my more pleasant thoughts on the garden bench. Gently discarding the apprehension I've been carrying around of late, I allow myself to wallow in the honeysuckle's fragrance. I'm drawn back to a time, long before William and Charles had entered our lives, when Jane and I would sit here and plan our lives. We would, of course, meet dashing, successful young men who would treasure us forever. Our courtship would be smooth, of course, and we would be married together in the spring. We would live in the country an easy walk from each other, of course, and our children would grow up on my cookies and her oatmeal. We had everything so perfectly clear, so ready to unfold according to every detail of our blueprint.
Nothing worked out as we had envisioned it, of course. It's amazing how simple things seem when you start out, yet how complicated they inevitably become. There is still hope for Jane, but I fear all is lost to me. Because I am slowly coming to realise that I am in love with William, and that considering our past history, it's unlikely he'll ever want anything to do with me.
So why am I not tormenting myself over this new revelation? Because I have done all the tormenting I can possibly handle, and if I carry on any longer I'll start to fall apart at the seams. So I'm trying to put this all in perspective. The situation I'm in now is entirely my own fault, and while there's nothing I can do to change it, I can at least try and show William that I no longer dislike him, and I believe his side of the story. After all, he clearly tried to rectify his wrong by sending Charles back, so the least I can do is try to match that and show I trust him. Last week Charles mentioned, in passing as is his way, that William might be coming for a real visit soon, so maybe I'll have a chance.
A sudden breeze wafts a particularly strong whiff of honeysuckle into my face, bringing with it a distinct chill. I come back to my senses, remembering that Jane has invited Charles for dinner, and specifically told me I was not allowed to make my excuses. I have this sudden urge for activity. Maybe I'll bake an apple pie for dessert. I soon discover that we have no apples (Jane is a very firm believer in the 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away' adage), so I suppose I'd better go and buy some.
The market is relatively quiet, which is a good thing. After my 'down-time' this afternoon, I'm in a very mellow mood, that kind that can't possibly last in a jostling crowd. The fruit section is a bit bare, but they do have apples. Green ones, but apples nonetheless. I take my time sifting through the trays, searching for perfect pie apples. After all, I have hours till Jane and Charles return. I bury my face in the pile, absorbing the fresh, tart scent that is heaven to the senses. I'm examining a particularly large specimen (a bright green colour, round and firm, and it doesn't look at all floury), and certainly blocking the fridge in my absorption, when a voice behind me startles me.
'Excuse me' says the voice which I would recognise anywhere. I turn around, not even taking time to consider what I'm doing. He catches sight of my face and starts.
'Elizabeth.' It is a statement as much as it is a question.
'I - I - It's been too long.' His awkward words give me hope. Maybe there's a chance for us?
'It has, William. It really has.' The smile that covers his face is the answer to my question, my hopes, my prayers.
We make inconsequential small talk for several minutes. I'm so grateful that we can manage at least that. After all, how can I possibly ever broach topics like a country estate to raise our children on if we can't comfortably converse on the weather?
'Have you seen Charles yet?'
'No. I just arrived this afternoon, and since he's out, I thought I should stock up on groceries in the meanwhile. I take it he hasn't been eating anything except breakfast at our apartment lately, has he?'
I laugh at his exasperated tone, but I can tell that he's really delighted, as delighted as I am. 'Well, no, not really. Half the time he doesn't even have breakfast there, but just pops in for Jane's oatmeal. Actually, he's coming for dinner tonight, and I've been strictly told I'm not allowed to bunk. Would you like to join us?'
'Oh, thank-you, but don't worry about me. I'll just rustle up an easy supper, and see Charles when he comes home later.'
'It's not a problem at all. In fact, I'm just choosing apples to make apple pie. I'd love it if you'd come, even if it's just to tell me how revolting it is.'
It's his turn to laugh. 'Well, since you put it that way, I guess I'll have to, just to prove that I can stomach your cooking.'
We talk about nonsense for a few more minutes before he excuses himself, leaving his basket full of groceries behind. I don't watch him walk off, as much as I'm tempted to, for fear that he'll turn around and catch me staring.
Once the pie is in the oven, and the pasta is boiling, I grab the last apple and go back to the garden bench to watch the sunset. My soul feels full and hopeful, like it should. As I watch the sun gently slip behind the mountains, I again breathe deeply to clear my thoughts. Life is good, I think. I'll have my chance to be happy. Making my spirit positively float, a light breeze carries a delightful scent to me.
Honeysuckle and green apples.