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Timing is Everything - Chapter 5

January 05, 2016 01:01AM
Timing is Everything

Chapter 5

As Elizabeth slowly woke from her nap atop Oakham mount, her disorientation quickly gave way to mortification.

It did not take long for her to notice that Mr. Darcy was sitting close by, missing both his overcoat and his tailcoat. She was embarrassed to realize his state of undress was to provide for her comfort. It also did not take long for her to realize that he was staring at her. When her eyes reached his, she could not look away.

It is impossible to know how long Darcy and Elizabeth would have sat, silently staring at each other, if it was not for the intervention of a woodpecker. Although the intrepid bird had been knocking away at a tree in the area for some time, it did not really disturb our couple until it decided that a strand of Elizabeth’s hair would make a perfect addition to its nest. A lot of flapping and arm swinging then ensued. After the bird had been driven away, Elizabeth wondered how she came to find herself folded within Mr. Darcy’s embrace twice in one day.

Although the next day was the Sabbath, Elizabeth did not join her family at church. Someone needed to stay with their father’s remains, and she had not yet had an opportunity to say a quiet goodbye. If timing had been different, her father would have been laid to rest this day. Instead, the family would wait one more day, so as not to have the burial on the Sabbath.

Initially, she had reached for her father’s hand, hoping to hold it as she spoke. The icy coldness shocked her, and she quickly dropped it, then felt guilty for doing so. Steeling herself, she carefully arranged his hand back to the position it was in when she entered the room.

“Oh, Papa, I don’t know what to do,” she finally whispered, as she took the seat next to his coffin. In whispered words, her torment poured out. After expressing her confusion about Mr. Darcy, and her frustration that it did not appear she would be given a choice as to whether or not she would marry him, she quieted. “I miss you so much, dear Papa.”

Darcy had decided to attend Sunday services with the Bennet family. He arrived at the church early, in order to be there to greet Elizabeth. When the Bennet family arrived, sans Elizabeth, he questioned Mr. Gardiner. When he learned that Elizabeth had decided to stay at Longbourn, he quietly exited the church and made his way to the Bennet home. Remembering his desolation at the loss of his father, he did not want to leave Elizabeth alone.

He found Elizabeth sitting quietly in a chair next to her father. Her tears were fresh, and it was clear she had not bothered wiping them away. Once again taking out a handkerchief, Darcy approached the woman that he loved. So distracted with her thoughts, Elizabeth didn’t notice him until he had kneeled in front of her in order to wipe away her tears. Embarrassed, Elizabeth took the handkerchief from him in order to wipe her face.

Looking down, Elizabeth realized that this handkerchief was a twin to the one that she had inadvertently acquired in Kent. She silently fingered the initials embroidered in one corner. While pondering what the “F” in “FD” could stand for, her mind was taken back to the letter Mr. Darcy had written her uncle. She had read the letter all the way through several times; each reading ending with his signature: Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Unfortunately, by recalling the letter she was reminded that she was not being given the courtesy of an opinion in her marriage. As fresh tears began to spill, Darcy silently brought her into his embrace, holding her while she cried.

When her tears had again subsided, Elizabeth pulled away. As she had been sitting while he kneeled beside her, this time her tears had made a mess of his tailcoat. When she lifted the handkerchief to try and wipe away her tears, Darcy caught her hand in his.

“That is not necessary,” he softly told her.

“But I am ruining all of your clothes,” Elizabeth replied.

“I am sure they can be cleaned,” Darcy responded. “And if not, it is inconsequential.”

Elizabeth pulled back further, preparing to object to his disregard for his own wardrobe, when she noticed a black ribbon tied to his upper arm. Hesitantly, she brought her hand to the ribbon, running her fingers through the ends. With watery eyes, she rested her hand on his arm and looked back to Darcy’s face.

“You would wear this for my father?”

“I would wear it for you.”

With one hand, Darcy reached up, using his thumb to wipe away the newly fallen tear. Instead of retrieving his hand, he cupped the side of Elizabeth’s face. When Elizabeth let her head rest in the palm of his hand, he could feel his heartbeat accelerate. It was only then that he questioned his sanity in not calling for a chaperone when he first realized that Elizabeth was alone.

Although he was desperately tempted to kiss his beloved, his reason intruded. He did not think sitting next to her dead father was the most opportune time to create the memory of their first kiss. Reassuring himself that he would not need to wait much longer, he pulled his hand away, putting more distance between the two of them.

“You still puzzle me exceedingly,” Elizabeth admitted quietly.

“Ask me anything. I hope that one day you will know me better than any other.”

While Elizabeth pondered the confusing thoughts swirling around her brain, a question fell from her lips before she had truly settled on the best question to ask.

“How can you be certain that you love me?”

“Because of the way I desperately missed you while we were parted. I left Hertfordshire in November with no plan to return. It was unacceptable for me to align myself with a poor country miss with a vulgar family and no connections. I thought my feelings for you were an infatuation that I could easily conquer. Instead, I found myself comparing every lady that I met to you. Every single one came up wanting.

“When I visited Lady Catherine, and realized you were visiting at the parsonage, I quickly determined to see you again; to see if the image I had retained in my mind was accurate. As you conversed with my cousin it was like a breath of fresh air. Neither of us looks forward to our annual trip to Rosings Park, but with you there it was different. At first, I was content just knowing you were close. As time passed, though, I found myself drawn to your side more and more often.

“I had already put off our departure from Kent in order to spend more time with you. I was debating whether or not to extend the visit again, but Fitzwilliam expressed his desire to spend at least some of his leave with Georgiana. I could not, in good conscience, keep him in Kent, but the idea of leaving you was torment.

“I realized that none of my objections to our match could keep me from loving you. I needed you by my side. I needed you as my wife.”

This speech had thrown Elizabeth into turmoil. There was no doubt that Mr. Darcy believed himself in love with her, but how long would that love last if he considered her a “poor country miss with a vulgar family and no connections?” Would he come to respect her, or would their marriage devolve into something resembling her own parents?

Elizabeth was saved from responding to the insulting, yet tender, speech by the arrival of her family. It seemed that every attempt she made to better understand her current situation only caused her more confusion.

As Elizabeth’s family gathered in the room, Darcy pulled further away from her.

“Mr. Darcy, whatever have you done to your coat?” Mrs. Bennet asked as soon as she looked at him.

Once again embarrassed, Elizabeth lifted the handkerchief to try and wipe away the evidence of her tears. Once again, Darcy caught her hand.

“It is nothing of consequence. I merely spilled some tea.”

Not noticing the complete absence of so much as a teacup in the room, Mrs. Bennet began giving Mr. Darcy advice on the best way to remove tea stains from clothing. After only a few minutes, Darcy excused himself, explaining that he should return to Netherfield Park.

Although Darcy hoped that Elizabeth would see him out, he did not want to ask her. When it was clear she had no intention of following him to the door, he gently raised her hands to his lips for a quick kiss. Elizabeth was left wondering whether or not Darcy had decided to leave in order to take care of his coat, or if he was just desperate to remove himself from her family.

“Elizabeth, next time you must be sure to walk him out,” her mother admonished her. “How else is will he be able to steal a kiss?”

Right at that moment, Elizabeth could not find it in her heart to blame him.

Timing is Everything - Chapter 5

BethWJanuary 05, 2016 01:01AM

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