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A Dream Deferred - Chapter 28

October 11, 2016 12:17AM
A/N: Thanks for the warm welcome back. So gratified to know anyone's still up to reading this. Next chapter has a lot more D+E feeling lovey, so hope you enjoy that. Been a long time coming. ;-) I have a line of sight into some free time to finish that chapter, so hoping it will be up before too long. In the meantime, hope you like this and tell me what you think!

~~

CHAPTER 28

“It appears the lawyers have prevailed,” said Ed as Elizabeth and Ayla walked into his office.

Elizabeth smirked as she settled into a chair, her tenth cup of coffee in hand. “Don't the lawyers always prevail?”

Ed looked up from his computer briefly, but did not smile. “Certainly seems that way, doesn’t it?” He paused. “It has been decided that Will Darcy is no longer permitted to accompany QED reporters in the field.”

Elizabeth narrowly avoided spilling all her coffee as she laughed at Ed’s words. “It has been decided? By whom? I didn't realize Will needed permission.”

“He has a Board.”

“Which he chairs,” said Elizabeth. “Excellent corporate governance, by the way.”

“Be that as it may, the lawyers - his and ours - are adamant that such an outing is not to be allowed again.”

“That’s fine by me,” said Elizabeth. “But I thought the Board approved that first trip?”

“They did,” said Ed. “But they clearly underestimated the risks. All of us did.”

“Not all of us.” Elizabeth could not mask a triumphant note in her voice.

“Must you be so insufferable when you are right?” said Ed with a sigh.

Elizabeth smiled. “A tragic character flaw, I’m afraid.”

“We’re aware,” said Ayla.

“More than outweighed by my dazzling display of journalistic prowess, no doubt.” Elizabeth chuckled.

“How much coffee have you had today?” Ayla shook her head with a smile. “You’re positively giddy.”

“You don’t want to know,” said Elizabeth.

Ed cleared his throat and glared at both Ayla and Elizabeth. “Are you quite done?” They mumbled something indecipherable, and he continued, “As I was saying, Will Darcy is no longer going out in the field, but Liz, he will still be working with you to understand the journey of a story from an idea to the printed word.”

Elizabeth sighed. “Ok. I knew I couldn’t be lucky enough to rid myself of him altogether.”

“Has it really been so bad?”

“You mean apart from the time I nearly had him killed?” Ed’s face betrayed no emotion, so Elizabeth continued, “It’s been fine. It’s a distraction - of course it is - but I get why we have to do this. He’s been working around my schedule, which I appreciate. I’m sure that’s no easy task for someone in his position. He must have a million demands on his time, but he has been very gracious about respecting mine.”

“So far I’m not hearing a complaint.”

“Like I said, it’s fine. I still lose an hour or two every other day. That’s time I can’t actually afford to lose. But it must be done. So yes, no complaints from me.”

“I appreciate your sacrifice,” said Ed, just a hint of derision creeping on his impassive face.

“For you, anything,” said Elizabeth. “In fact, I am seeing him tonight to discuss my write-up of Zaatari.”

“Oh? How is that progressing?”

“Every word I wrote is awful. I am going to delete it all and start over.”

Accustomed to the tortured artist that resided in every reporter, Ed simply said, “So it’ll be ready for publication next week?”

“Even if it kills me.”

“You are more useful alive.”

Elizabeth laughed. “I’ll keep that in mind, Ed.”

Ed turned his attention to Ayla. “Ayla?”

“Yes?” said Ayla.

“Making progress with Reynold and his team?”

“I suppose so. He’s seen our financials and our budget for next year.”

“And they’re still interested?” said Ed.

Ayla shrugged. “We’ve gone through the subscriber data in some detail along with our targeted marketing strategy. We still need to review some P&L line items, but the conversation so far has been productive. He has some…- ummm, interesting suggestions about ways to invest in our brand.”

“Sounds like the sort of thing only someone with infinite resources would suggest,” said Elizabeth.

“Yeah,” said Ayla. “Let’s put it this way, not all his suggestions were dreadful.”

Ed looked at his keyboard for a long moment. “I see Liz’s sunny optimism has become contagious.”

“I can’t selectively report the facts you’d like to hear,” said Ayla. “Everything Reynold and I have discussed so far makes logical sense, Ed. But only if they own us outright. I just don’t see how the math will work otherwise. And I get the distinct impression that they are coming to the same conclusion.”

“Why do you say that?” said Ed.

“I don’t know. It’s just the way Reynold talks about expanding our audience. All his strategies seem to imply we have some kind of scale - scale that is not possible without the resources of Pemberley behind us. A simple investment won’t do it, I don’t think. No, I think they’ll want a clear sense of ownership.”

“You may be right.”

“Is this to be our future?” said Ayla. “To be at the whim of a benevolent billionaire benefactor?”

“You have any better ideas? The current alternative appears to be extinction.”

“Not for a few years,” said Ayla.

Ed nodded in agreement. “Not for a few years. But what happens after that? I am asking all of you to trust your careers to me, and I can’t promise anything beyond a year or two.”

“You know no one at QED faults you for that,” said Ayla. “And that we’re all proud to call this place our home for as long as it is possible.”

“I know,” said Ed. “That fact is not lost on me, believe me. I’m just…- so tired of it all. Fighting for survival, for an audience, for relevance. It shouldn’t be this hard. But it is. And we can’t will our problems away. I wish it weren’t so. I am failing all of you, I know. But I don’t see a way out of our current predicament.”

“You are not failing us,” said Elizabeth firmly. “And maybe being a part of Pemberley won’t be as horrible as it appears.”

“We’re in trouble if Elizabeth is the most hopeful one in the room,” said Ayla.

“I’m just feeling pragmatic. Not my natural state, I know. But when I was in Zaatari, stuck in a violent mob, you know what I thought? I hope it doesn’t end this way because I need to come back and finish my interview.”

“That’s crazy, even for you,” said Ayla.

“And it occurred to me... - we can’t make a difference if we’re out of business,” said Elizabeth. “That’s just a fact. We have to make a calculation here. Are we going to go gently into the night? Or are we going to rage, rage against the dying of the light?* Dare we stay independent in the hope that things improve over the next few years? Or do we seize this opportunity to have access to the kind of resources we would not have thought possible only months ago? The answer isn’t clear to me yet, but this is what I do know. So far, I have been impressed by the professionalism and seriousness of the Pemberley organization.”

“It sounds like you’re beginning to respect Pemberley News,” said Ed.

“I don’t know if I’d go that far yet. I respect their intentions. I have no idea if they have the stomach for this business. Or if they will manage to stick by their convictions. I can’t stand the idea of being a part of an organization that compromises on the things that matter. But life is filled with imperfect choices. And so far, I have no reason to malign their integrity.”

“That is the highest praise one can expect from you,” said Ayla with a wry smile. After a brief pause, she said, “So…- in Will Darcy we must trust?”

“For now, maybe,” said Elizabeth. “Unless another alternative seems plausible. And let’s not forget, we could try to dictate the terms of any agreement. I think our negotiating position is stronger than our relative size and importance would suggest.”

“You think so?”

“I think Pemberley believes - for whatever reason - that they need us as much as we need them.”

“You mean they need Ed.”

“Well, QED is Ed, isn’t it?”

“While I’m flattered that you think so,” said Ed. “I would not say that Pemberley’s interest in QED is driven solely by me. They have an enormous amount of respect for what we’ve created, what we’ve managed to achieve. Together. With very little resources. Any marriage with Pemberley will necessarily involve some amount of compromise. And QED is not used to compromise. I get the concerns. Quite frankly I share them. But at this point, we need to let the diligence process proceed and see where it leads us. And I promise you, there will be no final decision unless all three of us are in agreement. Is that understood?”

“Yes.”

“Yes.”

Satisfied, Ed returned his attention to his computer, “Is there anything else?” Ayla had a few more items of business to discuss. Once she was done, Elizabeth and Ayla stood up and began to leave the office. As Elizabeth reached the door, Ed said, “Liz, can you stay for a minute?”

Elizabeth exchanged a look with Ayla and then returned to her seat. “Sure, what’s up, Ed?”

“You ok?”

“Yeah, sure, why do you ask?”

“I wish you’d have taken a few days off after Zaatari.”

“Oh…- no, that’s ok. I’m fine. Really. I don’t need to take time off. Plus, it’s been two weeks. I barely remember the episode.”

“Liz,” said Ed, his tone one of gentle admonishment. “You don’t have to lie to me.”

Elizabeth held his gaze for a moment, then said, “I’m fine, Ed. I…- I’m working through it.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“Not really, no.”

“Ok,” said Ed. “A piece of unsolicited advice from an old man, then?”

“You’re not that old, Ed.”

“Not that young, either. I’ve been doing this longer than you’ve been alive,” said Ed with a smile. “This is a great business. One of the true joys of my life. But it’s brutal. And it can literally destroy you. The only way to survive and do this for as long as I have is to seek help when you need it. Trust me. No shame in that.”

“You’re right. I see it now. I didn’t always,” said Elizabeth. “Don’t worry, I’m getting help. I won’t deny that this was a trigger for me. But I have excellent resources available now, and I’ll be just fine.”

“Glad to hear it. If you ever want to talk, my door is always open.”

Elizabeth laughed as she stood up. “Thanks, Ed, but your door is never open.”

Ed thought for a moment, then said, “Just knock first.”

~~

The words on the screen taunted her with the callous viciousness of a schoolyard bully, exposing the woeful inadequacy that perpetually simmered under the surface of perceived competency. Every writer knows that the only thing worse than a blank screen is a screen filled with words waiting to be rewritten. Those words are tyrannical in their insistence on clogging the path to a better story as such a transformation necessarily requires their disfigurement - or utter destruction. Elizabeth was not insensible to their predicament. No one likes being replaced by something more desirable. But her responsibility was to the story and not a particular set of words; hence her reputation as a ruthless editor. She discarded gratuitous words and pointless clauses and flowery adjectives with the dispassion of a humorless trial judge. She attacked paragraphs harboring lazy storytelling and mediocre turns of phrases. She wrote and rewrote until every last word served a purpose. But sometimes the words fought back. And the normally torturous battle of editing and rewriting devolved into a full-scale bloody insurrection. It appeared that it was one of those times.

“You always mutter at your screen like that?”

Elizabeth looked up to see Darcy, the scowl fixed on her forehead and promptly returned her attention to her computer. “When it’s warranted, yes.”

“Is this a bad time?”

“It’s always a bad time. Haven’t you learned a thing yet?”

“I’m a painfully slow learner, obviously,” said Darcy, smiling. “If you’re right in the middle of something, I can come back, but we’d discussed meeting at 8…-”

Elizabeth looked at her watch. “Can’t believe it’s 8 already.” She closed the document she was trying to edit. “No, it’s fine, we can do this now, Will. I need a break anyway. This story is not cooperating with me.”

“What are you working on?”

“The Zaatari piece I sent you.”

Darcy frowned. “I don’t understand. I thought it was perfect.”

“Are you serious? Every word has to be rewritten.”

“Ok, you’ll have to explain this to me like I’m completely clueless.”

Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. “Right, that should be very hard.”

Darcy laughed. “I set myself up there.”

“Yeah,” said Elizabeth. “I just don’t like the way the story came out. It just sounds so…- I don’t know, pedestrian. The refugees deserve better. I owe it to them to inject more real feeling into this piece.”

“And how do you do that without compromising the integrity of the story?”

“Good question,” said Elizabeth. “I don’t mean I want to fill it with my personal views or agenda. I just think it reads like a summary report, like an autopsy or something. It doesn’t bring the chaos and the humanity and the tragedy alive. You were there. You remember what that place is like. People live there because they have no alternative. And the thing is…- they are the lucky ones. At least they managed to make it out of Syria.” After a pause, she added, “There’s a particular desperation to being without a country - and I haven’t captured it. I won’t stop working on this until I have.”

“I thought you captured the spirit of the place quite well actually.”

“I didn’t. Not enough, anyway.”

“How do you know when it’s enough?”

“You just know,” said Elizabeth. “There’s no instruction manual, Will. I just go by my gut. That’s the art of journalism. The facts are what they are. The challenge is to write the story in a way that compels someone to pay attention to those facts.”

“I found the story gripping, but maybe my point of view is biased by the fact that I was there with you.”

“Right. You’re probably filling in details from your own memories and perceptions. Not uncommon. That is one of the toughest parts of the job. You come away from the field with so much material that it’s hard to edit down to the essentials. But when you read it over, you still have those details floating around in your head, completing the narrative for you. I find it helps to step away from it all for a little bit. Just to clear your head. That’s why I try to leave every story alone for 24 hours before returning to edit. Time permitting, of course. When you’re dispatching from a war zone, you don’t always have that sort of luxury.”

“Yeah, I imagine you wouldn’t,” said Darcy.“So…- I assume you’ve heard?”

“Heard what?”

“I’m not going out to the field anymore.”

“Yeah, I heard.”

“You must feel vindicated.”

Elizabeth smiled. “Just a little.”

“It’s the right thing to do. The Board just doesn’t feel comfortable with it after that…- incident. To say nothing of the lawyers. And my sister. Let’s just say that I listened to all the counsel I was receiving and decided that it was in everyone’s best interest that I no longer indulge in this fact finding mission of mine.”

“A sensible position for a CEO in your situation to take.”

“I feel so incredibly naive. It’s always good to realize what you don’t know, and I’d never pretend that I had any idea what I would see that day. But still I didn’t imagine it’d be that dangerous. You knew. You told me as much. But I didn’t think....- I mean, I thought…-”

“You thought I was exaggerating.”

Darcy sighed. “Yeah, I guess so.”

“It’s fine, Will. Everyone thought so. And to be fair, I wasn’t expecting things to get that out of hand. I just didn’t want to walk into a situation I couldn’t control with an inexperienced civilian.”

“Well, you were right. And I’m lucky I had you to rescue me.” Darcy paused. “You have a way of doing that, you know?” Elizabeth met his piercing gaze, but said nothing, so he continued, “I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I owe you an apology for disregarding your reservations.”

“Will, you don’t have to…-”

“No, please, let me finish. You told me this was a stupid idea. I didn’t believe you. And I convinced everyone else that I was right. And then the other day, you came to me to tell me how you felt during this whole disaster and I just dismissed you outright. It somehow didn’t seem that way to me at the time. It certainly was not my intent. But I was a total boor throughout this entire fiasco. Why you put up with me is beyond me. All I can say is I’m sorry.”

“You done?”

“Yes, I think that’s all I had.”

“Maybe I’m just more predisposed to be charitable to you now, but I didn’t think you were being a boor.”

“Yeah?” His eyes were now trained on her with an unparallelled intensity.

“Yeah. You wanted to educate yourself. I respect that. You made your arguments and I made mine. And I lost.”

“I am the CEO. Think the game may have been a bit rigged.”

Elizabeth smiled. “I didn’t say you won on the merits of your argument. I would never concede that.”

Darcy laughed. “Wouldn’t expect you to.”

“Look, I’m flattered that you care so much about what I think.”

“Your opinion is the only that matters to me, Liz.”

Elizabeth looked at him and could not decipher his expression. “Well…- I won’t say that your being there that day didn’t trigger an avalanche of emotions. But honestly, Will, it’s good that it happened. You were right. I can’t control everything. And even though I’ve made enormous strides over the last year or so, I still need to find a way to become more zen about everything. I can’t be so afraid of loss. It’s paralyzing. And you…- you’re helping me become the version of myself I forgot existed. Maybe some of it is accidental. But I’m a better person, a better journalist because of you.”

“That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.”

“It’s not like you have a vast reserve to choose from,” said Elizabeth. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure, anything.”

“Setting me aside, you don’t regret going out to Zaatari that day, do you?”

Darcy thought for a second, then said, “Honestly? No. I was naive about the risks, but at the time, their probability was still low. You sort of admitted that yourself. Of course, that’s all changed now, so the risk assessment must change with it. But what I saw that day…- I learned more about QED in that one day than I could have in literally any other setting. No meeting or memo or conversation would have given me the depth of understanding of what it is that you do here. That is invaluable to me - so, no, I don’t regret it for a second.”

Elizabeth was silent for a long moment. Finally, she said, “Good.”

“Good?”

“I don’t know if I agree with you, but that’s ok. I want us to be honest with each other. You don’t have to lie to me or tell me things you think I want to hear. Tell me the truth, whether I agree or disagree. Maybe especially if I disagree. That’s the only way this relationship works.” Seeing Darcy raise his eyebrows at her choice of words, she added, “I mean our relationship as friends - and colleagues.”

Darcy smiled. “You’re right.”

Elizabeth smiled in response, her heart skipping a beat for reasons she could not quite comprehend. She was ready to change the subject. “If you want to save yourself a lot of trouble, I’d suggest realizing that I’m generally right about most things.” She paused. “Shall we get back to work?”

Darcy simply nodded.

~~

From: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Date: September 15, 2014 10:57 PM
To: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Subject: Re: okay

Did I tell you I get to (finally) meet Gia next week?

From: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Date: September 15, 2014 4:10 PM
To: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Subject: Re: okay

No, but I heard it from her.

From: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Date: September 15, 2014 11:11 PM
To: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Subject: Re: okay

Does she totally hate me?

From: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Date: September 15, 2014 4:15 PM
To: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Subject: Re: okay

No, au contraire, I think she quite likes you. Don’t ask. There’s no accounting for taste. :-)

From: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Date: September 15, 2014 11:20 PM
To: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Subject: Re: okay

After the way I treated her brother?

From: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Date: September 15, 2014 4:27 PM
To: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Subject: Re: okay

Yeah, she IS weirdly devoted to him. I mean, I like Darce and everything, but he certainly isn’t the saint she makes him out to be.

From: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Date: September 15, 2014 11:31 PM
To: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Subject: Re: okay

You have a point?

From: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Date: September 15, 2014 4:45 PM
To: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Subject: Re: okay

She likes you (at least, she likes the idea of you. Let’s see if that survives meeting the real thing!). And is excited to meet you. Don’t think your history with Darce fazes her. Aren't you two some kind of friends now or something?

From: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Date: September 15, 2014 11:50 PM
To: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Subject: Re: okay

Yeah. Some kind of friends.

From: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Date: September 15, 2014 5:01 PM
To: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Subject: Re: okay

Well, there you go. Why would she hate one of her brother’s friends? It’ll be fine. You worry too much about useless things.

From: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Date: September 16, 2014 12:10 AM
To: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Subject: Re: okay

I’ll have you know I worry about *plenty* of useful things as well.

From: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Date: September 15, 2014 5:24 PM
To: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Subject: Re: okay

Think of it this way. Even if she hates you, you’d never know. The girl is too sweet for her own good and completely incapable of showing disdain.

From: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Date: September 16, 2014 12:38 AM
To: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Subject: Re: okay

Well, that makes me feel better… I don’t know why I come to you with my problems.

From: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Date: September 15, 2014 5:45 PM
To: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Subject: Re: okay

I’ve been wondering about that for years. Must be my charming personality. :-)

From: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Date: September 16, 2014 12:47 AM
To: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Subject: Re: okay

I miss you. Come visit me soon, ok? It’s lonely here without you.

From: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Date: September 15, 2014 5:55 PM
To: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Subject: Re: okay

Don’t you have Darce to keep you company now?

From: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Date: September 16, 2014 12:59 AM
To: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Subject: Re: okay

Not the same thing. We’re still learning to be friends.

From: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Date: September 15, 2014 6:05 PM
To: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Subject: Re: okay

And no one could replace me, of course.

From: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Date: September 16, 2014 1:07 AM
To: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Subject: Re: okay

Of course. Although I must say, I *have* been pleasantly surprised by him.

From: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Date: September 15, 2014 6:08 PM
To: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Subject: Re: okay

Yeah?

From: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Date: September 16, 2014 1:10 AM
To: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Subject: Re: okay

Yeah. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. :-)

From: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Date: September 15, 2014 6:15 PM
To: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Subject: Re: okay

You know it’s time for you to sleep when you start quoting Casablanca, right?

From: Elizabeth Bennet [elizabeth.bennet@qed.com]
Date: September 16, 2014 1:17 AM
To: Anne de Bourgh [anne.debourgh@fdba.com]
Subject: Re: okay

Right. See, this is why I need you. I better get some shuteye. Talk more tomorrow. Good night!


* Paraphrase of lines from “Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night” by Dylan Thomas.
SubjectAuthorPosted

A Dream Deferred - Chapter 28

TanishaOctober 11, 2016 12:17AM

Re: A Dream Deferred - Chapter 28

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Amy I.January 13, 2017 11:36PM

Re: A Dream Deferred - Chapter 28

EsteeOctober 16, 2016 08:20PM

Re: A Dream Deferred - Chapter 28

gioOctober 16, 2016 02:19PM

Re: A Dream Deferred - Chapter 28

Debra McOctober 14, 2016 02:25AM

Re: A Dream Deferred - Chapter 28

ShannaGOctober 13, 2016 02:17AM

Re: A Dream Deferred - Chapter 28

Lucy J.October 12, 2016 05:48AM

Re: A Dream Deferred - Chapter 28

Shannon KOctober 11, 2016 02:32PM

Re: A Dream Deferred - Chapter 28

Suzanne OOctober 11, 2016 07:56AM



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