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The Assembly Ch 3 & Epilogue

December 12, 2017 05:42AM
DNA: I must admit some inspiration for this story came when I sat in the cafe mentioned in chapter 3 in Central Park with my husband and we watched a wedding couple (models or the real thing I'm not sure!) with a lone photographer taking photos. I've only been to NYC (and USA) once so I'm grateful for our short holiday recently to at least give a little authenticity to my little tale. I've left the nationality of my characters vague on purpose so the reader can assume them to be whatever nationality they desire- not that it really has any bearing on the story! Thanks for reading my short piece!



Chapter Three

“Day Three Elizabeth Bennet! Last day! You can do it!” Lizzy was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, giving herself a much needed pep-talk. After the revelations of last night from Richard Fitzwilliam and Charlotte’s professional news. After opening the envelope to be greeted with a smiling, tender William looking at her like she was the only person on the planet. After not getting much sleep! Elizabeth Bennet needed a strong coffee, a bagel and a good long run! Possibly in the reverse order!

The storm last night had broken the heat wave and given a clean glow to the streets of New York City. The all pervasive smell of roasting nuts, car fumes, garbage and cooked meat typical to NYC had been washed away. By the time Lizzy was running through a favourite trail in Central Park, listening to her music, she was feeling much better, more in control. Until she passed Darcy running in the opposite direction.

They saw each other at the same moment, and they both stumbled. Pulling Elizabeth out of the way of other runners, and into a clearing off the path, William asked how she was feeling.

“Oh, ok I guess” Elizabeth was breathing hard. She had pushed herself running. She also noticed what William was wearing. She knew he was good looking. Hadn’t she seen him in a range of gorgeously tailored wedding tuxedos? But William in running shorts and no sleeves. And sweating, with his hair tumbling into his eyes.

“Umm yeah. Better with a run” Liz rambled.

William kept looking. He had seen her covered in mud and was impressed. He had seen her dressed in a variety of shades of white, stunning dresses. Her hair perfectly coiffed and makeup flawless. Not to mention all the photos from his magazine collection. Somehow she suited running more. She looked vibrant and alive.

“Good.” He offered a smile. “And how is everyone from Longbourn? Your sisters, Charlotte?”

“They are fine, thanks” Her heart was still thudding. From the running!

“Good” he smiled again. Then realising where they were, he cleared his throat. “Uh, well I’ll see you later then. Enjoy your run!”

She watched him run off in a daze. No, she was just a little light-headed from no dinner last night and no breakfast. She didn’t run much further before turning around and making her way back to the hotel. For breakfast! And coffee. Definitely coffee. Definitely not William.




They assembled back at the same meeting point as the last two days before walking through Central Park to Hernshead to take some photos near the lake. It was a bit of a walk but Collins insisted in case he got inspiration to shoot a photo or two at any other location. Since they had originally planned on doing this shoot and another one after the castle yesterday, they had some extra time. Collins explained how magnanimous Lucy Catherine was for allowing them an entire day to shoot and not expecting them to finish up as soon as possible. Everyone stopped listening after the fifth recounting of their phone conversation.

Elizabeth didn’t mind the walking and Catherine helped keep the train up and she was wearing comfy shoes. She was carrying the latest pair of high heeled dazzling white strappy shoes. She’d put them on at the last minute. Lydia was lagging behind. Liz had noticed Wickham amongst the vendors again today but there was no flirting. Lydia winked and Lizzy started to say something, but Lydia huffed off. And then William walked up and asked if she needed any help holding anything. Preferably your hand he thought to himself.

They walked quietly along, in their own little bubble. Every so often Catherine would point out something interesting to Lizzy, but after a while even she dropped back and spoke to Charlotte.

“Should I say something?” William offered quietly, smiling, reminding her of yesterday's’ conversation. He was now holding the train after Catherine ran off.

Lizzy laughed, and then frowned. “I’m so sorry.”

“I know. I’m sorry too.”

“I shouldn’t have jumped down your throat!” Lizzy’s eyes widened at another meaning.

“I wouldn’t have minded.” William and Lizzy blushed at each other and laughed nervously.

“Here we are!” Collins announced, eyeing his models, trying to see how they were interacting today. Yesterday was all fire and tension, today it was softer, tentative. Yes, he could work with that.

“Beautiful location.” He took a few photos whilst everyone else set up.

William led Lizzy to a rock and Catherine rushed over with a towel to put over it to protect Lizzy’s dress, a lovely lacy overlay, almost backless but with lace sleeves to the wrist. It made his mouth water at the thought of touching her back during the shoot. William helped her sit down and would have put her shoes on if Lizzy hadn’t been too self conscious and Lydia completely oblivious.

“Don’t forget your ring Lizzy!” Lydia yelled, too loudly. Elizabeth winced and Darcy calmly took the ring from Lydia and placed it on Elizabeth’s finger. There were to be a few close up hand shots today, so both had to wear wedding rings.

Lizzy swallowed nervously. It seemed to take forever for the simple platinum band to slide the few centimetres. She could feel every single point of contact; from the slight brush of fingers as he gently glided the ring in place, to the way his other hand held her own steady.

Lydia sighed loudly. “Move along Darcy. I need to get this veil on!”

They broke eye contact. Lizzy closed her eyes and breathed out, shakily.

Catherine was soon there with a brush and hairspray to do the final adjustments with the veil. Lydia took one last look at the makeup and then, satisfied, yelled out to Collins that “she is ready!”

Collins arranged his models to take advantage of the romantic location. The sun shining, the water lapping, the birds tweeting. He loved his work! He loved working for Lucy Catherine De Bourgh!

Charlotte stood next to Fitzy watching the proceedings with interest.

“They look good together” Fitzy suggested.

Charlotte nodded. “They looked good together from the first day. Today, they actually look together.”

“And not battling each other?” he laughed.

“Today’s photos will be very sweet I think” she commented. He agreed.

“Liz put your arms around William’s neck and lean against his chest.” Collins directed. “Yes, like that. Just settle her under your chin Will. Excellent.” He took a few photos. “No, it’s not quite right.” He tapped the side of the camera. “I know, bring your arms around her. No lower. Yes! Just so you’re touching the lower back - we need to show off the backless gown after all!”

He continued instructing and taking photos.

Standing still was torture for Lizzy. And bliss. Blissful torture? Why hadn’t she noticed before how good he smelled? Or that she was so much shorter than he? He could hold her in his arms and rest his cheek on her head. Deep breaths Like most models, Elizabeth wasn’t short, it was just that Darcy was tall. And broad in the shoulders and chest. And his chin was just the right shape with just the right amount of strength to it. Have I been standing here for hours? It feels like hours!

William wasn’t faring any better. He was cautious with her and, to Collins’ annoyance, slow. This was the last day and he couldn’t muck it up. He had heard back from Rachael after breakfast (and a second shower- cold this time), that all the arrangements to extend Lizzy’s stay for a week had been made. He wanted to introduce Georgiana to Lizzy. And take her to dinner. And watch television with her snuggled up in the hotel room.

He sighed in contentment. Lizzy felt it flow through her and she melted slightly into his embrace.

“That’s it!” Collins yelled. And then they were off to the next destination, and the last for the day.




Behind the privacy screens set up for each model so that they could change outfits for the final shoot, both were showing nerves that had nothing to do with the photos. Charlotte was reassuring Elizabeth that the dress was stunning and she looked beautiful. Charlotte couldn’t help rolling her eyes at the model’s lack of confidence. Fitzy was having better luck distracting Darcy with funny stories of previous visits to NYC.

Finally they were ready and in position on a little rocky knoll, with a back drop of trees and rolling lawn behind them. Lydia had run off to get a drink from the nearby cafe, Le Pain Quotidien, and was quickly calling someone on her mobile. Catherine was standing with Charlotte sighing over the romance of the setting. Collins was barking out orders to the crew putting up lights and reflector stands in the correct position. William was helping Elizabeth over a few rocks to get to the edge of the outcrop.

This time, it really did take an hour for Collins to be happy with the shots. He had William and Elizabeth stare longingly into each other’s eyes, holding their hands out in front, but he felt it was too demure, too staged. He had Elizabeth stand in front of William and lean back, his arms wrapped around her. Then he tried to get the bride’s bouquet in the shot but it didn’t work and kept getting in the way. Catherine was used to run the flowers up and down the rock and Charlotte and Fitzy were trying to help keep Collins calm.

Collins kept persisting. He had them pose as if waltzing; “Dancing on a rock!” Fitzy and Charlotte laughed. He had Darcy kneeling down as if proposing; “But they just got married, not engaged?” Catherine asked, confused. He had them stand side by side, facing each other, facing away, with their backs to the camera. Nothing was working. He was getting frustrated.

“You’ve fizzled!” Collins blamed the models. “Where’s the fire? Passion? Excitement?”

Elizabeth and Darcy looked at each other, blushing. William whispered something to Lizzy and she threw back her head and laughed. William’s whole being lit up at the sound and he smiled at her.

Collins started snapping photos. “Ok” he shouted, “Just talk to each other and do whatever you were doing yesterday!”

Well that made things awkward again and he almost groaned.

William, not really caring about the photoshoot anymore, turned to Elizabeth, “I’d like to introduce my sister to you”. He placed her hand on his arm, and covered it with his own hand.

“Oh” Lizzy shyly smiled and nodded “but I’ll be leaving in the morning.”

“Charlotte said that she had hoped you’d have a little break after back-to-back shoots and since this overran, I extended your stay and moved your flight. I hope you don’t mind?”

“Oh, no. That is, thank you, I’d like to meet your sister. I hope she’s feeling better?” There was a blush on her cheeks now and a tenderness to Elizabeth’s gaze.

“She’s moved to berating herself, but she’s recovering. Removing all evidence has made her feel much better, but she still feels stupid for what happened.”

“We all do stupid things sometimes that we regret.” Lizzy looked intently at William.

“I say things stupidly at times” William conceded. “Elizabeth. Lizzy? I would like to take you out to dinner. Will you let me?” This was definitely a question!

Lizzy nodded, smiling, her eyes misting a little. At that moment, William sighed contentedly and kissed her forehead, holding her close.

“Finally!” Collins yelled, taking the last photo. “We’re finished, let’s pack up!”

Catherine was the first to turn around and scream.

“It’s all gone!”

Charlotte and Fitzy turned and ran back were amazed that all the gear that wasn’t currently in use, was indeed gone. The rest of the crew made it back and they spread out and started looking. Darcy was helping Lizzy off the rock as quickly as he could. The last few steps, he jumped down and lifted her off the rock. Collins was crying over his missing camera equipment; crying out all the lenses he couldn’t find.

Liz was the first to notice Lydia missing. She rushed over to Catherine.

“When was the last time you saw Lydia?” she demanded. Through sobs, Catherine finally recalled that it was right at the beginning of the photo shoot. She went to get a drink at the cafe.

Darcy ran to the cafe and started asking the staff if they had seen a young woman, on a mobile about an hour ago. Elizabeth followed and described what she was wearing and found a recent photo on her mobile.

“Oh yeah, I saw her on the mobile. She was chatting with a good looking fellow. Wore a baseball cap. They went over that way.” He pointed to the nearby public toilets.

Darcy rushed into the mens and Elizabeth the ladies. Darcy came out quickly; there was no one in the mens. He heard Elizabeth banging on what sounded like a door.

“Is there anyone else in there Elizabeth?”

“No, just a locked door.”

He rushed in. Elizabeth was calling out and pushing on the door. Then they heard a weak “Liz”. Darcy jumped on top of the toilet in the next cubicle.

“It’s Lydia. She looks like she’s hurt. I’ll try to climb down and unlock the door.”

Elizabeth watched as Darcy somehow managed to climb into the next cubicle. Once he unlocked it, Elizabeth helped him to get a dazed Lydia out.

“George hit me” she winced “and I ran. Locked the door.” she swallowed. “He got into next cubicle and hit me with a tripod until I fell over and hit my head… on the toilet.” She started crying and Lizzy led her out and sat her down in the fresh air.

Charlotte rushed up. “It’s all gone. The makeup and hair cases, shoes, dresses. Collins lost all cameras except the one he was using and the extra lens he had on him.” She wrung her hands. “I don’t know what to do!”

“Why wasn’t anyone with the equipment?” Darcy demanded.

“Collins had both crew members running around with the reflectors. The wardrobe assistant was holding the bouquet and the second veil.” Charlotte defended, and then slumped her shoulders. “The rest of us were too busy watching you two.”

Darcy blushed. He couldn’t look at Elizabeth right now. He had to concentrate. Turning to Lydia he asked how Wickham knew where we were. His obvious anger quietening her crying.

“I called him.” Lydia mumbled, ashamed. “We had drinks last night and he said he could get my modelling career back on track. He’d take a few photos of me in some of the wedding gowns.” She started sobbing again. “I didn’t know he’d steal them. I just thought we would borrow them whilst you were busy this afternoon. I took a dress and was going to change in the toilet, when he hit me. I dropped it and ran. I’m so sorry.”

“Shh it’s ok honey” Lizzy hugged Lydia. What a mess. I feel extra stupid for ever believing anything he said. Lizzy looked at Darcy, anger and sadness in her eyes.

Darcy grabbed her hand and squeezed it. Then he took control of the situation. He ordered one of the crew with a pad and paper to start taking an inventory of what everyone could remember was there. He then went to calm Collins down and help get him to recall what he was missing.

Darcy called Lucy Catherine De Bourgh to calmly state what was happening and to reassure her that they didn’t need her to fly in to personally oversee the situation. That stopped Collins’ tirade. He got the police involved and gave them the list and any details he knew about Wickham. He called Mr. Gardiner to explain the situation and to assure him that he would keep in touch with the progress. He would also ring him later to discuss potential liability if the items weren’t recovered; the garments and accessories in particular had been on loan from a variety of exclusive wedding boutiques.

Meanwhile Charlotte worried if this would impact her job offer. Catherine started to cry and Lizzy was left sitting comforting both her sisters whilst looking in worry at Darcy. She could tell he was furious. But was he angry at anyone other than Wickham? Apart from that hand squeeze, he hadn’t come over to her. Was it over before it had begun?




Later that night, at the hotel, Elizabeth sighed as she soaked in a hot bath. It had been exhausting trying to help Lydia make a statement to the police. They then took her to Mount Sinai Hospital to have her checked up. Apart from bruising and a nasty bump on the head, Lydia was fine and thankfully concussion free. Elizabeth had then seen Lydia to her room, thankful that Catherine was sharing a room with her. Both girls were subdued and happily had Elizabeth arrange room service for dinner.

She had then spent the next few hours sitting near her room entrance, leaping up and opening the door whenever she heard the elevator ding. So far the rest of the crew had returned and Richard. She had startled a few cleaners and the room service delivery for Lydia and Catherine, and later for Richard. Collins was staying in the floor below, thankfully and Charlotte had phoned earlier to say she would be later, as she was helping Darcy. So she had gone for a bath, hoping to soothe her nerves and remember special moments throughout the day with William.

She closed her eyes and let the lavender bubble bath calm her.

She awoke to a cold bath and pounding on her door.

Towelling off, she slipped on a complimentary bathrobe and opened the door.

There was Darcy, still wearing his tuxedo from the photoshoot. The bow tie was off and the first two buttons were undone.

He looked tired and worn and sad. There was no anger in his eyes as he closed the door. He reached for her and she went willingly, opening her arms to hold him. He crushed her to him and soon his mouth was on hers. He tasted like coffee, she tasted like clean water, and he was so thirsty. This was nothing like the gentle brush on Belvedere Castle. Nothing like the chaste kiss on the forehead this afternoon. This was open mouths, tongues and teeth and hot and wet. Eager and needy. Gasping for breath, they pulled apart.

Lizzy looked at him, “Wick...”

Darcy shook his head and put his finger to her lips. “Shh. He’s been found. Most things recovered. Some of the dresses were ruined and accessories already pawned. But it’s over. Done.”

Lizzy kissed the finger on her lips. She moved her hand to cups his cheek, feeling the roughness of the end of day stubble. She loved the way he leaned in and closed his eyes.

“Elizabeth, I… I need you to say you like me. Tell me that you will go out with me. That we can make this work. I’ve never felt this way. I’ve never felt so out of control.”

“Shh.” It was her turn to put her finger over his lips. Then she pulled his head down and kissed him again.


Epilogue

A year later, Elizabeth was back in NYC to do a series of photoshoots to promote the Tough Mudder competition for ‘Meryton Mud Sports’. After last years edition had been released and sold out, Chelsea Pier’s gym membership skyrocketed, and it had been the largest group participating in Tough Mudder. This year, ‘Meryton Mud Sports’ was covering a range of gyms in the lower Manhattan area that had each hired a sports model to promote their gym and be their ambassador for Tough Mudder representation. Elizabeth not only modelled for Chelsea Piers again, she also decided to compete in Tough Mudder.

Darcy was right there beside her to cheer her as she completed the last obstacle. He didn’t realise that she had plans that next year, he would be competing alongside her! She couldn’t wait to get him in skimpy sports gear and covered in mud splatters of his own.

It was good to be back in NYC, where their whirlwind year had begun with the three days that changed her life. Both their lives.

‘The Assembly’ publication of their photoshoot was the biggest selling magazine for the entire year. Lucy Catherine De Bourgh, after much public pressure, deigned to print a special wedding edition featuring more of the Elizabeth Bennet and William Darcy photos. The public loved the magazine and the real life romance behind the couple.

Lucy Catherine De Bourgh was still not speaking to William after she called a few months after the magazine release to demand that he break up with Elizabeth. “It was a very good marketing stunt William, but now that the magazine has been released and it has sold so well, you don’t have to keep the relationship going.” She never understood why Darcy had hung up.

Billy Collins won much acclaim for capturing the models so well. Some critics grumbled that it wasn’t so much his creative directing, but rather the fact the couple themselves had so much chemistry. They argued that the leaked photos Fitzy had taken were just as scintillating as anything Collins did. Lucy Catherine De Bourgh was simultaneously pleased and angry at the photographer. He had done an excellent job, but William and That Woman were still together, and he played a part in it!

Charlotte spent a few weeks after the photoshoot thinking seriously about the job offer. She spoke with both of the Gardiners for advice and even William a bit more. Eventually she decided to accept the offer, even knowing the increasing tension between Lucy Catherine and Elizabeth and William. Charlotte enjoyed the challenge and loved to go into the field to help the photoshoot as much as she could. Unless it was a Billy Collins photoshoot. He was on his own!

With Charlotte no longer running ‘Longbourn Ladies’, Francine tried to take over the company, but her nerves kept getting the better of her and she ruffled a few feathers in the first few contracts she organised for Jane. Lydia and Catherine decided they didn’t want to enter modelling at all, even when they were older, and happily accepted jobs and advanced training courses at Pemberley Publishing. Finally Francine decided, with the Gardiner’s full support to talk about closing down.

Charles Bingley was an unlikely saviour of ‘Longbourn Ladies’. He was tired of wrestling over every detail with Caroline for ‘Netherfield Nuptials’ and he wanted out of the wedding photoshoots. It was hard work trying to look in love with a random model when he was so in love with his angel, Jane. So he struck a bargain with the Gardiners to breathe new life into Longbourn. Francine was so happy with Charles, she didn’t even mind when he changed the name to ‘Bengley Modelling Agency’. Jane explained to a wide-eyed Elizabeth that the name was a merging of Bennet and Bingley. When Elizabeth’s horrified expression didn’t change, Jane had shrugged saying “Bengley was better than Binget”. Jane and Charles continued to model (although not bridal) and have a successful relationship. Jane was never envious that Charles still was more famous and more in demand than she was. Recently, they had become engaged and Elizabeth, and William, were very happy for the couple.

Caroline Bingley wasn’t however. Her brother was engaged to That Woman and That Woman’s Sister was still going out with Her Man! With full ownership of ‘Netherfield Nuptials’, no one stopped her from making one bad decision after another. Readership was so low, that she begged her brother to come back to do a traditional wedding shoot at any location of his choosing, even if it meant That Woman would be the “bride”. Charles initially refused, but Jane soothed him and they eventually agreed. It did generate sales, but not enough long term subscribers to right the sinking ship.

After ‘Longbourn Ladies’ was reinvented as ‘Bengley Modelling Agency’, Elizabeth decided to change agents. Luckily for her, Williams agent, Rachael Reynolds was more than happy to take over. Rachael and Elizabeth were very happy working together and Rachael respected Elizabeth’s preference for sports modelling. Both Elizabeth and William had declined every single wedding photoshoot since ‘The Assembly’. William wanted to concentrate more on his business and Fitzy, with surprising ease, switched his hair brush and makeup palette to taking notes and answering the phone as his personal assistant. He still talked a lot of nonsense and kept his ‘boss’ distracted when required.

Tomorrow, William planned on proposing on their early morning run through Central Park - something neither of them missed out on doing when they were in the city together. He had organised Fitzy with the help of Charlotte to arrange flowers in a particular bend in a popular running track, and also to donate a park bench in the location where he first felt Lizzy returning his attraction. Unbeknownst to him, Charlotte had also arranged for Billy Collins to be lurking around to take a few photos.

So on a beautiful sunny morning in Central Park NYC, William Darcy and Lizzy Bee agreed to one more bridal photoshoot: their own.
SubjectAuthorPosted

The Assembly Ch 3 & Epilogue

Michelle AnnDecember 12, 2017 05:42AM

Re: The Assembly Ch 3 & Epilogue

Wade HatlerApril 03, 2018 04:55PM

Re: The Assembly Ch 3 & Epilogue

Linnea EileenMarch 30, 2018 06:51PM

Re: The Assembly Ch 3 & Epilogue

gioFebruary 09, 2018 03:54PM

Re: The Assembly Ch 3 & Epilogue

Amy A-NWDecember 28, 2017 03:13AM

Re: The Assembly Ch 3 & Epilogue

LucieDecember 14, 2017 01:40AM

Re: The Assembly Ch 3 & Epilogue

Lucy J.December 13, 2017 05:13AM

Re: The Assembly Ch 3 & Epilogue

Lucy J.December 13, 2017 05:13AM

Re: The Assembly Ch 3 & Epilogue

EvelynJeanDecember 12, 2017 08:47AM

Yeah! nfm (nfm)

MichaDecember 12, 2017 07:24AM



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