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Love Across the Ages (ch. 4 of 5)

December 23, 2017 03:39PM
Chapter 4

“Please have a seat,” Will offered, and the woman took it.

She seemed hesitant to speak, and Will wondered, despite his first and second impressions, whether she was there for legal advice. Hesitance wasn’t uncommon for people with legal issues, so he waited.

Finally, she said, “I hear that congratulations are in order.”

“For what?”

“For your recent nuptials.” At his confused look, she added, “I exchange letters with a few of the teachers, Lucy and Annabelle. They informed me.” She smiled. “Miss Sarah Lowell is a lucky woman.”

She was congratulating him on his marriage to Sarah Lowell… his great-great grandmother. What in the world was going on?

A thought occurred to him. “Is this a re-creation for the school? Did Shayla send you?”

“I beg your pardon?” the woman said, now looking confused herself.

“Shayla Thompson. You know, the curator at the African-American Museum?” She still looked puzzled, and he added, “I know she’s creating an exhibit about the Darcy School. Is this part of it?”

She furrowed her brow. “I’m afraid I am unacquainted with a Miss Thompson, and as I haven’t worked at the school in some time, I am unaware of the exhibit.”

Okay, she wasn’t going to break character, so he could play along. He just wished Shayla had told him about it ahead of time. “So, how can I help you tonight, Miss…? I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”

At this she laughed, a beautiful laugh that made her eyes sparkle. “It’s only been two years. I don’t believe I have aged significantly in that time. I would think that after your atrocious proposal, you would certainly remember me.”

Now he was extremely confused, even more so when he saw the hurt look that crossed her face at his lack of recognition.

His heart started beating faster. “Are you… Eliza?”

She smiled softly and nodded. Will exhaled slowly, a bit blown away. It hadn’t occurred to him that Eliza had been African-American. If Shayla’s research was accurate, that meant that Fitz had proposed to Eliza. In 1912, his great-great grandfather had fallen in love with and proposed to a black woman. Their families, society, everything would have been against them. He was beginning to understand why they had never married.

“You said my proposal was… atrocious?” Remembering some of the horribly bigoted attitudes Fitz had expressed in his journal, Will really hoped he hadn’t carried them over into what should have been the ultimate expression of love to a woman.

She laughed again, that beautiful laugh. “I do understand now, and forgive you. Although I can never accept your belief that I am inferior because of my skin color, you were right that our families would have opposed our union. Your manner of expression merely prevented the pain we would have caused them had I accepted.”

She arched her eyebrows playfully. “I do hope you performed much better when you asked for Miss Lowell’s hand.”

“You would have accepted?” Why had he asked that? And why was his heart longing to hear her say yes? This was merely a role he was playing, and she was an actress. Yet her beauty, her playful manner, the sweetness and kindness he could sense in her, were utterly enchanting. If the real Eliza had been anything like this, it was no wonder Fitz had lost his heart to her.

She pursed her lips, as if to hold back more laughter. “Now, Mr. Darcy, that is not a question a recently married man should ask another woman."

"I'm sorry that I hurt you," he said softly. Again, he didn’t know why he had said that, or why he was taking this role-play so seriously. Yet he sensed pain beneath the woman’s smile, and knew that he—or did he mean Fitz?—had caused it.

She nodded gently, graciously acknowledging his apology. "You should know that you did me a great service.”

“I did?”

“Indeed. I admit that I didn’t return to the school because I was a bit mortified to face you again after my harsh words to you. Instead, I wrote to my cousin in New York City, and asked if I could go to live with her.”

“So you moved to New York,” Will said, hoping she would keep talking and answer his burning questions about Eliza’s fate.

“Yes, and it was the most wonderful thing I could have done. I had long thought my purpose was to teach, and I do still dearly love children. However, my cousin is actively involved with the suffragettes, and she drew me in. Are you aware of them and their cause?”

“Yes, they’re the women fighting for the right to vote.”

“Suffrage, Mr. Darcy, is a cause I have found far more important than even filling young minds with knowledge. For if those young minds are female, their opportunities to use their wisdom and learning are limited. I hope to change that.”

“You will, and in a short time, I imagine.” Two years after 1912… this conversation, if it had happened, would have taken place in 1914, just six years prior to the ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.

She smiled. “I thank you for your faith in our cause, and I thank you for setting me on that path.” She stood up. “I must be going, but it was a true pleasure to see you again. I wish you and Mrs. Darcy every happiness.”

She gracefully swept out of the room before he could react, and suddenly he knew he had to see more of her. He jumped up from his chair and raced into the hallway, hoping to catch up to her and invite her to dinner so he could get to know the real woman apart from the character she had just played. He didn’t see her anywhere, nor did he hear her footsteps on the stairs. He looked over at the elevator. No buttons were lit, indicating that she hadn’t taken the elevator. How had she disappeared so fast?

After a few minutes, he returned to his office and sat at his desk, wondering why he felt so utterly bereft, more so than at any time since his dad was imprisoned and his mother died. He thought about calling Shayla the next day to ask about the woman who had visited, but something told him that the museum curator might not have the answers he sought. He glanced over at Fitz’s journal and reached for it again, hoping to learn more about the incomparable Eliza.

Love Across the Ages (ch. 4 of 5)

Amy A-NWDecember 23, 2017 03:39PM

Re: Love Across the Ages (ch. 4 of 5)

Lucy J.December 25, 2017 06:14AM

Re: Love Across the Ages (ch. 4 of 5)

Michelle AnnDecember 24, 2017 11:13PM


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