Time moved slowly for Elizabeth as she made her way home in the cab. Although her eyes captured the images that flashed before her, her shocked mind could not comprehend what she saw. When she closed her eyes all she could see was him, Darcy, with dark circles under those blue eyes that she remembered so well despite her memory’s inability to recall anything else.
How changed they had become over five years. Before they had sparkled, shining through her dulled mind, while now they were pained as if they had held too many unshed tears over the years. And she was the reason for the eyes she had craved to see again to become so lackluster.
It was her fault and she had let the one man she had ever wanted, although she despised him and his pretentious pride, slip through her fingers. “Darcy,” she whispered to herself, not full comprehending everything that had transpired.
Could it really be true? Could it really be him?
The shadow of her eighteen-year-old self whispered that it might be. The rest of her was too shocked to even feel emotion.
She couldn’t go home, to Mabel, not yet. Her world had just imploded. Impulsively, she told the cab driver to take her to Serendipity instead and, handing him his fare, she got out into the cold November air. What had fucking happened to her life?
As she stood in front of the restaurant, she could not move for several moments as snow fell softly upon her. The world was wrong; off kilter. Groaning, she ran a hand through her unwashed hair, and pulled out several blonde strands. “Great,” she said aloud. She was losing her mind. What made her think not washing her hair that morning was a good idea? And now she was even talking to herself.
Elizabeth wanted to just start screaming and to stamp up and down. How could this happen to her? She had given up hope of ever seeing those eyes again. In her fantasies, those eyes had looked at her with unbridled passion and love. Despite her level-headedness, she had dreamed so many times of seeing them again. There would be a moment of recognition, a spark, and then everything would be, if not perfect, then as perfect as human existence could be.
Finally she had to admit consciously to herself that every day of the past five years, when she had only Mabel to remind her, she had been waiting for him – waiting for the man who turned out to be Darcy.
“Darcy,” she whispered. Fitzwilliam Darcy. “Shit,” she muttered.
Mabel Elizabeth Darcy. The name just flowed through her mind and just felt so right. “Fuck.”
People passing her on the sidewalk were looking at her oddly, but she couldn’t care.
She had loved him, a stranger whose eyes flashed through her dreams and nightmares – and now he was the one man that she despised most in the world.
Taking a deep breath, she shifted her weight between her feet for a few moments and then entered the restaurant.
“Table for one,” she said to the maitre d’, who took in her appearance with a slightly critical eye. She looked like shit; she knew it. It couldn’t be helped. She just needed hot chocolate. Now. She needed to somehow be with him and yet she knew beyond a reason of a doubt that she never wanted to see Fitzwilliam Darcy ever again.
“Welcome again, Madam,” the maitre d’ finally said as he recognized the pretty woman whom Fitzwilliam had brought twice. “Is your daughter not joining you today?” he inquired.
She smiled bitterly. “No, she’s with her aunt.”
“She’s an adorable girl, if I may say so,” he said kindly as he led her to a secluded corner. Fitzwilliam Darcy, during his frequent trips to New York, was one of the restaurant’s most valued clients.
“Yes, she is,” she said. She couldn’t think about Mabel. Not now. She just needed an hour, half an hour even, to sort out her emotions. At that moment she wished that she were taking antidepressants. She could certainly use one right now. Elizabeth normally didn’t condone abusing prescription drugs, but this was one of those occasions which she needed something, whether it was a happy pill, a large drink, or chocolate. A combination of all three would be ideal, but considering her lack of happy pills and her aversion to alcohol, chocolate was her only option.
And she was okay with that.
A waitress quickly came to her table and Elizabeth smiled at her. “I need a hot chocolate,” she said, “desperately.”
“Coming right up,” the waitress smiled, recognizing her. “Is Mr. Darcy going to be joining you later?”
Why did the drop-dead gorgeous and rich father of her child have to be so recognizable? Why did he have to take her twice to a place where he was obviously well known? She did not stop to question why she had selected this place to lick her wounds. She couldn’t think about it now. Not without chocolate.
“No,” she said finally, “I needed time to think on my own.”
“Of course, Madam,” the waitress said as she left.
Elizabeth thought at that moment that she should have also ordered a calorie filled sundae. Oh well. She could get one in a few minutes.
Her phone rang. It was Hayworth. Damn.
“Not now,” she said by way of a greeting.
“I’ve been waiting for you at your apartment for half an hour and you haven’t turned up,” he responded.
“Why are you at my apartment and how did you get the address?” she inquired. “Did Jane let you in?” Her maternal instincts kicked in.
“Yeah, I said I was your boyfriend. She laughed in my face, by the way.”
“Could you put Jane on the phone, please?”
There were sounds and Jane’s voice came on the other end of the line.
“So,” her sister began, her voice resentful, “how many people are you dating?”
“I’m not dating anyone. Especially not Hayworth. Please make him leave. Otherwise, I’m going to have to leave my hot chocolate and kick him out myself.”
“Where are you?”
“What do you mean ‘ah’?” Elizabeth was losing her patience and very possibly her temper.
“Say ‘hi’ to Darcy for me.” There was an odd bitterness in her voice.
“Jane,” Elizabeth said quietly. “I’m not with Fi-“ she began and then cut herself off, “Darcy.”
“If you say so.”
“Are you going to kick him out? I don’t want anyone near Mabel.”
“I’m too tired to kick anyone out. He said he needs to talk to you. Mae is fine. Lighten up for once.”
In that moment, Elizabeth was certain that something had taken over Jane’s usually rational mind, possibly an extraterrestrial life form.
“Are you questioning my authority to make choices for my own daughter?” Elizabeth spat just as the waitress came with her hot chocolate. She threw a ten dollar bill on the table, gulped down half of the burning liquid, getting whipped cream over her face, and proceeded to jog out of the restaurant. She wiped her face with the back of her hand.
“Yes,” Jane replied casually.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Elizabeth yelled into the phone. There was white all around her. She couldn’t see, she couldn’t think. She needed to get home, to Mabel. A cab pulled up and before its passengers had a chance to exit, she slid into it and gave the driver the address. “How dare you question my mothering skills and let someone into the apartment with my daughter in it?”
The men next to her looked startled and one of them told the driver to step on the gas. Elizabeth didn’t notice as she focused upon the most upsetting conversation she had ever had with her normally sweet sister. “Look, Jane,” she began, “I did not tell Charles that you were out for his money. Why would I possibly do that? If you want to blame someone, blame Mom with her big mouth who said such a thing in front of his sister Caroline, or, better yet, blame yourself. If you hadn’t recommended Serendipity when you were supposed to be keeping them as far away from me and Mabel as possible, the incident never would have occurred.”
She paused again. “Put Hayworth back on.” The man still unnoticed by her looked on intently.
“Hayworth,” Elizabeth said again, “I know you mean well, but could you please leave my apartment because my sister won’t kick you out?”
“Hayworth is at your apartment?” a low voice growled next to her and Elizabeth turned to see Darcy.
“Fuck!” she screamed at the top of her lungs and buried her face in her unoccupied hand.
“Hand me the phone,” Richard said, who was sitting next to Darcy.
Elizabeth stared at them, her mouth open, and Darcy gently took the cell phone from her hand and handed it to Richard.
“Hi, Alex, Fitz here,” he said casually. “Yeah, I’m fine. Look, Elizabeth is already under a lot of stress, as I’m sure you know. Could you please just leave her apartment and not initiate contact with her daughter if at all possible?”
There was a dead silence and Elizabeth softly began to cry.
“Okay, I didn’t want to have to do this, but I’m calling in that debt of honor,” Richard elaborated. “You can’t refuse that.” Another pause. “And you understand that you are never to do this sort of thing again?”
Elizabeth was in agony.
“Good. Thanks, Hayworth.” He hung up the phone and handed it back to the sobbing Elizabeth.
“Thank you,” she whispered. She began to dry her face with the back of her hand, afraid to look at Darcy and see his disappointment in her. “Sorry for appropriating your taxi. It was a bit of an emergency.”
“You’re very protective of Mabel, aren’t you?” Richard asked softly.
She nodded. “Ever since, well, the beginning of college, I haven’t really trusted any man, especially around her. She’s too precious.” She laughed. “I’m going to kill Jane.”
Darcy closed his eyes and exhaled. He was in agony. He was sitting next to the love of his life, a woman who had borne his child and who unconditionally hated him, and he couldn’t take her into his arms and comfort her. He couldn’t speak to her. He didn’t have that right. Not now, not before. Probably never. How could she not see, after this, that she needed him, that their daughter needed him? Why did this woman have to be so strong-willed and stubborn – by god, she wouldn’t even look at him and admit that she was in pain!
“What’s the debt of honor?” Elizabeth asked wryly. She couldn’t bring herself to look at Darcy. His features were haunting her. They were so alien to her, and yet so familiar. She could see Mabel in his piercing blue eyes, in the arch of his brow, in his curling hair.
Richard laughed. “Oh, that. I took a fall for him when we were caught skinny dipping back in college. Spent the night locked up for indecent exposure. It’s cold in jail cells.”
Elizabeth smirked. “I can imagine.” She sighed. “Well, thanks, I owe you. I,” she paused, “I trust Haywoth and yet –“
“Mabel comes first,” Darcy said unexpectedly. Their eyes locked and the cab pulled up to the corner. He quickly pulled out a hundred and gave it to the driver.
“Yes,” she said quietly.
She couldn’t take her eyes off of him, but Richard moved slightly and she was brought back to her senses, her stubbornness once again showing in her features.
“May we –“ Richard began to ask, but Darcy silenced him, hurt that Elizabeth couldn’t see that she would be better with him than fall victim to ignorant scum like Hayworth.
“Richard,” he said brusquely, “Elizabeth would hardly want our interference with Mabel, especially after something like this.”
Elizabeth looked gratefully at him. “Thank you,” she murmured as she opened the door.
“Elizabeth,” Darcy quietly said. She turned. “Could you just hold her for me? You don’t have to tell her why, but please.” His eyes were focused on the floor.
Catching his gaze, she nodded briefly. She knew she could not deny him this one small concession. She then exited the cab and found Hayworth waiting for her right outside of her building.