Elizabeth couldn’t help but grin broadly as her two youngest sisters pulled her out of a cab late on Saturday night. She had had to endure a horrible dinner with her parents and all of her sisters. Such a setting had been odd at first, especially since Mrs. Bennet had insisted that they all go to Serendipity just in case that ran into “Lizzy’s handsome man.” Elizabeth couldn’t help but roll her eyes.
Her father had interrogated her, and all she could do was think of all the endless hours she had spent during high school when he had sat her down in his office and had told her constantly that her low A’s in Math and Science just wouldn’t cut it. She remembered the night of junior prom when she had been all dressed up, her hair beautifully decorated, and the odd sense of anticipation she had felt of finally going to a dance, albeit with her friend Thomas as her date. As she remembered him, he had been sweet, nice, and 100% gay. He would have been the perfect companion to just take her in his arms and dance the night away.
Mr. Bennet, however, had found her latest AP Calculus AB test, which she had been endeavoring to hide, and had called her into his little haven in their house.
“Lizzy,” he had said, “what have I told you about studying?”
Elizabeth had taken a deep breath and closed her eyes. Jane had always been the beautiful and talented one. She had never had to get perfect grades as long as she got the female leads in all of their high school’s productions. The task of perfect grades fell to Elizabeth as her father thought her unusually bright. He had always claimed that she was his favorite daughter because of her mind. Elizabeth had secretly believed from a young age that he just took a perverse pleasure in tormenting her more than he did her other sisters.
“I do study, Dad,” she had said quietly. “Every day from four to dinner, and then after dinner I study until nine thirty.”
“Well, clearly,” his voice had colored with a hint of disdain, “you haven’t been studying enough.”
Elizabeth had looked up at him, dreading what she knew would come. “What do you mean, Dad?” she had asked quietly.
He had taken out her folded up Calculus test and had thrown it on his desk. “Do you care to explain this?”
She had looked at it and then looked at her lap. “I got the highest grade in the class. The next highest was an eighty-three.”
“Don’t try and blame the weaknesses of others for your own mistake, Miss Lizzy,” her father had quipped. “This,” he had jabbed at the test, “is a ninety.”
“It’s still an A,” she had shot back with fire in her eyes.
“An A minus,” he had explained, “and barely that.”
“Is there anything else, sir?” she had asked as she glanced at the clock, knowing that Thomas would be there in a few minutes.
“Yes, Lizzy,” he had said harshly. “You clearly are not applying yourself to your studies.”
“What about Jane, Mary, and Kitty? They don’t apply themselves – you pat them on the back when they come home with B’s.”
“Jane has her acting, Mary her piano playing. You have this. I ask one simple thing: excellence; and you cannot do this one thing. How do you ever expect to get into a decent college?”
“I have the highest GPA in my class,” she had stated, with just a touch of vanity.
“It’s not high enough. I’m sorry, Lizzy, but this is unacceptable.”
She had sat in silence, realizing with dread what was coming next.
“You better get out of that dress unless you plan to study Calculus in it.”
Elizabeth had looked up at her father resentfully. “It’s Saturday,” she had reminded her father. “I’ve been studying since nine this morning.”
“And prom night, I know.”
“I saved up for months for this dress.”
“Well, you can wear it next year.”
Elizabeth shuddered in the cold as she remembered this conversation that had taken place years ago. This night had been little different. Despite her father’s earlier kindness at Serendipity, he still berated her for her poor choices. It didn’t matter that she had come out of college with a 3.91 overall average while raising a child in three years. So what if she had a snazzy publishing job with great benefits. She had been meant for more, he explained. None of it mattered. According to her father, she had shown that she did not care about her academic studies, despite all of the hard work and effort he had put into her high school education. In that moment Elizabeth couldn’t help but be glad that she had had a source of private income through college. Even if she hadn’t gotten pregnant, she would have gone into hiding and cut off all connection with her family. They were toxic. If she let them, they would slowly suck the life out of her.
Elizabeth smiled to herself. When Lydia and Kitty had kidnapped her, she had said terse goodbyes to her parents, knowing that she would never see them again, that they would never catch another glimpse of Mabel, and gave her father the finger when only he was looking. Jane might have caught it, actually. It didn’t really matter at that moment. She knew she was being immature, but she didn’t care and felt quite elated. She’d been responsible for five years. One second of non-intoxicated waver couldn’t really hurt.
“Where are we going?” she asked Mary, who had an uncharacteristic smirk on her face. Her sister was now a student at the Hartt School of Music and loving life.
“You’ll see, Lizzy,” she said conspiratorially as Kitty and Lydia chatted around them.
Elizabeth breathed a sigh of relief that Jane had decided not to come. When Kitty had begged her, she had said, “What do I care about how you airheads waste your time? Go take ‘precious Lizzy’ and leave me alone.”
When the sisters finally exited the taxi, Kitty pulled at Elizabeth’s hair, which had been up in a knot a moment before, and ran her hands through it to let it fall into an intoxicating tangle down to her shoulders.
“What are you doing?” Elizabeth exclaimed, laughing despite herself.
“Making you look hot,” Kitty responded.
“I think you’re even hotter than Jane!” Lydia said in amazement.
Elizabeth looked incredulously at her. “Whatever do you mean, Liddy?”
“Just that,” her impetuous sister answered. “You’re sexy. Jane’s gorgeous, but you –“ She giggled. “If I were a lesbian and not your sister, I would want to do you.”
Kitty burst out laughing. “Liddy!”
“Okay, alright,” Lydia amended with a sly look at Elizabeth. “So I am a lesbian. But don’t tell Mom or Dad! They’d kill me! They want me to be a lawyer and marry a CEO or something.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes as they approached an establishment and embraced her youngest sister. Lydia had always been impetuous but she felt honored that she would tell her this. “Be true to yourself, Lids, that’s all that matters.” She quirked an eyebrow as she found herself in a karaoke bar. “What about all of those Charles Bingley sex scenes?” she inquired.
Kitty laughed. “Don’t be ridiculous, Lizzy, she was drooling over Jessica Alba.”
“Oh.” She thought back. That oddly made sense. Charles had a great body and all but he was no Fitzwilliam D – She shook her head. She couldn’t let herself complete that thought. She had slammed that door firmly shut yesterday.
Mary grabbed her arm and pulled her forward. “Now, Lizzy, you must sing, we insist. You used to sing for us before you went away and we demand that you do it again.”
“Remember the hairbrush?” Kitty asked happily, “And the hello kitty pjs?”
“And the slippers!” Lydia squealed. “Don’t forget the bunny slippers!”
Kitty sighed happily. “You were the coolest pop princess in all the county! You had all the guys drooling over you! Lucky bitch!”
“Catherine,” Elizabeth warned.
“Don’t worry, I only swear away from the ‘rents. Tyrants,” she muttered.
Elizabeth couldn’t help but agree. “That they are. What do they have planned for you?”
Mary sighed. “They want her to be a model.”
Elizabeth couldn’t help but gasp as she looked at her undeniably pretty sister, but she was far from fashion obsessed or even conscious.
“I know,” Kitty sighed, “I hate fashion and heels. Give me my sneaks and a soccer ball any day. But you know Mom and Dad.”
All four sisters couldn’t help but laugh at this as they found a table and signed up for a few selections.
Darcy hated his cousin Richard at that moment. After the disaster the previous day, Richard had barged into his hotel room, somehow having managed to get a copy of his key, and had demanded that he get dressed and come with him at that moment. “We’re going to get you drunk,” Richard had explained. “It’s what you need.”
As Darcy was already slightly intoxicated, he didn’t put up much resistance and was pushed into a taxi. He didn’t even notice where he was when Richard pulled him into what he assumed was a club and pushed a brandy in his hand before setting him in a booth.
Darcy looked about him and groaned. “Only you would try to torture me in this way,” he commented as he pushed his drink away.
“What are you talking about, man?” Richard asked. “There’s alcohol, there’s mood lighting, and there are people who are even sadder than you, making fools of themselves.”
He sighed deeply and looked away toward the stage. A group of four women, some of them only girls, were up on the little platform, and the youngest and most flamboyant one was tapping the microphone.
“Hi,” she said happily, “I would like to introduce Lizzy, my big sister, who was the three time champion of Northwestern Idol back in high school.” One of the girls laughed at this, clearly embarrassed. “She’s here because we kidnapped her and she’s singing our favorite song from childhood. Just imagine her at sixteen wearing hello kitty pajamas and using a hair brush as a mic. You’ll get the idea.”
There was a spattering of applause and three of the girls jumped off the stage. The woman who had laughed remained, looking slightly apprehensive. She nodded to the technician and a happy pop beat began and she smiled, her entire face transformed.
Darcy’s jaw dropped as she began to sing Britney Spears’ “Oops! … I did it again”.
“My god,” Richard said as he ogled the woman. “That’s Elizabeth.”
Darcy could do nothing but stare at her as she transformed into a younger, more innocent version of herself, happiness in every one of her dance movements.
Here was the girl he had initially fallen in love with. She was happy, flirtatious, enjoying life to the fullest, and not caring what anyone thought of her as she just sang to the three girls who were clearly her younger sisters. Despite her somewhat formal dress for such a performance, she performed the dance steps with energy, as if she had practiced every day in front of the mirror in high school. He had never even guessed that this part of personality existed. No wonder she was such an amazing mother to their daughter. She was not only loving and responsible, but she had an unfailing and young energy that could not help but enchant any child.
Oops!…I did it again
I played with your heart, got lost in the game
Oh baby, baby
Oops!…You think I’m in love
That I’m sent from above
I’m not that innocent
His heart slowly wrenched as his thoughts did a quick 180. As the words flowed over him, he couldn’t help but look down at his hands that were gripping the table. He had thought he was in love with her and here she was, cruelly torturing him, pushing in his face just how wrong he had been. Was she secretly laughing at him? Here she was, in a karaoke bar, with her sisters, smiling and playing at being a pop princess slut, and he was suffering from the pain of losing her for the second time in his life. Would she ever stop torturing him?
Then his mind shifted again. Innocence … the word drifted through his mind. But she had been innocent when he had met her. When George had stormed drunkenly into his dorm room that night, he had tried to convince Darcy that she was a slut, that she would sleep with anyone – she was nothing better than a prostitute. The frat boy was trying to get at all of his weak spots, showing him that he could only buy affection and as George had clearly pimped her out (although accidentally), Darcy should have to pay.
But she had been innocent, neither of them had known she was drugged or that it was affecting her actions. When his mind had finally cooled that night from passion for Elizabeth and fury at George, he had realized that her kisses, though powerful and needy, had been those of a young and inexperienced girl.
Although her body and the drug had been pushing her forward, she had moved with a haunting inexperience that he could only now recognize.
He had taken away her innocence, it was because of him and his goddamn libido that she was no longer … he sighed. It was all his fault. He had taken away her youth all because he had been enchanted, because he had opened up his heart then as he had the day before, because in those short and precious hours had had actually fallen in love with her and had admitted it to himself as he held her in his arms.
As the spoken bridge came up, the two younger sisters hopped on stage and did a parody of Britney’s conversation with her admirer, and Elizabeth laughed delightedly behind them before finishing off the song with a flare and a standing ovation, blocking her from his view.
“I didn’t know that Elizabeth sang,” Richard said as he looked at Darcy’s unreadable expression.
“Mabel had mentioned that she sang, but I thought it was nothing more than lullabies.”
“How does that girl not have a recording contract?” Richard asked, not thinking about the man sitting next to him, who was now torn by despair at not being able to run over to Elizabeth at that moment and elation at seeing her so happy. “That was even better than the original.”
Of course, there was a call for an encore and after her three other sisters had sung other pop songs (a rather pretty blonde girl, who introduced herself as Kitty – who names their daughter after a feline? –, gave a truly horrendous rendition of “Love Song”; the poor girl, whatever her other talents, was tone deaf when it came to singing) Elizabeth happily obliged. She was somber for a moment, looking out to the crowd, before saying softly into the microphone, “’Some Enchanted Evening’ from ‘South Pacific’ has a very special meaning for me. It’s been my song since the beginning of college. And here it is.” She smiled sadly and looked at her sisters who were looking back at her with a sad understanding in their eyes.
Staring into the darkness, Elizabeth took a deep breath, and sang,
Some enchanted evening
You may see a stranger,
You may see a stranger
Across a crowded room.
And somehow you know,
You know even then,
That somewhere you’ll see him again and again.
Her hands, so small compared to his, clasped the microphone tightly in its stand. Emotions flooded across her face as she sang of a love at first sight, a love that she craved and yet he was the one who had robbed of such a possibility.
Darcy saw that she was hanging on to the mic as if it were a shred of reality anchoring her to this moment:
Who can explain it?
Who can tell you why?
Fools give you reasons –
Wise men never try.
As her voice finally reached the final verse, Darcy was gripping the table, willing himself not to run up to the stage and take her into his arms. He could see the pain etched in her face, the suffering of their past from that first moment when he had seen her at that frat party, where he had gone against his better judgment and made passionate love to her. He had done this to her. He had transformed her from the happy girl singing Britney Spears songs to her little sisters, with such a promising future ahead of her, into this sensual yet vulnerable woman who had seen too much of the world for her young age. She was singing to him, to her past emotions, and he cursed himself for having made her hate and mistrust him so.
Some enchanted evening,
When you find your true love,
When you feel him call you
Across a crowded room –
Then fly to his side
And make him your own,
Or all through your life you may dream all alone.
Her eyes scanned the crowd and as they lighted upon him, he heard her voice hitch slightly. She was staring into his eyes, her expression unreadable before turning away again to finish off the song.
Once you have found him,
Never let him go.
Once you have found him
Never let him – go!
His heart leapt in his throat. Was she possibly singing to him and not to a love which he had denied her? The chance was small and yet he could not let it go. It was the only hope he had, and he would not let her slip through his grasp again if he could help it.
As the crowd once again erupted into applause and hoots around him, Darcy stood up and slowly made his way through the crowd to her table.