The florescent lights shot through the dim haze of the club as Elizabeth sat in a darkened booth. A shimmering cocktail sat before her, and slowly she took a sip and marveled on how much it tasted like coca cola despite its shocking blue coloring. As her eyes swept the bar, she saw a woman with fuchsia wings slide her nails across her bare shoulder, drawing blood from her luminescent skin.
Elizabeth shuddered. She glanced around and saw the large black cat that had been stalking her before and the animal took off his top hat and bowed majestically to her. Not wishing to be rude, she politely nodded back at him before pointedly looking away from him, only to notice a man in a checkered suit leering at her.
The sound of a microphone being turned on drew her attention back to the stage. A girl, little more than Mabel’s age and dressed only in a loose and revealing red cloak, cleared her throat. “Ladies and beasts,” the child began, her voice deep and melodic, almost that of a seductress, “our first performer has a broken heart, so be nice to him.” She looked accusingly at an old man wearing a loin cloth with a bow and arrow in his hand. “That means you, cupid, so don’t get any ideas.”
Elizabeth’s mind wandered as she glanced down at her drink again. Something wasn’t right, her mind kept on telling herself. Something definitely was wrong.
As she took a gulp of the strange blue liquid, her ears pricked when she heard the sound of an acoustic begin to play. Looking up at the stage, she saw him, proud and unerring, a gash ripped in his white shirt, blood seeping through his marred skin, with a large hole in his chest. The man winced in pain and yet his voice was strong and seductive, calling her to him.
She couldn’t help but watch his blood drip down his torso, as his fingers strummed the guitar, which hadn’t been properly tuned.
As she looked into his eyes, she knew in that moment that she had made a mistake and in utter despair, Elizabeth whispered his name into her pillow: “Fitzwilliam.”
That Monday morning following Saturday night at the club, Elizabeth arrived at the office earlier than usual and buried herself in a new publication set to be released in time for the Christmas holiday. Work helped her shut off the part of an over-active brain where the conversation with Darcy played repeatedly. When she finally raised her head around mid-morning, she almost jumped at seeing a very tired looking Richard Fitzwilliam standing outside her office. He was leaning nonchalantly against the door, just watching her, an odd look in his eyes that she couldn’t quite understand.
“Helen,” she buzzed her assistant’s intercom, who popped her head in almost immediately.
“Oh, sorry, I thought you knew.” Helen cringed when she saw Elizabeth’s disturbed face. The assistant ushered him in and announced, “Mr. Fitzwilliam here from Grendel Films.”
“I need more coffee,” she said by way of a farewell and took a seat opposite Richard. “Hello,” she finally said as she tried to smile. “Did we have an appointment?”
“No, sorry,” he said ruefully at the severe glance she gave him. “I know I should have called but I doubted you would have listened unless I just turned up.”
She sighed in resignation. “How may I help you, Mr. Fitzwilliam?”
Helen casually waltzed in with a colorful mug (Mabel’s favorite whenever she visited). “There’s Lactaid in your fridge,” she informed her employer as she left again.
Taking out the milk, Elizabeth carefully poured it into the coffee before replacing it again. She wondered if Richard would take the hint that she wanted him anywhere else in the city except her office from the fact that she did not him coffee or other refreshment. Sadly, she didn’t seem to be having much luck.
“It’s Fitzwilliam, my cousin,” he said.
“I supposed so,” she replied warily.
“—And my niece.”
“First cousin once removed,” Elizabeth corrected. She couldn’t help it. Although she was exhausted of thinking about Darcy, she was nonetheless feeling confrontational.
“You know what I mean.”
She bowed her head in acknowledgement, choosing to say nothing. The grimace playing on her lips, however, said it all.
“He’s heartbroken. He’s been heartbroken for years, actually. You saw him Saturday. And now it’s only gotten worse. Charles and I” – Elizabeth winced at the name of her sister’s ex – “had never seen him happier in years since he met you. He would smile sometimes when he thought no one was watching. I even heard him laugh.” He paused. “I could see it in his face every time he looked at you, that spark of the man he used to be; and every time you looked at him –”
“Don’t say another word,” Elizabeth interjected. “I don’t want to hear where this might remotely be going.” She pressed the button on her intercom. “Mr. Fitzwilliam is leaving, Helen.” In her agitation, however, she had forgotten to turn off the small machine.
When Helen entered the room, Fitzwilliam looked over his shoulder and sighed. “He’s in love with you. He’s been in love with you for years after you pulled a disappearing act and he’s gone and fallen in love with you again. And now you won’t even let him see his daughter.”
Unfortunately, during this speech Arthur had sidled up behind Helen and was looking on in horror.
“I think you’re confusing love with a desire to possess.”
“How blind can you be? You ducked out five years ago; you haven’t seen the pieces you left him in.” He accused. “What the hell did you do to him in that one night. Did you put some sort of magic love potion number five in his vodka?”
Elizabeth laughed despite herself. “I believe some person named George Wickham put some in my beer, actually.”
The blood drained from Fitzwilliam’s face. “Oh, shit. He drugged you, too.” He took a deep breath. “Did he try to date rape you?”
Elizabeth looked confused. “Darcy?”
“No, I don’t think so. Not that I remember much.”
Fitzwilliam breathed out a sigh in relief. “Thank god.”
Elizabeth looked at him quizzically and began to put the pieces together. “He’s done it to someone else you know, then?”
Fitzwilliam hesitated. “Yes,” he deliberated. “She was a lot younger than you, though. We don’t talk about it, for her sake.”
Elizabeth nodded. “Of course.”
“He does love you; Darcy, I mean. Desperately. He –“ Fitzwilliam hesitated. “Sometimes he works late and I’m usually the one to find him,” he explained. “He calls your name in your sleep. G’s noticed it, too. She’s been asking me for years who ‘Elizabeth’ is.”
“Darcy doesn’t know you’re here, does he,” Elizabeth guessed, trying to change the subject. Judging by the panicked look on his face, she concluded, “I thought as much.”
“Just give him a chance; let Darcy see Mabel.”
“It would be unfair to her. He’s only going to disappear back to L.A.”
“He’d stay if you asked him to. He wants to marry you, for Chrissakes.”
Elizabeth was silent, staring at her nails.
“Why the hell can’t you just admit that you’re in love with him?” he asked angrily.
Elizabeth looked up, startled. “What?” she asked incredulously.
“You’re in love with Darcy and you have been for years. I’ve never seen a couple so enamored with one another and yet so selfishly blind to the other person’s feelings.”
Elizabeth rose from her chair and hoped Fitzwilliam would take it as a signal that the meeting was over. “We hardly know each other. We. . . .” She stopped abruptly. “How can you possibly presume to think that I’m in love with him?”
“Come on, it’s written all over that very expressive face of yours. And what about your little act at the karaoke bar. ‘Some Enchanted Evening’? I mean, really, Elizabeth, anyone could figure it out. You were singing about the night the two of you met, you practically said as much when you didn’t know we were there.”
Elizabeth laughed. All of the stress she had been feeling since Friday just welled up inside her and broke loose. She had to sit in her chair before she lost her balance.
“Darcy is going through the same thing,” Richard confessed. “His heart is breaking because he thinks you’ll never let him in. He gets so close and then you just shut him out again.”
“Darcy doesn’t have a heart.”
“If he doesn’t it’s because you’ve trampled all over it when he’s offered it to you. Twice.”
She looked up at him, bewildered.
“You know he’s never looked at a woman except for you. He’s tried to find you, on countless occasions, and finally when we all thought that he was finally getting over this elusive mystery girl from W— who spoke of Kafka at a frat party, it turns out his salvation is you. Again. You give him hope and then just snatch it away from him. How can you do that, when it’s so obvious that you want him, too?”
“Goodbye, Mr. Fitzwilliam,” she said, turning to her computer to check her email.
In her agitation at seeing Richard in her office, Elizabeth had left her intercom on when she had called Helen. Normally, this wouldn’t have been a problem, but at the raised voices coming out of the machine, first one employee than another had stopped by the desk to listen in, a guilty expression on their faces. By the end of it, much of the office had heard the last part of her conversation. Rumors started flying about the handsome yet stern Vice President of Grendel Films who had gone and fallen for Elizabeth Bennet, whom half the office had assumed was a lesbian and the other half thought she should be.
Elizabeth was mortified. Several of her coworkers, Arthur included, sent her the link to Fitzwilliam Darcy’s wikipedia page. It turned out his father had founded not only Grendel Films but Dreamweaver Entertainment, and he was slated to take over the latter as soon as he had proven himself in the smaller company. She had turned down a marriage proposal from the eldest son of one of the nation’s wealthiest families. Better still, she had a child with him. But, she thought grimly at the armies of lawyers such a man could possibly send after her, paternity remains to be proven.
Darcy couldn’t help it. He had to see his little girl just one last time, even from a distance. He had called one of his lawyers and discovered where Mabel went to daycare and there he stood, over twenty feet from the window, looking in on a head of dark curls. His little girl, he thought to himself. He wished he had had the opportunity to hold her small frame close, to kiss the top of her head before it was all too late. But he had ruined any chance he had of seeing her. He wanted that paternity test, desired to demand that he have partial custody of his darling Maple Leaf, but even he could see that she was content and happy. She wanted for nothing, except perhaps a nicer apartment and toys, which he could provide if only Elizabeth would let him.
Distracted, he ran a hand through his hair and saw her smiling at a little boy. At least she was happy, and he would make certain, he swore by everything he held dear, that he would see she remained so, albeit from a distance. She and his beloved Elizabeth would never want for anything, and if they desired for him to be gone, he would disappear into the shadows he had inhabited for the past five years.
“Goodbye, you little imp,” he said affectionately to the wind, before turning and walking back through the oddly quiet streets of New York, lost in his own thoughts.
The ribbing and stares Elizabeth had been experiencing the whole day grew even worse when, during an editor’s meeting, a bouquet of roses arrived with a handwritten letter from Darcy. She tried to hide her mortification, but she soon became withdrawn and couldn’t pay attention. Everyone was furtively glancing in her direction and she left the room as soon as possible.
In her office her hands shook as she tore open the letter and unfurled the pages inside. She found a neat script, though hastily written. He would be one to write letters in an e-mail age, she thought tartly. Giving in to curiosity, she began to read.
I know I shouldn’t be writing to you. You asked me to go, but before I do, I beg you to please just listen. After holding you in my arms crying once again, I just knew that I couldn’t let you think so badly of me as you obviously do at the moment.
When I proposed to you, you accused me of separating Charles from your sister. This, of course, is true, and I am truly sorry it upsets you, but it could not be helped. Charles is one of my dearest friends, and despite his fame and success, he’s easy prey to the flattery of gold digging groupies. He never seems to be able to look after himself, and in the case of your sister and him, I saw only a pattern repeating itself.
The night we met, I noticed your sister watching Charles before he ever approached her. As I have noted, I have seen this happen before. The look in her eyes was so obvious, and it was clear that she knew exactly who he was and was interested in him because he is famous. This, of course, is not uncommon, and I soon began to suspect that Charles’ attraction was much more than hers for him. Frankly, I had never heard of her although I understand she is modestly successful on Broadway—but a husband like Charles would open the right doors in Hollywood. She openly spoke of her “aspirations” to Charles to one day break onto the big screen. This always troubled me, but I was not aware of the full extent of her pursuit until we saw your mother at our restaurant – if you can claim a song for us, then I take the same liberty by choosing a restaurant.
Your mother clearly stated how thrilled she was that your sister had finally caught someone famous, implying that it was your sister’s habit to be in pursuit of rich men. After leaving that establishment and seeing you and our daughter safely home, I immediately told Charles all that I had learnt. Caroline, of course, confirmed my observations, and we were able to persuade him that he had been mistaken in thinking she was sincere. I will not apologize for protecting my friend from a woman who was using him, at least partially, to further her career.
Second, you more than suggested that I – rather than my then- friend George – spiked your drink at the party where we initially met. You have no idea how that night has haunted me and now it has become even more of a nightmare. I would never have willingly or knowingly hurt you. Allow me to explain something I know I can trust to your discretion. After all, it is an intimate family matter that concerns my, and hence Mabel’s, family.
I believe you’ve never formally met George Wickham, although he was a member of the fraternity that hosted the party that September and, furthermore, he was in the audience during the matinee of The Master and Margarita. He was staring quite fixedly at you and I believe you noticed him. His father was a close friend of mine and we grew up together as boys, even though he was a few years younger than I. After my father’s death, I saw little of him as I was now solely responsible for raising my ten year-old sister, although I myself was only twenty then. Putting off going to graduate school, I stayed at home to raise Georgie until she was old enough to go to boarding school, which is a tradition in my family.
George and I kept in touch and it soon became clear to me that the life of the frat house was greatly affecting him. About three years after my parents’ death he convinced me to come up to Boston for the weekend, claiming that I needed to unwind, and citing our old friendship that had since fallen to shreds. Georgie wanted to stay over a friend’s house so, reluctantly, I agreed as I hadn’t really traveled anywhere or had any time alone since our father’s death.
That weekend was, simply, the best and worst of my life. George, who fancied himself a lady’s man but who had little respect for women, drank all weekend, as well as snorting cocaine when he thought I wasn’t looking. I was appalled to see what he had become and, on my last night there, I literally hid in his room from the drunken frat party that was unfolding around me.
Eventually I stuck my head out the door for a moment, and that, Elizabeth, was when I met you. It was clear from your manner that you were extraordinarily spirited and intelligent, and as confused by the party as I was. I was enthralled by you, by your unorthodox political opinions on the 2004 election, by your love of literature and Chaucer. I found myself telling you about my mother, although I had never spoken about her to anyone, even to Georgiana. She had died two years after my sister’s birth Everything about you drew me in and when you kissed me as if your life depended on it, I didn’t want to stop you. You appeared so in control of yourself until a few moments before when you had taken a large drink from your beer after the vodka shots we had taken. I had been drinking, too, or I might have noticed more. I felt just as much passion and desire for you as you appeared to have for me. It seemed natural and those hours were the happiest of my life.
I fell in love with you, when I held you crying in my arms. You were so beautiful, so vulnerable, and I had hurt you because I didn’t know that I was your first. In that moment I knew I wanted to be your last and never hurt you ever again. When I whispered in your ear that I loved you, I was desperately hoping that we would have a future together.
You promised you would call and you left with your friend. A few hours later Wickham came into the room and started complaining about how I had stolen the girl he had chosen for himself. He went on and on about how much the drug had cost him and tried to make me pay him for it as I had obviously had the benefit of it. I was in agony and I went out looking for you right then. No one knew who you were, who “Elizabeth” was from “W—”. I felt so lost and I have not been able to apologize for the night until now.
Elizabeth, please believe me, I never would have made love to you if I had known you were drugged. I still don’t know to this day what he used on you. I only thank God that it didn’t kill you, as I have feared it had every day of my life. When police reports turned up nothing, I even tried to console myself by thinking that you were alive but just not interested in me. After all, I had given you my number, and you were bright enough to figure out that I probably had money. I tried to convince myself that I obviously did not have enough money to tempt you. I was grasping at straws just trying to forget your face, your eyes, the softness of your skin. Then at other times, I used to pray that you would be a golddigger interested in me for my money—I did not care what the reason, I just wanted to see you.
And finally I came to believe that it just had not meant as much to you as it had to me.
It never occurred to me that you might have been pregnant and I should check hospitals and clinics. But I kept thinking, if she wanted me, she would call me. And when I finally saw you after all those years, it took me awhile to realize what you had gone through. Somehow you must have lost my number because I think if you had had it, you would not have chosen to go through a pregnancy alone. Am I right? Would have called me?
Returning to the subject of George, after that night all contact between us ended. I planned on never seeing him again, but unfortunately our paths crossed two summers ago. I had never explained to G why George and I were no longer friends and when she turned sixteen, she invited him to a birthday party she held at her boarding school. He, being the bastard he is, went, and once all of her friends had retired for the evening, did to her what he attempted to do to you. He even told her not to let me know she had invited him—because, after all, big brothers never understand that sort of thing. She was only sixteen years old. Georgiana can remember little of that night except that she tried to fight him. He dislocated her hip in the assault. He was found not guilty on a technicality at his trial. The facts of this court case are well known. You can easily look them up online. G was not his first. Various witnesses testified , that date raping was his modus operandi, especially in conjunction with his fraternity’s parties.
Finally, I will not press you to let me see our daughter. All I ask is that you let me help provide for her and send her a gift on her birthdays. It was at least my love for you that created her, and despite what you’ve said, I’ve enjoyed every minute I spent with her even if you did not think I showed it.
I wish you and Mabel all future happiness in life.
Post Script – I understand Richard came to see you to trumpet my cause. I must apologize for his behavior and I assure you it will never happen again.
Enclosed with the letter Elizabeth found a check for $100,000 and a note from a lawyer, asking her to call him to set up the finer points of a trust fund. Without even thinking about it, Elizabeth stuffed the note and letter into her purse, and rushed out of the office without even her coat despite the cold November weather.