After so many weeks revising, chopping and complementing this story, I feel kinda sad for letting this people go... at least for now. Anyway, this is just the 3rd chappy, a lot more to go. This chapter was partially posted here, but now I give you the whole thing...
As always, if you haven't already, read the story's front page before diving in. Tks.
"*Eight o'clock in the morning and things don't look good from up here, folks. A minor accident near Ville Mall is taking two of the four lanes and a kilometer ahead, there’s the usual traffic jam caused by the Olympic Stadium’s construction site. My advice is do not take the Yellow Expressway today. If you did, relax and stay with us here at the Radio City Station. You're looking into two hours jammed. At least!*"
Elizabeth sighed and looked up through her windshield to watch the radio station’s helicopter noisily pass her by. Another morning stuck in traffic... Each day she had to leave the house earlier just to continue arriving late at work.
She could see the Federal Health Institute’s Palace seating majestically up on the mountain ahead, in the distance, the Concrete Christ to its right, and calculated fifteen-twenty minutes to reach its gates. But if the radio station’s traffic report was right – and it always was - she would be facing at least an hour of traffic jam; scorching December sun over the roof of her car. She sighed again.
Olympics and World Cup couldn't arrive soon enough. Rio needed to get rid of all these construction sites or life would be unbearable. Elizabeth took her phone, loaded Google maps and tried to find an alternative route crossing neighborhoods. Before the Olympics’ road works there was an exit and she could take a long ride around the mountain and-
Her phone rang cutting the map’s image on her screen.
She twisted her lips. Jane and her weird little things. Why did her older sister need to block her cell phone number? It drove Elizabeth crazy.
"Please hold for His Royal Highness, the King of Pemberley." Came a rich sexy deep male voice and it struck a chord in her.
"What?" Elizabeth answered surprised by the greeting in English. Without noticing, she had switched from Portuguese, the strong British accent making her turn off the radio to concentrate and understand.
"Please hold for His Royal Highness, the King of Pemberley." The rich voice insisted.
Elizabeth frowned deeply, her mind rolling in high speed. What kind of silly joke is- then it hit her.
It could not be!
She was speechless.
Could it be?
She finally laughed aloud.
The rich male voice at the other end of the call chuckled.
Elizabeth felt her cheeks blaze, her heart speed, her skin tingle.
“Oh my God!” She said laughing. “Is this a royal phone call?”
“Yes, ma’am!” Darcy said ditching his long forgotten radio DJ voice, his smile clearly audible in his tone of voice. His heart was threatening to escape his body through his mouth and it surprised him. He excitedly anticipated this call but not this involuntary reaction from his body.
He had arrived early at the office and went straight to his Security Department’s floor. Hurst was already having his second cup of strong tea and extended him a thin paper folder and a reassuring nod of his fat head.
Darcy nodded back and ran to his office to reacquaint himself to his longtime friend. Married, kids, address, employment, social networks accounts, phone number, a small photo… Phone number! Of course, instead of replying her e-mail, he would call her!
But time zones killed him! He had to wait five hours in which he stared at the small photo of a smiling woman with long dark hair and two small children. By eight in the morning she must be up … right?
“I can’t believe it!” Elizabeth was still laughing. “The Little Prince is broke! He can't even afford a secretary!”
Darcy laughed loud and she marveled at its richness.
“Have you wasted your fortune in polo matches and expensive horses?” Elizabeth asked, a smile so stretched on her face that it hurt.
“Your namesake doesn’t like competition. She has been ruthless with taxes here!” Darcy answered.
“I cannot believe it!...” Elizabeth said.
“I couldn’t believe when I got your e-mail.” Darcy answered.
“Is it really you, friend?” She insisted.
“Your Little Prince of Pemberley, the most presumptuous guy in all England. That’s me!” He said. “King now, actually.”
“The one who didn’t show up for my graduation, didn’t send a word, cut me off rudely?” Elizabeth raised one eyebrow.
“Errr… About that… I’m sorry, Lizzy. Close to your graduation, things got really messy here. I understood when you didn’t answer my last letters, although it hurt me.”
Elizabeth’s ears were ringing very low, lost in a time travel so fierce that she could almost feel it physically, like a Star Wars’ hyperspace jump. She hadn’t heard anything he said after ‘Lizzy’. Since her father had died no one had used that nickname anymore. Lizzy…
Overwhelmed, she took the phone off her ear to look at its screen. The video call icon was alight so she clicked impetuously. The screen went blank for a second and she could see a blackened image.
“Let me see you.” She half whispered.
“Look at your phone.” She ordered.
He took his phone from his ear to frown at it and…
“Hi!” She said blinking and smiling.
“I wasn’t expecting that!” He ran his free hand on his hair. “Bloody hell!”
“Hi, friend!” Elizabeth repeated.
Darcy smiled back at her and they stared at each other’s face for long seconds.
In their heads, it played a fast forward movie showing the images of old photos, dreams and hopes long lost or forgotten, all passing through their eyes in a quick succession while they studied the other’s aged face.
“You are gorgeous, Lizzy.” Darcy whispered.
“Thanks.” She felt her cheeks warm up. “I can’t believe it! It’s the first time we see each other live!”
“It is.” He nodded smiling with closed lips, both his cheekbones protruding in his charming face.
“I missed our friendship.” Elizabeth poured her heart out.
“Me too.” He smiled and frowned back when she suddenly united her designed brows. “What is it?”
“I’m sure I didn’t send you my phone number on the note…” She squinted. “How did you find it?”
Darcy tilted his head to the side awkwardly holding his phone in front of him, self-conscious of his image in the tiny square under Elizabeth’s beautiful face in his screen. “A King has his ways…”
“Mmm.” She made a non-committal sound.
“Secret service worked over the weekend.” He admitted in a half smile.
“Excuse me?” She raised her brows.
“Last year we had an incident here at the company. A hacker got into our system and caused a lot of damage. After some investigation, we discovered one of our own employees had sold us out. Since then, our IT people have been doubling the security protocols.” He smiled incapable of resisting. It was absolutely fantastic to see his longtime friend face to face like this, this easy, this simple. “When your note reached me, my Head of Security checked you out to make sure you weren’t a threat to the company.”
“Mmm.” She twisted her lips. “I’m a little disappointed for not posing any threats…”
“Are you allowed to invade my privacy like this?” Elizabeth asked.
“I’m sure we didn’t do anything illegal. Social network profiles, cybernetic tracks…” He shrugged. “You left me a trail of breadcrumbs, Lizzy.”
“I did?” She asked worried.
He nodded. “I can only thank you. It’s great to have finally found you again.”
“Not that you had been looking for me… After all, you disappeared twenty years ago.” She accused him.
“I’m to blame, I have no excuse. But can I explain myself?” He asked.
“Please do. Not that I have anything better to do than hear whatever story you have for having broken my heart…”
Darcy touched his fist to his heart and sighed. Elizabeth giggled and attached her phone to the dashboard holder.
“Where are you? In a car?” Darcy squinted.
She nodded. “Traffic jam. Another… Rio is impossible these days. Between World Cup and Olympics, what we have left of the city is either a huge traffic jam or a work site.” She took the phone from the stand and showed him her windshield.
Darcy winced seeing how many cars packed ahead.
“See? I’m expecting at least one hour. Maybe more…” She shrugged. “Got time, friend?”
“Seventeen years, give or take.” He smiled.
“Good, keep me company.” She smiled back, but it was a toothy grin to answer his closed lips genuine smile.
“And you better send me your phone number. It’s only fair.”
“So… I had a Xerox copy of your flight ticket, and then you didn’t answer my last letters, didn’t show up at the airport…”
“Were you there waiting for me?” Darcy twisted his lips.
Elizabeth shrugged. “I knew which was your flight and I went there just to make sure you were not coming. I knew you wouldn’t…”
“You knew?” He raised his brows.
“At first you were very excited, but when you started talking about bringing your fiancé… Our dates were always jealous of our friendship, remember? I could only imagine what kind of snobbish, pretentious woman would agree to marry you!” She teased him.
“Ha!” He answered, refusing to fall for her tease. “I was very excited to go. I wanted to meet you in person and spend time with you. But things happened here.”
“Tell me.” Elizabeth asked sensing from his tone and facial expression that it was going to be a sad story.
He told her about his mother’s accident, how he wanted to escape, Anne’s pregnancy, the car accident, his father’s death, marriage. Then the pressure to impregnate his borderline depressive wife, young children and sister, life. If he had thought things over or even missed her less, he would never have used so many words or let out so many of his emotions, but seeing his adored friend live and receptive, Darcy felt compelled to break from his excessive aloofness.
Elizabeth commiserated with his tale; blinked several times fighting tears that didn’t belong to the happy moment of meeting a friend she thought was lost.
“I lost my father too. Ten years ago.” Elizabeth told him. “Heart attack. I wasn’t living at Merytonia for years-“
“You left for college, right?” He asked.
“Yes.” She nodded. “Never returned. I built a life here.”
“Married, two kids…” Darcy said betraying himself. With his face lowered to leaf through her file, he didn’t notice Elizabeth’s frown. When he raised his head, he blushed seeing her glare.
“And how this is not a breach in my privacy?”
“Must be in your Facebook?...” He asked.
“Info only available to friends I allow…” She raised her brows.
Darcy balanced his phone in his pencil bucket. “Guilty.” He showed her both palms.
“Tell me what your rats found out.” She crossed her arms under her breasts.
Darcy smiled. How adorable, fierce Lizzy. He had read fierce Lizzy before, but seeing it, hearing it… lovely.
He raised some of the pages for her to see and read. “Married to a doctor. Maxillofacial surgeon. George Wickham.” In the back of his mind, when he spoke the name out loud, something sounded familiar but he was too caught up on Elizabeth’s fine eyes to waste time on anything else.
She nodded. “Match the info.” Elizabeth ordered.
“You snooped around my life without my consent…” She pointed a finger at him. “It’s only fair if you give me the info you stole.”
“Fair enough.” He nodded. “As I said, I married Anne-“
“Your… cousin, right?” She asked.
“Yes.” He nodded. “Mmmm… She has an English literature degree but never worked on the field, devoted to Georgiana first and then our daughters.”
“Daughters?” Elizabeth smiled.
Darcy smiled back. “Diana is fifteen and Sarah is twelve.”
“Wow! Grown-ups!” She covered her mouth with a hand. “You are way too young to have women for daughters!”
He cringed. “Not women. Girls.”
She laughed. “Problems with boyfriends?”
“I don’t even want to know anything on that matter.” He waved a hand in front of his face.
“Tell me about them.” She asked smiling brightly.
Darcy told Elizabeth how his older daughter always kept to herself and for the last years he felt his presence annoyed her somehow. He was closer to the youngest who reminded him of Georgiana.
“And how is she?” Elizabeth asked.
“Fine. Works for the UN in New York, almost five years now.” He said and closed his lips in a thin line.
“Wow! I love New York.” She gushed. “But the King doesn’t approve because… Let me guess.” She teased and he raised his brows waiting what she would come up with. “Living at the colony she has escaped your ruling.”
“Lizzy…” He rested back on his chair. She laughed and he had to smile. “I miss my sister; she’s the only family left.”
Darcy tried to fight against the pull of her charms but couldn’t. “And she is too far away, alone. I don’t know if she needs my help.” He said and Elizabeth laughed. “Your turn.”
“My children.” She smiled brightly. “Tom and Nanda, as you probably already know.” He nodded. “Thomas is a sweet boy, calm and affectionate. Cassandra is spirited, a little too spirited really.” She shook her head. “Sometimes she’s petulant. She’ll give me the nuisance Tom didn’t. They go the Catholic American School here and almost every day I get a note from her teacher.”
“She’s a mini-Lizzy then?” Darcy smiled making his cheekbones jump.
Elizabeth blushed and shrugged. “What else is there?” She asked.
They exchanged professional careers’ developments, compared what they had planned to what they achieved. She told him about her impending PhD program that she was hoping to get accepted.
“I hope so!...” She chuckled. “London is great!”
“You’ve been there?”
“Yes, once. I daydreamed of meeting you on the street by chance!...” She giggled. “Silly me, right?”
He shook his head thinking that would have been absolutely brilliant. “I don’t live in London, but visit often for work.”
“I owe my career to you, really.” She said.
“You’re welcomed, my friend.” He joked.
She chuckled and reminded him he had told her to find an internship and see what the profession ‘looked like in real life’ before dropping biomedicine, to search different fields in the area. It had been a useful and clever advice she had discussed with a professor – a kind of counselor – who offered her a post in his pandemics immunization research project. Elizabeth had taken the offer, discovered how interesting that field could be and specialized in it. When the Brazilian Federal Health Institute had an opening she tried for a post and now was a federal employee, part of the top notch research team in the country.
Darcy told her that he had taken over the family business when his father died unexpectedly. Amid his emotional whirlwind, he had to gear up his self-control and work. With the help of a competent and strong board, he managed to expand horizons and transform his father’s legacy in a Holding that overlooked several investments in many fields.
“So you multiplied the crown jewels?” She teased.
“Different business. This way I have more expansion possibilities but I’m not directly responsible for each company’s development-“ He stopped suddenly surprised by her ecstatic expression.
“I’m moving, I’m moving!” She celebrated and her image trembled slightly. “Fifty meters, at least!” Elizabeth said and then groaned.
“It’ll take me ages to get to work today…” She checked her watch. “Mmm… ‘Pemberley Farmhouse, Lambton, Greater Manchester – England’.”
He nodded, smiled and felt a little sad. If she had wanted, she could have sent him a letter. His address was the same, it never changed.
“Then… ‘Cambridge Oaks Housing’… right?” She asked.
“Yes.” He said.
She stared at his slanted eyes that were once so beguiling to her and for the first time realized they were green. Not bright green but a greenish kind of brown. And there were small wrinkles around it. His hair had receded and his forehead had gotten even bigger but he was very charming, age had made him a lot of good.
It was hard to read his emotions, it was the first time she saw him in person and the last time she saw his face was in a picture over fifteen years back. But he seemed to be a little less happy than a few minutes before.
Elizabeth tilted her head to the side and squinted. “What, handsome?”
“Huh.” He waggled his eyebrows once.
“What’s ‘huh’?” She repeated his single waggle.
He shook his head.
“Say it.” She asked and averted her eyes to her dashboard, geared and moved another fifty meters or so.
He shrugged. “You didn’t want to write me. Nor answer my last letters. I would have loved to hear from you.”
“What ‘last letters’? You never showed up to attend my graduation, in fact you went missing a few weeks before. I thought you had cut me off. Why would I insist to talk to someone who didn’t want to talk to me?” She pursed her lips.
“I wrote you when things calmed down.” He said. “More than once.”
Elizabeth shook her head. “Never got any other letter from you. Did you send it to Rio?”
“My parents moved two or three times after Jane and I – remember Jane, my older sister?” She asked and he nodded. “My mother always dreamt of a big house with a big yard and they tried two neighborhoods before settling down. Here in Rio, Jane and I moved a few times too. Maybe your letters got lost.”
He pierced her in his gaze, squinting at his phone, lost in the image of the beautiful woman with long dark hair and smiling eyes locked inside the four inches screen. He had thought she was hot twenty years ago, now she seemed to be more than that…
“I was hurt.” She said after a while. “What could I think? You went M.I.A., never showed up here… I felt rejected.” He shook his head and she showed him a palm asking him to let her finish. “Maybe your fiancé had convinced you that it was stupid to fly all the way here to meet a silly pen friend. Honestly, I didn’t let your snub ruin my graduation. I had a lot of fun at the events planned to celebrate such an important moment and by chance, I met George at the prom. We had dated briefly when he lived in Merytônia for a while with his father. He had graduated by the same college and had a friend in my class. We exchanged phone numbers and started dating again. Two years later we got married.”
“I didn’t reject you.” Darcy said. “You were never forgotten.”
Elizabeth shrugged. “Just put aside, right? That’s what I did.”
They stared at each other’s eyes through a satellite for long moments trying to narrow the gap between them.
“I learned some Portuguese, minha cara.” He said.
Elizabeth smiled fondly holding back her laughter. “How cute is that accent?”
“No, really. Portuguese from Portugal, right?”
“Yes. I have some business there.”
She nodded. “Well, agora eu te achei.” Elizabeth finally said.
“I’m very glad you did.” He smiled.
She heard a whistle and two traffic guards appeared walking between the stopped cars a few meters ahead.
“It looks like this traffic jam is finally going to dissolve…”
“What is it about?” He asked.
They chatted about traffic jams in Rio de Janeiro as she slowly moved through the accident site until she finally arrived at her office ten minutes later.
“I thank you for your company, sir.” She said.
“My pleasure, ma’am.”
“Do you have plans for tomorrow morning?” She winked and he laughed.
“…Cherish the strength
You’ve got the power to make me feel good…”