sábado, 16 de abril de 2016

Regency love fairy tale - Part 4

Of what is composed a love story?

Love, of course. But the fun resides in the tortuous path to it, I cannot see otherwise. There's a lot more fun in the chase than in the HEA. 

People ask me about sequels to my '45 days in Europe with Mr. Darcy' and 'Friendship of a Special Kind' but actually, how to tell a happy story? I can only think about giving them grief... and they don't deserve it. Or do they?

For this Darcy and Lizzy, the path to happiness is just beginning. Huge bumps on their way.

The lovely love story continues.

Enjoy!



Love in acts

2nd act

ECLIPSE OF THE HEART

angst, rated M, short, P&P, Alternate Universe
Part 3


Part 4 -

Wings

‘Look at that!’ Ashton cried angrily at the kitchen table the servants used to dine. ‘Would you please look at that?’

Cook chuckled; the maid and footman rolled their eyes.

‘It was a lovely set; she almost killed me to choose these. So many recommendations and modifications with the modiste, an absolutely new set of flowers no other lady in Lord Brakenbury’s party should have… and the mask, that mask I was planning on using to adorn my chamber, so lovely it was… couldn’t find it anywhere, I’m hoping she forgot it in the carriage but it’s so unlike her… And what is this?’ She brought the hem of the dress to her nose and gasped. ‘Punch!’

‘I’ll boil water, Ashton. It’ll come off.’

‘You won’t touch that, Cook! You have big hands; her dress is small and delicate.’

Cook sputtered. ‘Fine, you do it, ungrateful little chit!’

Ashton gasped. ‘Have you forgotten that yellow dress she had, the one with the ribbons? Remember what happened when she brought it here and you wanted to please her washing before I arrived from the milliners?’

The pudgy woman groaned miserably.

‘Yes, ruined… she is thin and delicate, you are used to prepare meat and chop vegetables.’

‘She eats not enough, that’s what it is. No pork, no sausages, only strawberries and potatoes and goose.’ Cook twisted her nose. ‘The other night, even my white soup she refused a second bowl.’

The maid shrugged. ‘That’s just as she is.’

‘Mr. Bennett eats a plenty.’ Parker, his valet, said entering the kitchen with the boots the master had worn those previous days. ‘He eats like a pig more often than not.’

‘And still is lean, much like his sister.’ Ashton bragged. ‘They got that from their father, Mrs. Bennett says. She is fatty and loud.’

Parker sighed deeply dreading the day they would have to return to Longborn. ‘Looks like the party was a success, was it not?’ He pointed at the dirty slippers and dress.

‘I suppose, four deliveries of flowers already plus the one from Lord Brakenbury that comes every other week when we’re in town. She arrived so tired that didn’t even let me undo her hair, asked me only to open her dress and leave. I got these and a letter to send away from her dressing chamber just now; she’s still asleep.

‘The master have a visitor, a fine gentleman, probably rich.’

‘A Mr. Darcy, said the card he gave me to give the master.’ The footman gossiped and Ashton stopped breathing. ‘He asked to be received immediately.’ He shook his head. 

‘It’s business.’ Ashton tried to keep calm.

‘These wealthy cads think they can come here unannounced to pounce on the auctions’ items before the others.’ The footman frowned, Ashton tilted her head and they heard the doorbell, so the he left to attend the door.

‘I’ll put together the mistress’ breakfast tray and take it to her.’ Ashton moved nervously, anxious to check on her mistress.

‘Before you take the tray, there is a delivery for her, Ashton.’ The footman returned to the kitchen. ‘Come and get it, please, the man said it is very fragile.’

Her heart racing, she decided to try her (and her mistress’) luck as there weren’t any specific instructions about posting. ‘Is the man, mmm, Derby, still with master Bennett?’ Ashton casually asked walking beside him, the letter burning her hand in her apron’s pocket.

‘Darcy.’ The footman corrected her. ‘The den’s door is still locked. Don’t hear no conversation, though.’

‘Would you deliver this letter to him?’

‘From madam?’

She blinked worriedly. ‘Do I have to ask for discretion?’ He shook his head, eyes slightly widened. ‘Or you take it to his house.’

He glanced out the window to the street three stories bellow. ‘His coachman seems to be prepared to leave at any moment.’ He turned to look at her. ‘I can run downstairs if you can manage the delivery alone.’

‘Go!’

---

Mid-morning when she opened her eyes, the memories of the previous night came to her with the same violence as the emotions had hit her when she heard Darcy tell her story changing characters. She felt sick to her stomach, silly for betraying herself and her son, a secret so well kept for ages given freely to a man she barely knew, a man for whom she was miserably falling in love, a man so wrong in every aspect.

She groaned and hid her face in her pillow hoping time would be so kind as to stop and let her die alone, in her bed listening to the faint sounds of London’s streets bellow her windows while he read her letter. Maybe she dozed off still tired from only sleeping when the day broke, maybe she just closed her eyes for a moment lost in her shame, but suddenly her door opened and Ashton came in humming softly to herself.

‘Morning.’ She groaned and the maid jumped.

‘Morning, miss.’ She said cautiously. ‘Is it really you hidden under pillows and blankets?’

‘Who else?’

‘Mmm… there are a lot of strange things happening today. Mr. Bennett received a call from the same gentleman you left that letter for, early this morning; it didn’t last more than a quarter hour, he has been enclosed in his office ever since.’ She spoke in one breath. ‘And there have been many deliveries, all for you.’ That made Elizabeth raise her head from under her pillow. She blinked several times as the maid continued. ‘And now came this box, the man who brought it, I’m almost sure was the owner of that fancy shop you like to go, the one with the expensive trinkets from auctions, I’m almost sure it’s the same man you talk to, he brought the box himself saying I should be really careful and place this on your desk and let you open, that’s what he said.’ Ashton poised the box over Elizabeth’s writing desk as one delivers a bucket of gunpowder.

Elizabeth’s eyes seemed to be tricking her, probably still misty from all the vexation from the previous night, because her room was filled with flowers. There were several vases, maybe all they had in London, one or two she was sure were destined for the last auction before season started. Big bouquets of mauve roses, mauve lilies, mauve tulips and white callies with mauve center. A giggle erupted from her throat before she could stop it, and then an almost overwhelming need to cry.

Slowly, as if afraid of leaving her bed and stepping into reality, she stood and touched the box with the tip of her fingers afraid the contact would give her tiny shocks that actually took over her body once the delicate wrapping was undone and she took one of the wine glasses. It was a set of the most exquisite and delicate crystal pieces in a distinctive shade of amber and the stem – her breath caught in her throat – the stem was shaped as a single small proud swan supporting the cup over its neck.

‘Oh dear Lord, miss!’ Ashton whispered over Elizabeth’s shoulder. ‘I have never seen something so perfect.’

‘Murano glass, I suppose.’ She answered in another whisper. ‘We auctioned a set of vases last year.’ Her fingers tried to trace the delicate lines but she couldn’t hold them steady.

‘The note, miss.’ Ashton pointed at the small envelope near the other glasses.

‘I didn’t need to dive into the lake after all.’

 ‘Any other notes?’ Elizabeth asked without averting her eyes from the small assured penmanship.

‘No, ma’am.’

She didn’t need any to know for sure who had sent all the beautifully selected flowers as well. It was the same dashing gentleman reading her heartfelt lines at that moment.

Wings

‘What can we do?’

‘Nothing.’

‘Tea?’

He shook his head.

‘Brandy?’

‘He has it in his den, merely needs to stretch his arm.’

The housekeeper tapped her feet nervously. ‘I have never seen him shout with Miss Georgiana that way.’

‘It was her fault.’ Rodgers said.

Adams nodded. ‘He said to leave him alone when he entered to the house, everyone heard.’

The housekeeper snorted. ‘The horses on the street heard him, he barked!’

‘Maybe we could send brandy to Miss Georgiana?’ A maid whispered still shaking from being too close to Darcy’s den when he sent his sister away.

‘All this from a letter?... It came with his post?’

‘He brought it with him when he arrived; the coachman said the Bennett’s footman gave it to him to deliver to master and that it pleased him a lot.’ A footman gossiped. ‘He was surprised he was so upset when they arrived here, he told me after Mr. Darcy stormed in and I stood with the door opened.’

‘The coachman told you all that?’ The housekeeper asked and the footman nodded. ‘Maybe Mr. Darcy will need a new coachman…’

---

‘Be not afraid, sir, that this letter may contain any of the silly unbalanced sentimentality you so kindly helped me overcome last night, but my sensitivity demands me to explain my reactions.

I could remove to my brother’s estate and declare this episode behind me, I should probably do so – will probably do so shortly – and although my reasoning begs me to keep discreet, I still feel weirdly obliged to you. I beg your pardon for wasting your patience with these lines.

Again I feel the need to apologize… maybe will do it again before this letter is finished.’

Darcy held his head in his hands and stared at his desk’s leather top blinking to calm his heart, steady his vision, find a rhythm for his lungs. Seated in his comfortable chair he could hardly feel his legs.

He was the one in deep need of apologizing; he was again faulted, so very deep this time. How much he could have done if he had not been a coward? He should have done what he considered noble instead of hiding behind his late papa’s sense of humor. ‘A silly pre-war infatuation, that is what it was! Your concern and allegiance are certainly not needed.’ He had said.

‘Last evening, when you confided in me telling your excellent sister’s story, I was taken by overwhelming emotions because her predicament is so very similar to mine – similar to many other silly gullible young girls as Caroline Foxton said that day at the theater.

I was but fifteen when the Militia arrived in Meryton for a long sojourn training to fight Napoleon in the continent. You can well imagine how a large group of soldiers would stir a small society such as ours and soon there were several occasion for socializing. Many girls fancied themselves in love but I resisted naively considering my understanding above the silliness that surrounded me.

Amongst the soldiers there was a very engaging Colonel, your cousin as I learned last evening, with whom I shared many agreeable nights making fun of his precarious situation of having to control the enamored soldiers. Richard was blessed with a happy disposition and quick wit as I fancied myself in possession and soon we could be considered friends.’

He read her words again seeing in his mind his cousin’s smile, hearing his voice and laughter, perfectly picturing how easily he seduced the girl. That girl grew up to be such a fetching woman who tempted Darcy so much…

His eyes hurt from the sting of withheld tears and reading her small fast hand while his fancy coach rocked over the streets’ cobblestones from her brother’s apartment to his town house. Still he forced his vision to keep going.

‘Despite our precautions and prejudices, our partiality took us over.

We resisted, sir. For long months. I didn’t want to be the kind of simpleton who falls for a dashing uniform; Richard didn’t want to be the kind of soldier who leaves a broken heart behind. We talked during long strolls, in balls, dinners. Eventually we gave in to our feelings albeit we opted for secrecy. Time plays with our memories and I tend to believe it was my idea to propose such development trying to protect my pride and maybe childishly wanting to play Romeo and Juliet.

I will spare you of other unnecessary details and will only tell you we had an understanding. He said there wouldn’t be land for him to inherit and once he returned from war, Richard planned to work on Longbourn while my papa lived and later, lease the property. A simple life away from the ton he despised with a woman who loved him seemed like a very happy prospect, he used to say. I believed him completely.

He never once mentioned he was from a titled family and I only learned his true identity after news from his passing arrived in Meryton. I thank him for not having said anything; my suffering might have been bigger for as Lord Brakenbury’s late father, his wouldn’t have approved of me as well.’

His uncle… such an amiable man would obviously had seen how lovely she was. His father, though... Darcy chuckled to himself in his torment. What was he thinking? She was his dear cousin’s lady, if he had gone to Meryton when he should, would he have had the cunningness to steal his cousin’s paramour while she mourned him?

‘Unfortunately the weeks we lost were never to be regained for he sadly never returned; I believe you know the particulars.

I still have in my possession a token he left me, a time piece with a lock of his hair inside. The silver case has his initials and around it there are several mother-of-pearl dots, the chain also has the same details on the first links. It’s not here in London, it’s an heirloom I don’t carry with me for many years and I only tell you of its existence to corroborate my words. Maybe you remember him using it almost all the time.

There is nothing more to say, sir, this is my sad story and I try very hard to keep only the good parts alight in my mind. I choose to concentrate on the certainty that your cousin went to battle as he left me. We were both deeply loved.’

That single line would be forever written in his mind as if done with fire. She loved his cousin deeply. So much to refuse marriage over the years, so much to have an emotional breakdown in his arms.

He gritted his teeth preparing for her last lines until he felt his face hurt.

‘Don’t bother calling for the sake of politeness or duty, sir. I won’t hold on to your words from the previous night; there is nothing you owe me.

In fact, if I may be so bold, I’d rather not talk about this and I shall find a way to appreciate your distance.

Certain of your understanding and secrecy, I can only add,

God bless you, Mr. Darcy.


Elizabeth Bennett’

---

huffington post

continues

update:
a revised & unabridged version of this story will be available in Kindle, ebook and brochure from Jan 25th, 17.