Forgive me for such a long delay in this story! As I believe I have mentioned before, my son has Autism. Lately he’s been having some behavior issues at school. Dealing with them took most of my writing time but I believe we have finally turned a corner and worked out a new schedule.
There’s still a few more chapters to wrap everything up but things will begin to make more sense.
Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming
Georgiana sat in Darcy House’s drawing room. Beside her, Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst rambled on with false compliments about how accomplished and lovely she was. She was not yet sixteen years old and yet, according to them, far superior most ladies with years more education and experience in the world. If only they knew the truth.
Georgiana’s eyes flitted to the clock on the mantle again. She hoped her brother and his guests would return earlier, but she knew the wish was for naught. It had been the same for six days now. She would hear their voices in the hall of Mr. Bingley and her cousin talking about plans to visit Hertfordshire and see the Miss Bennets on the morrow. Then the clock would strike seven just before they reached the drawing-room. Next, without any clear memory of the day, she would be at Mr. Bingley’s house in Hertfordshire about to call on the Bennets. However, they always arrived at nearly seven o’clock and then after a few minutes’ conversation, time would shift again.
Around her, no one else seemed to act like they knew the day was repeating continuously until two nights ago. On that night, Miss Mary Bennet had tried to show her journal to her eldest sister. Last night, the usual plans were made to leave for Hertfordshire and Georgiana did not realize at first that a grave error had been made. On the way to the Bennet estate, she learned that for everyone else, two years had passed. Arriving at Longbourn, they found the youngest Bennet daughter married and mother to George Wickham’s child. Georgiana had not learned the truth of what happened surrounding matters, but she could guess the scoundrel seduced the girl and refused to marry her.
In what looked like a desperate act, Miss Mary showed her diary to Richard, who then kissed her! Georgiana assumed it was some sort of test to see if those around them would remember the next day. It certainly did not break whatever spell or curse was upon them. In normal proceedings, Richard would have had to propose to Mary or face pistols at dawn. However, Georgiana suspected Richard’s idea was on the correct path.
She had no idea how many days her world had been repeating but knew she became aware of it after standing up to George Wickham and explaining to Elizabeth Bennet how awful the man was. It was as if she had fallen out of step with destiny and was now trying to forge a new path. Could it be the same was true with the others? If so, Georgiana dearly hoped her brother’s destiny would intertwine with Elizabeth’s.
“Pardon me,” Georgiana interrupted Caroline and bolted from her seat.
She walked at an unladylike speed back to the dining room where the men were still gathered. Glancing at the clock in the hall, it seemed she had arrived just in time. Hovering outside the door, she heard the following conversation.
Mr. Bingley chuckled. “If you only want character and do not care about money or standing, then Darcy and I know a whole host of women.”
“Indeed?” Richard asked.
“Yes, in Hertfordshire. Near the estate, I am leasing.”
“Forgive me since I am a military man, but I would think it would be best to learn more about the estate by residing in it longer than a few weeks. Should you not go back?”
“You know, I was just thinking the same.” Georgian could hear the smile in his voice. “How am I to learn how estates run in the winter if I am not there for it. I think I must return for Christmas. You’re welcome to come along, Richard. I doubt Darcy will desire to return.”
“Forgive him, he’s very busy, our Darcy.”
“I think you might hit it off with Miss Elizabeth Bennet, actually,” Bingley offered.
“I will come!” Fitzwilliam practically shouted.
“Thank you, Bingley. I will check with Command, but I believe I can leave the area for the holidays.”
Georgiana could contain herself no longer. She opened the door with so much force it slammed against the wall.
“Georgiana!” Darcy cried and put out his cigar. “Is something wrong?”
She met his eye and spoke with steely determination. “No, but I heard your conversation just now. No, do not stop to scold me. I think we ought to leave tonight and not on the morrow.”
Fitzwilliam sputtered something about her not coming, but Georgiana’s attention was focused on Mr. Bingley.
“Leave tonight?” he said.
“Yes, you could have all day tomorrow with Miss Bennet, then.”
“How quickly can you be ready, Georgiana?” Richard asked, startling her. Did he remember?
“Molly can pack my things in less than an hour. We…well, we’re well practiced at hasty packing.” For once the reminder of her near elopement with Wickham had become a positive thing.
“Excellent,” Bingley and Richard said in unison.
Richard then left to send a message to his command and Bingley to inform his sisters of the plan, leaving Georgiana alone with her brother.
“Georgie,” Fitzwilliam said quietly but forcefully, “you are not coming. I forbid it.”
At first, Georgiana stared at her feet. It had always been so difficult to stand up to her brother or pain him. Their father had been ill most of her childhood, and her mother died after her birth. Fitzwilliam was more often her parent than her brother. However, she knew she could not back down from this. The happiness of so many was held in the balance. Poor Miss Lydia might be a silly, thoughtless girl but no one deserved to be cast aside by Wickham.
Georgiana raised her head and met her brother’s eyes. “If you want to test stubbornness, I am ready for a siege. I am too old for you to carry me away to the nursery. Punish me however you like, take away my pin money if it pleases you, but you will not stop me from boarding that carriage.”
Chest heaving and face red, she turned on her heel and left the room. Richard stood just outside.
“Bravo, Georgie! Our tender rose has thorns!”
Georgiana smiled but felt her face blush harder. “I am a Darcy and a Fitzwilliam. Is it any surprise I can be obstinate?”
The clock beside her rang seven times, and she tensed, expecting the world to fade away as it had before, but it did not.
“Can it be?” she whispered to herself.
“I’m as surprised as you are,” Richard said.
“What do you mean?” Georgiana asked nervously. She did not feel prepared to attempt to explain things to another.
Richard looked incredulous. “Do you really think I go around kissing bloody maidens and not remembering it the next day?”
Georgie attempted to stammer an answer when Fitzwilliam finally exited the dining room behind them. “If you wish to leave in an hour, you had best inform your maid,” he said while walking past them.
“Do you think he knows?” she hissed to Richard.
“Not a chance,” he shook his head. “We can not talk more now, but I have a theory.”
“Perhaps we can speak when we change horses?”
“Excellent notion,” he agreed before she scampered off.
Georgiana held her breath as she boarded the coach but Fitzwilliam said nothing. For the next two hours, she twisted her hands as she attempted to recall details of the previous days. Without a doubt, something revolutionary needed to happen before seven o’clock on December Twenty-third. What precisely was needed, she was less sure. Mary changed events by showing her diary to Jane, and the repercussions were that Bingley and Fitzwilliam did not return to Longbourn for two years and Lydia bore Wickham’s child.
At last, they reached the coaching inn to change horses. Richard offered to allow her to stretch her legs.
“It is fortunate we have so much moonlight,” Georgiana observed as they walked near the inn.
“That was fast thinking to get Bingley to leave tonight. If matters went on for another few days, we’d be in New Moon territory and traveling at night would be impossible.”
“Richard, I’ve been thinking. Time did not reset at seven o’clock as usual, so I think making drastically different choices creates a divergence in time.”
Richard nodded. “Yes, I had surmised as much. Mary trying to show her sister her diary made a monumental change, however.”
“Maybe…” Georgiana trailed off. This entire situation seemed impossible how could she think she understood it.
“Do not think you are too young to share your ideas,” he said gently.
“If not young, then stupid.”
“Fitzwilliams are never stupid!”
“Just Darcys, then?” she said with a half smile.
“Your brother, maybe,” Richard nodded to where Fitzwilliam paced near the coach.
“It has to do with him, don’t you think? And Miss Elizabeth?”
“I believe you are correct,” Richard said. “Did you have something to say about Miss Mary?”
“Only that I think for her sharing her private thoughts in her diary was a monumental change. When did you become aware of our predicament?”
“Well, after she told me but I had an epiphany last night. I have lived too much by duty or frivolity. I have not lived by my own desires.”
“Ah, see. You did something so very unlike you!”
Richard chuckled. “Indeed. And for you?”
“Do you recall our other meetings with the Bennets?”
“I do,” he nodded. “It is strange having memories others do not have. For example, last night we appeared to be two years in the future, but it is not as though I lived for two years. I can only tell you events that may have happened in relation to the Bennets.”
“Precisely. Do you recall the evening we arrived while Wickham was there? Fitzwilliam, Elizabeth, and I played cards with him? I confronted Wickham in a way. I mentioned my maid who he had dallied with and hinted strongly of our relationship. It made quite an impression on Elizabeth.”
“I was at a different table. What else happened?”
“Before anything else could happen the clock struck seven and time reset again. However, my memories were restored.”
“Ah, so you think standing up to Wickham was a profound change in your character?”
“You heard how I spoke to Fitzwilliam, did you not?”
“Yes, quite true.” Richard smiled down at her. “Well, I think we have some ideas. It is time to return to the coach. With any luck, we might break this spell we are under on the morrow. We can speak more in the morning.”
Georgiana followed him to the carriage where all occupants remained silent. After a fitful night of sleep, she awoke early the next morning and was pleased to see Richard alone in the breakfast room.
“Do you have a plan?” she asked eagerly after he finished his coffee.
“I think you were correct. Miss Elizabeth needs to know about Wickham, but Darcy must be the one to tell her.”
“Who am I supposed to talk to and what am I supposed to say?”
Georgiana gasped at the sound of her brother’s voice.