Truthful Tuesday- Moving

finger on her lips. silence gesture

If you read yesterday’s post, then you know I’m moving to North Carolina sometime soon. We don’t have an exact date yet. It’s about 4 hours from where I currently live. This time,  my mother and youngest brother have decided to move as well. This is the fifth move in less than three years for us. In my twelve years of marriage, we have moved many, many times. And I always get sympathy when I talk about it. Don’t get me wrong, I hate packing and unpacking. The stress of finding a new place, sorting out schools and getting doctor recommendations is stressful. But the truth is, I really like parts of it. I like changing houses and getting to decorate again. I like changing cities and meeting new people, making new friends, and learning about a new setting and “culture.” I will admit I wasn’t always happy with our move in West Virginia but I also was trying to function while battling clinical depression, so I wasn’t my usual cheerful self that was outgoing and making friends. That’s a mistake I won’t make this time! I also was really tunnel-visioned with work. This time, I intend on having plans that make me get out of the house and goals to talk to a certain number of people every week, etc. It does make me a bit uncomfortable because I have introvert tendencies too — I need some peace and quiet to recharge — but the truth is, I also like to be pushed outside my comfort zone. It’s how I became an author!

Positivity Monday-Things Could Go Right

going-right

I’m preaching to myself today. We got word last week that my husband’s relocation To North Carolina is set for the middle of THIS month. It’s been a moving target but we had last been told June. We’ve been living with my father-in-law so I am dying for my own place again. However, I worry about all the things that could go wrong. What if Teddy doesn’t handle the move well. Should I stay up here with the kids until the school year is over? Is it more disruptive to change schools or have his father away for days/weeks on end? We went down to look at places and the funny thing about crashing with family for a few months is now I’ve got sticker shock. Do I really want to pay *that much* every month? What if something goes wrong and I’m too sick to write ever again?

But you know what? That sort of obsessive negative thinking is toxic. Kids move all the time and this move is for several years. Do some people have chronic illnesses? Yes, but it doesn’t mean I’ll be one. And it doesn’t mean it would be the end of the world if it did happen. Why is it we never ask ourselves to list all the great things that could happen? Why do we focus on the bad so much that it takes all joy out of our lives?

This move, I’m hoping to keep a positive frame of mind. Great things will happen because of this. This will be our home for a few years and I can’t wait to see how we all grow! I’ve already discussed with my husband that I’d like to tour some lighthouses while we’re in the state. I have several JAFF friends that live in the state that I’d love to meet or see again! I’m going to kiss fears goodbye!

Austen Writes Romance- One True Pairings

Roses and gift box with bead on wooden table. Valentines day concept. Copy spaceContinuing with our study of the romances in Austen’s works, it seemed fitting to discuss the idea of true love so close to Valentine’s Day. Among Fan Fiction readers of all genres, there is the idea of a “one true pairing” meaning an unbreakable romantic coupling that may or may not exist in the story proper.

Regarding the Austen fandom, there are some couples which nearly everyone agrees must always unite: Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet and Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot are at the top of the list. I could add Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland, but that’s more because there is a lack of viable alternatives presented in the story than out of overwhelming fan-love. Emma and Mr. Knightley are in a similar position. Fans would not have Emma with Mr. Elton or Frank Churchill. However, many do like Knightley but not Emma and would be content to see them both single forever. On the other hand, there is a philosophy of redeeming characters and giving them a second chance. This seems most notable in rakes like Henry Crawford and Willoughby.

I’ll be honest, it’s always seemed strange to me to disagree with the creator of the work and on a long finished project. However, I do want to examine the nature of these relationships and why so many feel some are inflexible and others in need of correction. I will review them by categories of obstacles, longevity, and relatability.

Without a doubt, the venerated favorite Austen work is Pride and Prejudice. Her main couple, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, have quite a share of obstacles to overcome. The title alone gives some indication of the conflicts afoot but there are also scheming rogues and wayward relatives. Originally published in three volumes, we see a moment of crisis in each volume. The first one ends with the departure of Darcy and Bingley from Netherfield. The reader has seen Darcy’s admiration grow, but Elizabeth remains ignorant of it. Instead, she believes Wickham and Darcy seems unworthy of her love. Whether she ends up with Wickham or not, no one sheds a tear about what might have been with the pompous Darcy. In the second volume, of course, we have Darcy’s disastrous first proposal. The third volume begins with Lydia’s elopement, and things seem darkest when Lady Catherine comes in all her haughty glory to berate Elizabeth for reportedly daring to think about accepting Darcy. Even after a proposal is accepted, there is the matter of convincing Elizabeth’s father and bearing with the displeasure of Darcy’s aunt. In the fan fiction world, we root for them over and over again while they are put in obstacles of every kind even including marriage to other partners and occasionally death! Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot are another couple who have overcome extreme odds. First, their engagement was broken. One can imagine the heartache attached to that was infinitely worse than merely separated by time and distance before their relationship bloomed. Secondly, it lasted many years and allowed feelings to harden. Lastly, both had rumored attachments to others. Comparatively, the only obstacle Marianne and Brandon have are her interest in another man. Willoughby is the one that must overcome greed, vanity, being a rake, and by the end of the book, marriage to another woman. Instead of feeling relieved that Marianne finds happiness with the steadfast Brandon, many readers are left rooting for a last minute change of scenario for Willoughby. Likewise, Fanny had loved Edmund most of her life, and she was his best friend and confidant. Their falling in love is nearly too natural. Whereas a marriage between Fanny and Henry or Edmund and Mary would require much more surmounting of obstacles.

Valentines Day - Wicker Hearts On Red Shiny Background

As Elizabeth Bennet informs her father, her attachment to Darcy is not the work of a moment but had withstood several months’ suspense. Many women have sighed over Darcy’s ardent love for Elizabeth which spans nearly the entire length of the novel. Wentworth’s letter detailing how he loved no one but Anne surely sends most female hearts pitter-pattering. While Elinor and Edward were attached for much of Sense and Sensibility and had a fair share of obstacles to overcome, one wonders at Edward’s steadfastness when he had been engaged to Lucy and seemingly so willing to follow through on it. Certainly, a case of cultural misunderstanding is to blame there as the modern reader cannot fully understand the importance of honor to a Georgian man. Readers lay a similar complaint at Edmund and Marianne’s doors. Put succinctly, we are wary of second attachments but not second chances.

Lastly, there is an issue of relatability. Darcy and Elizabeth’s tale of star-crossed lovers destined to misunderstand one another at every turn is as familiar to readers as Romeo and Juliet. If we haven’t lived it ourselves, we have read it and watched it before as it is a common romance trope. The allure of a second chance with the “one who got away” is obviously also a familiar theme, just ask lovers of Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook. However, the relationships between Brandon and Marianne, Edward and Elinor, and Fanny and Edmund require us to look too closely at ourselves. In each case, youth and foolishness play a part, as does vanity and insecurity. Marianne sought a man who was her mirror image to validate her own feelings on every subject. Surely, that’s very relatable but not necessarily likable. Edward attached himself off nothing more than idleness. He was in love with the idea of love. Again, something many have found themselves living but not something we enjoy living through vicariously. And how many of us have had a romantic interest in a close friend who just doesn’t see us that way? And how many of us are still holding a grudge even years later and mark it as nearly unforgivable to not see the good woman right in front of you?

Perhaps, then, reader notions of one true pairings have far more to do with their own prejudices and experiences than it does with the text and author intent. For my part, I believe Jane Austen enjoyed stirring the pot and rocking the boat. Why should only one or two types of relationships be the epitome of romantic love? Why not embrace the complexity that each one is unique?

Red Valentine Hearts Hanging in a Row

My relationship with my husband is us frequently watching something we only half pay attention to and texting each other silly memes we find online. I am typically also working while he is watching a brainless podcast of video games. We do enjoy eating out but merely for the food, not for the atmosphere. Valentine’s Day, to me, does not require roses and chocolates. For others, however, they feel most loved when the relationship is surrounded by romantic love or sizzling lust.

Just as each woman is different, so too, is each Austen heroine. Would a woman like Fanny have enjoyed a romantic relationship like Anne Elliot? I think Fanny would have rather been practically invisible to Edmund than a love he did not act on for almost a decade out of stubborn pride. I think she would find the latter harder to forgive. Obviously, that’s not the case for Anne but would she like Marianne’s relationship? She felt it hard to trust her judgment on not only Wentworth but on her cousin, Mr. Elliot. Imagine if she had been burned romantically once! She would likely never try again! On the other hand, while so many of us are willing to give Darcy a second chance to woo Elizabeth, Marianne would not have appreciated Willoughby doing the same. In short, “there are as many forms of love as there are moments in time.”

Part 1- Austen Writes Romance?

Part 2- Broken Hearts

 

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Joy- Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming

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.

Chapter OneChapter Two and ThreeChapter FourChapter FiveChapter Six /

Chapter SevenChapter EightChapter NineChapter Ten Chapter Eleven

christmas-2016-5Lo 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.

 

A January of Janes- Miss Perfect

janesI’ve started a new blog series! This month’s topic is A January of Janes. My first post was on Austen Authors. Read it here!

Plain Jane. Jane Doe. It seems Jane is the default name in English speaking culture when you need a filler and non-descript name. Some believe that was even Charlotte Bronte’s purpose in naming her heroine Jane Eyre. According to the All-England Census of 1841, Jane was the sixth most common name for females born between 1760 and 1821. Jane Austen notably gave her principal characters very English names compared to the more exotic sounding Camilla, Belinda, Pamela, and Cecilia’s of the era’s other novels. And when it comes to choosing a name for the seemingly “Miss Perfects” of her novels, what else does Ms. Austen choose but Jane?

At first glance, Jane Bennet and Jane Fairfax both seem “perfect.” For Elizabeth Bennet, Jane is the sweetest soul in the world, injured by the nefarious Mr. Darcy. To Emma Woodhouse, Jane Fairfax is a paragon of all good things and endlessly accomplished. However, if we dig deeper, we’ll see these Janes are just as complex as the lovely authoress herself.

At times, Pride and Prejudice, could be retitled “All About Jane” as the heroine is certainly more concerned about her sister than she is about herself. Throughout the book, we get tidbits of Elizabeth’s perspective of her elder sister. When digesting the Meryton Assembly, this piece passes between the sisters:

“I was very much flattered by his asking me to dance a second time. I did not expect such a compliment.”

“Did not you? I did for you. But that is one great difference between us. Compliments always take you by surprise, and me never. What could be more natural than his asking you again? He could not help seeing that you were about five times as pretty as every other woman in the room. No thanks to his gallantry for that. Well, he certainly is very agreeable, and I give you leave to like him. You have liked many a stupider person.”

“Dear Lizzy!” “Oh! you are a great deal too apt, you know, to like people in general. You never see a fault in anybody. All the world are good and agreeable in your eyes. I never heard you speak ill of a human being in your life.”

“I would not wish to be hasty in censuring anyone; but I always speak what I think.”

“I know you do; and it is that which makes the wonder. With your good sense, to be so honestly blind to the follies and nonsense of others! Affectation of candour is common enough— one meets with it everywhere. But to be candid without ostentation or design— to take the good of everybody’s character and make it still better, and say nothing of the bad— belongs to you alone.”

Still later, we learn that Elizabeth considers Jane full of “strength of feeling, a composure of temper and a uniform cheerfulness of manner which would guard her from the suspicions of the impertinent.” Perhaps growing up in the household that they did, Elizabeth understood the need to conceal her emotions and thoughts, but as we all know, this comes with a cost to Jane later in the book.

As the book goes on, Jane speaks for herself more. She refuses to condemn Darcy based on Elizabeth’s dislike and Wickham’s testimony alone. We see in Jane’s conversations with Elizabeth regarding Bingley’s absence and subsequent letters that Jane is determined to carry on her life, to be cheerful, and find happiness not dependent on a suitor.

janebennet2005Before and after Darcy’s proposal, Elizabeth dwells on her understanding of Jane at length. At first, Elizabeth considers Jane a very innocent party whose happiness was destroyed by Darcy. After Elizabeth reads Darcy’s letter, she amends her view to believing Jane might have been too reserved. Thankfully, Elizabeth knows better than to explain all this to her sister. Instead, when we see her again, Elizabeth unburdens herself about Darcy’s proposal and the truth about Wickham. Jane is the steadfast good friend who consoles Elizabeth and tells her she must be faultless and the whole thing was understandable.

However, the reader knows that’s not the case.

And so, we begin to see more of the flaws in Jane. She is perhaps too sensitive, too forgiving, too trusting, too loving. And she gets taken advantage of by nearly everyone, including her closest sister. Elizabeth shuts out Jane’s advice whenever she wishes but usually has no problem adding burdens to her.

At the close of the book, Jane admits she would probably make the same mistakes all over again. She would have been fooled by Caroline Bingley’s false friendship. She was just as reserved as ever in her feelings for Bingley. And here we have quite the divide in interpreting Jane.

I don’t think she was unintelligent. I think something pervasive in her personality made her a bit subservient — which we must recall was ideal for women of the era. I prefer to think of it as she is perfect in her imperfection.

Darn it, Jane. We mere mortals just can’t live up to you!

poll2I’ll spend less time on Jane Fairfax, but there are many similar elements. We know much less of her character and personality since Emma is not close to her, but she is very accomplished with all the outward marks that the world declared was the perfect woman. Her rearing with the Campbells and expected future as a governess would denote that her behavior must be impeccable as well.

But she has a secret.

She is secretly engaged to a man without independence to marry and therefore might be facing a very long engagement. In a world where Mary Musgrove says a woman has no right to marry a man who is inconvenient to her family (and vice versa), Jane is a very inconvenient engagement. Did you expect me to complain about Frank (again)? Well, there is that, but his family definitely expected him to marry better. At any rate, modes of decorum stated engagements should not be secret for the very fact of what ends up happening when both are presumed single.

When the truth comes out, it’s as astonishing to think Miss Perfect Jane Fairfax broke the rules as it is to consider that Frank is engaged to the lady he often mocked. And yet, the Highbury community forgives her quickly, and Mr. Knightley even feels sorry for her (as do most contemporary readers, it seems). Let us not forget that the Regency Era was a world in which a woman’s reputation was everything. What if rumors escalated things? And what of her reputation? She had projected an image of perfection. When she makes a rather critical mistake, it’s forgivable. Consider what would happen if Lydia Bennet had made the same error. It’s not as awful as eloping without marriage but you can bet Elizabeth would snark, and Mary would sermonize while Lady Lucas preened and Mr. Collins passed on Lady Catherine’s disapproval, but all of Highbury not only shrugs off Jane’s failing but embraces it. It’s a far happier ending for her than they had ever expected and thankfully, they are not the type to hold grudges. (Note to self: If I fall into an Austen world, hope for Highbury rather than Meryton).

In conclusion, are the Janes of Austen’s novels really so perfect and bland? They might lack the sparkling wit of Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse, but I think they’re more complex than most give them credit for. And why should they not be? Who else can be the support to such intricate heroines? In fact, I think they’re the unsung heroines, which will be the topic of my next January of Janes post.

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Joy- What Child is This?

Sorry I’m late posting again! I’ve been so exhausted and my son is having trouble adjusting to school. I’ve been on the phone with school several times this week and had to pick him up early twice. That means less writing time! There are 3-5 chapters left after this one (depends on if I need to round anything out or decided to do an epilogue). What Child is This is one of my favorite Christmas Songs so I’ve had the idea of this from the very beginning.

Chapter OneChapter Two and ThreeChapter FourChapter FiveChapter Six /

Chapter SevenChapter Eight Chapter NineChapter Ten 


christmas-2016-5What Child is This?

“I swear to you, I keep dreaming of Miss Bennet. It is a sign. It must be,” Bingley said as they boarded his coach again.

Out of nowhere the night before, Bingley had insisted on returning to his leased estate near Meryton, Hertfordshire. Darcy had insisted on going with him. Georgiana insisted on going with her brother. Richard insisted on going with her.

Last Darcy had heard, George Wickham was in Meryton and friendly with the Bennets. Of course, that had been two years ago. The Regiment likely was now stationed elsewhere, but with no notice, Richard had no means of finding out. However, he would never let the scoundrel near his young cousin again

“I will never understand why you renewed the lease even though you had not returned in over two years,” Darcy said coldly.

“Yes, I know all about your displeasure at my not taking your advice on the matter,” Bingley said.

Richard looked at his cousin, Georgiana. It was unlike Darcy and Bingley to have a disagreement. Darcy could be overbearing at times, but Bingley hated arguments. Wordlessly, she told him not to push the matter.

“What do you think they’re like now?” Georgiana asked.

“Ja — Miss Bennet would be as beautiful as ever,” Bingley replied instantly.

“You call it love when you only care about her looks?” Darcy asked. “What if seven years had passed instead of just two?”

Richard studied him. He expected to hear derision but instead, Darcy looked nearly as anxious as Bingley did.

“Why did you even want to come?” Bingley said in clipped tones.

“It was this or visit Aunt Catherine,” Richard said hoping humor would diffuse the tension. “You know he skipped out of going at Easter again.”

“Yes, tell us about your visit again,” Darcy said.

Richard tugged at his cravat. He did not like to speak of that time. Without Darcy’s company, Rosings was even more tedious than usual. Last year, Richard had taken to spending as much time as he could at the parsonage. Foolishly, he fell in love with a married woman. Even more foolishly, he returned to see her the following year.

Richard could guess Darcy’s reason for avoiding Rosings at Easter. Two Easters ago, Charlotte Collins had invited her dearest friend, Elizabeth Bennet to visit. As Richard’s friendship with Charlotte deepened, she confided that she was disappointed Darcy had not come as planned because she believed he was in love with her friend.

At first, Richard rejected the idea as incredulous. After observing his cousin, however, he believed it to be true. Now, Darcy sat across from him, knowing he would soon be seeing Miss Elizabeth again. He still held a torch for her. Richard could sympathize with his cousin’s pain. Darcy had been wise to avoid meeting with Miss Elizabeth, but it seemed he could no longer avoid the pull of his heart.

Richard took a sip of the flask he carried with him. Would that he and Charlotte were as free as Darcy and Elizabeth were. Darcy had ideas about rank and circumstances for marriage, but those weren’t real obstacles the way Charlotte’s marriage was. Of course, that and the fact that she had no idea of his feelings.

“Rosings was as boring as ever,” Richard said. “As you know, Darcy, there was a lively houseguest at the parsonage last year, but she was not there this year.”

“Who was the houseguest?” Bingley asked absentmindedly while looking out the window and drumming his fingers on his thigh. “At this rate, we will not get there until nearly seven!”

“The horses are tired,” Richard reasoned, “and the roads are damp.”

“Yes, well,” the usually good-natured man harrumphed. “You were saying?”

“Miss Elizabeth Bennet was a guest of my aunt’s clergyman, Mr. Collins. They are cousins, and she is his wife’s friend. I believe you met the man? His wife was the former Charlotte Lucas,” Richard addressed Bingley but directed his eyes at Darcy.

No one had asked if Richard desired to go to Netherfield. It was just assumed. Indeed, he never thought otherwise himself. His duty was to Georgiana. However, each turn of the wheel brought a piercing pain to his heart. The day before they left London, Lady Catherine had written and explained that Mrs. Collins would be visiting her parents over the Christmas holiday. Richard knew the Lucas family was good friends with the Bennets. Even now, she might be in Longbourn, and Richard would have to see her again.

Bingley suddenly leaned forward, interest burning in his eyes. “Did Mrs. Collins say anything about the Bennets? Why did Miss Elizabeth not return?”

“Mrs. Collins said something about it being an inconvenient time for her family but believing they were all well. She had no idea of when Miss Elizabeth might be able to visit again.” Richard shrugged his shoulders. He had spent little time speaking of Miss Elizabeth when Mrs. Collins was his true interest.

Bingley sat back, evidently disappointed.  At last, they reached the house and were shown in. The room went silent at their announcement. A quick scan produced the lovely Mrs. Collins. She was sitting next to a lady in glasses, who had a baby on her lap. It felt like a punch to his gut.

Was this her baby? It should come as no surprise after two years of marriage, and yet, she had shown no signs of pregnancy at Easter, and the child was no newborn. In fact, it could sit on its own. What little Richard understood of infants from his brother’s children, they could not do so until they were many months old.

Faintly, he registered the sound of voices. A stiff introduction and not the shrill voice he expected of Mrs. Bennet. His feet shuffled toward the baby, who fussed. The spectacled woman spoke to it in gentle tones. “Here, do you want to see the people?”

When she turned to face the child out on her lap, Richard felt all air leave him. The baby was the spitting image of George Wickham as a child. Behind him, he heard the gasps of Darcy and Georgiana.

“Colonel Fitzwilliam,” Mrs. Collins said, drawing his notice. “How nice to see you again.”

“Indeed. Nice…pleasant…” he trailed off as his brain could not master speech let alone polite conversation at the moment. He cleared his voice. “Excuses me, but I did not hear. Congratulations. He’s a fine lad,” Richard nodded at the baby.

Mrs. Collins shook her head. “You are mistaken, dear Colonel. My husband and I are not expecting our child until the Spring. This is Mrs. Spurlock’s baby.”

“Mrs. Spurlock?” Richard said as Darcy and Georgiana joined his side.

“My sister Lydia married Mr. Spurlock last year,” the woman in spectacles said. “She and her husband are visiting after being stationed in Newcastle. It is the first we have seen them since before the wedding.”

“You might have seen the announcement,” Mrs. Bennet said, “although it was not put in the way I had hoped.”

“No, I had not,” Darcy said.

“Oh, well. It had been August before last. No doubt so long ago it would have slipped your mind even if you had seen it,” she said.

Was it Richard’s imagination or did she look relieved they had not known of the announcement?

“Stationed in Newcastle? He must be an army man like myself!” Richard said, hoping he could learn more information from the man. There could be no coincidence in the baby looking so much like Wickham as a child.

“Indeed!” Mrs. Bennet beamed. “He’s over here. Let me introduce you,” she said, and Richard followed over.

Several minutes of stupid conversation later, and Richard guessed as much information as he thought he could glean from the man. Spurlock and Lydia met in London; the gentleman was an acquaintance of her uncle through his father who shared a business connection with Mr. Gardiner. After their marriage, he joined the Army and was stationed in Newcastle. He was just stupid enough to be the sort that was chosen to marry a ruined girl and think it lucky for him. A younger son of a tradesman suddenly an ensign in the army with more pay and where he might distinguish himself and with a pretty wife was enough to make many men satisfied. Richard wondered if he were stupid enough to believe the child was his.

“Colonel,” the spectacled miss appeared sans baby, “I am to make your tea,” she said and nodded at the table.

Richard instructed her and watched as she moved with grace. “Thank you, Miss ?”

She blushed. “Miss Mary. I know there are several of us. It must get confusing,” she said. “Although, you met Lizzy before, didn’t you?”

“Indeed,” Richard said as he took a sip of his tea and watched Mrs. Collins across the room dote on Mrs. Spurlock’s child. Motherhood suited her.

“I do not know why you are always so fascinated by her when she has always been taken,” Miss Mary huffed under her breath.

“Excuse me?”

“I uh–”

“And what do you mean by always?” he asked.

Miss Mary turned white, and her eyes darted to a bound journal on the other side of the table with writing materials nearby. It looked as though she had been adding pages to it. Richard reached for it, but she snatched it and held it close to her chest.

“May I speak with you?” she asked in a timid voice.

“You are speaking with me. Not making much sense, but speaking,” he said with a sigh.

“No, I know that,” she let out a nervous chuckle. “In a few minutes when everyone is distracted? I have to show you something.”

“Miss Mary, I think you are fatigued–”

“Listen! It concerns my family and yours too!” She dropped her voice, “And–and Mr. Wickham.”

Richard said nothing but grit his teeth and nodded. In a few minutes, the others were sufficiently distracted, and he made his way to Miss Mary.

“I am glad you trusted me, sir,” she whispered.

Richard said nothing and the lady pushed her glasses back on her nose. “This journal contains three hundred and sixty-five pages. It is meant to have one page per day of the year.” She quickly fanned through several entries. “As you can see, I always complete my entry in the allotted space.”

Richard’s quick eyes had scanned a few entries while she spoke. Most of the entries were short and seemed to contain no news. After Michaelmas, the entries grew longer.

“Do you see the date,” Mary pointed to one. “Look at the year.”

Richard furrowed his brows in confusion. This journal was two years old. Before he could formulate a question, she turned the page, and the same date was repeated. She leafed through eight pages, each with the same date, December 23, 1811.

“Now, read today’s entry.” She held it up for his inspection.

December 23, 1811

Today I learned two years have passed since last night. This is beyond anything I had guessed. Lydia is married, but there was some scandal about it. I heard Mama and Aunt Gardiner discussing it in hushed tones. Apparently our friends abandoned us during the time. They just started visiting again but now that Lydia is at Longbourn, Mama thinks she the others will avoid us. Strangely, Charlotte Collins has lent her support, although Mama insists it is so she can look around the house as her future domain. Mama has given up on any of us marrying. Her schemes are at an end, and it is so strange to see her quiet.

My heavens! Since writing the above, I have learned the most shocking news. Lydia eloped with Mr. Wickham last year! After several weeks it became clear to her, he had no intention of marrying, and she left him. Uncle Gardiner then patched up a marriage for her. They say her baby came early, but I would not be surprised at all to learn it is Wickham’s child. There is something familiar about his eyes.

I do not know how to heal this rift in time. Will I awake tomorrow in the past, or in the future. Is this reality inescapable? I do not know what to do. Was my meddling to blame for this turn of events?

“Read the other entries, if you like, but be quick!” Mary said when Richard looked at her in doubt.

Quickly, he read the other entries. They were different situations of him arriving with Darcy, Bingley, and Georgiana. Mary never had anything to record before dinner time. It was always vague explanations of how the day was spent. Then, Richard and the others would arrive and Mary’s memory became very detailed. Certain words were repeated in each circumstance, and everything seemed to shift at seven o’clock.

“Do you believe it?” She twisted her hands and nibbled a bottom lip, hoping for his approval.

“There is only one way to know,” he said and then impulsively kissed her.

“Mr. Bennet! Mr. Bennet!” he heard Mrs. Bennet shrieked. “Come, you must make him stop! You must make him marry her!”

The rest of the room was silent.

Richard pulled away and looked in Mary’s astonished eyes. “There. Now, if it is true as you say, then no one shall recall this tomorrow.”

Before he could say more, the clock struck seven. He held Mary’s eyes as the others around him clutched their heads.

“I will remember,” Mary said as her bottom lip trembled and tears filled her eyes.

“As will I,” he promised.

As the chimes continued, he felt like a cloud was lifting and he saw clearly for the first time in weeks. He could never forget. Why had he been so interested in a married lady who barely seemed to notice his existence? How had he missed the woman before him? Even as he asked himself the question, he knew the answer. It was safer to chase something that could never be a reality than be rejected as insufficient. He would fight tooth and nail for this reality to be the one worth keeping. As his own epiphany dawned, he considered Darcy and Bingley’s predicaments.  White light swirled around him as understanding became clearer.

 

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Joy- Joy to the World

Christmas is long over and now even New Year’s has passed. I hope to finish by Twelfth Night (January 6). We’ve got a few chapters left!

In case you missed them:

Chapter OneChapter Two and ThreeChapter FourChapter Five Chapter Six /

Chapter SevenChapter EightChapter Nine

christmas-2016-5Joy to the World

“Oh good gracious!” Mrs. Bennet exclaimed from a window. “Oh my goodness! I shall faint! It’s a Christmas miracle!”

Jane hastened to her mother’s side. “Mama, what is wrong?”

Mrs. Bennet brought a fluttering hand to her chest. “Mr. Bingley has returned!”

“Mr. Bingley?” Most of the room echoed at once then looked at Jane, causing her to blush. Then there was a bit of a mad dash to the window as her sisters and several guests endeavored to peek outside.

“Mr. Darcy is with him,” groaned Elizabeth. “Who is that other gentleman? He looks familiar.”

“Allow me,” Mr. Wickham peered out the window.

“Well?” Mrs. Bennet asked.

Jane had cast her eyes down and gripped her hands but could hear her mother panting in excitement.

“That is Mr. Darcy’s cousin, a Colonel in His Majesty’s Army and the younger son of Earl Fitzwilliam.”

“The son of an earl!” Mrs. Bennet erupted so loudly that Jane jumped. “What joy!”

“Perhaps we had better leave,” Wickham said to his fellow officers.

“You are not leaving?” Elizabeth said.

“I think it would be better.”

Elizabeth became uncharacteristically quiet, and Jane would have worried more about it if the officers didn’t follow Wickham to her father’s study. Were they going to hide in there until Bingley and the others were in the drawing room and then sneak out of the house? What ridiculousness!

Mrs. Reynolds appeared, holding back a smile, and announced Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Miss Darcy. No one had mentioned her arrival. Jane’s heart hammered in her chest. Bingley’s sister said he would marry this young lady.

Jane ought to hate her, but a small glimmer of hope welled inside her. Why would Mr. Bingley return to Netherfield just to show off his betrothed? Why did his sisters not visit with him? Could it be that Elizabeth was correct and Bingley did love her? Jane’s eye’s followed Miss Darcy as she dragged her brother to Elizabeth’s side.

“My sisters elected to stay in London,” Mr. Bingley said.

Jane blinked. Had someone asked him a question? Was he speaking to her or the entire room? While busy watching Miss Darcy, he had sat next to her.

“Oh! I love London! It must have been very difficult to tear you away from it,” Mrs. Bennet said. “But I see Hertfordshire has its draw,” she gave a significant nod to Jane.

Heat slapped her cheeks but still her mother talked on without allowing anyone else to speak. “My brother and sister are from London. You will not meet with a finer merchant or a finer gentleman. Although they are not as lofty as some,” here she sent a scathing look to Mr. Darcy who sat next to Elizabeth and the very couple in question, “would like.”

“Mama, can we go for a walk in the garden?” Lydia interrupted her mother.

“Well, certainly but Mr. Bingley will want to stay…”

“I would love nothing more, madam.”

“But I do not think it appropriate for an earl’s son…”

“There can be nothing inappropriate by walking with such a good friend of the family,” Mr. Bingley’s eyes locked on Jane’s and felt like a caress.

Jane’s heart soared as Miss Darcy was absolutely forgotten. As they gathered in the hall to put on their outerwear, Jane noticed Mary hugging a book to her chest.

“Mary, dear, I think it might be too dark to read outside,” she said gently.

“That’s not a book. It’s her diary,” Lydia giggled. “She has been taking it with her everywhere and scribbling in it. She must have a secret beau!”

“Jane, I must speak with you,” Mary said while ignoring their youngest sister but Bingley approached. Mary thrust the diary open to its last page. “What do you see?”

“Just the date. December twenty-third.”

“Yes, but look! It is the final page! There are enough sheets for one page per day of the year in this diary.”

Jane furrowed her brow. “You must be mistaken.”

“No! See!”

Mary fumbled with the pages through her gloves and then it was knocked from her hand by Colonel Fitzwilliam accidentally knocking into her as he helped Charlotte Lucas. Bingley reached Jane’s side, and she could think of nothing else.

“Show me later tonight,” she said to Mary before taking Bingley’s arm to walk in the garden.

Walking at Bingley’s side filled Jane with peace and joy. She had never known she could miss a person’s company so acutely before. She had never traveled much, but she had often stayed in London with her aunt and uncle. During such visits, while she missed her family, Elizabeth especially, she always found pursuits to distract and cheer her. The separation from Bingley was a deep ache in her heart that nothing but his presence could fill.

Terrified that none of this was real, it was far too good to be true, Jane remained silent. She had dreams of this very thing. Bingley would show up unannounced, as was his way, and be her Christmas miracle. He would confess his love and apologize for his leaving then propose under the mistletoe. Jane blushed at the thought. Her heart longed for this very scene but was it just another dream? It felt so surreal, as though she had been through it all before, although Colonel Fitzwilliam and Miss Darcy had ever appeared in her dreams before. She still felt as though she knew this scene.

At last, Bingley broke the silence. He whispered near her ear, “I am exceedingly sorry if my sister’s mistaken impression that I would not return to Netherfield caused you any distress, Miss Bennet.”

Jane gave him a small smile and attempted to conceal a tremble in her voice. “Certainly not. A gentleman may come and go as he pleases.”

“A gentleman keeps his word.” Jane shuddered next to him, and he pulled her in closer. “Are you getting cold?”

Jane stared at her feet and whispered, “Please do not be a dream.”

“Pardon, I could not hear you. Perhaps we ought to return inside.”

Jane slowly raised her head and met his eyes. She attempted to hold her tears back. “No, I am not cold and do not wish to go inside.” The dream always ended when they went inside.

“Jane! Lizzy! We’re cold!” Lydia called from the door where three of her sisters were huddled.

“Mary says it is nearly seven o’clock. Hurry! I’m famished,” Kitty whined.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Miss Darcy speaking with Elizabeth. Mr. Darcy said something and Lizzy immediately turned red in anger and began arguing with him.

Bingley put his other hand over Jane’s and gave it a squeeze, drawing her attention back. “It seems our walk is over.” He dropped his voice and leaned closer to her her. “I will call again in a few days. Do you believe me? Will you trust me again?”

Jane shuddered and nodded but remained silent as Bingley escorted her back inside. She knew the dream would end once inside. Instead, Bingley helped her out of her pelisse. Jane breathed a sigh of relief. This was real, she did not wake up. There were no clocks and bells chiming in her dreams. She could smell the coffee and tea. Yes, her senses were never so aware in her dreams.

As the sixth bell chimed a sense of warning hummed in her body. Yet, she had lived this before. She was to beware the seventh bell, something would happen. Something terrible. Someone cried out just as her vision blurred. All around her, she was aware of others moaning in pain. Then, she saw and heard nothing, consumed in the darkness of night before dawn.