So, I just tried linking this over on my facebook launch party for A Sense of Obligation page and it won’t let me load documents and it’s far too long to put in a single post. This short story will appear in my next release, which is a collection of short stories. Look for it around September!
*Please tell me if you’d like an epub or mobi file of this story.
Come What May
A Modern Pride and Prejudice Short Story
Elizabeth Bennet awoke the morning of her wedding day to her mother shrieking. Why had she decided to marry from her home? Her mother took great pride in the gardens and they were beautiful, but if they had married from anywhere else Elizabeth may have won the battle about staying in her own apartment her last night as a single woman.
“Mrs. Darcy!” her mother screamed outside her childhood bedroom she had shared with Jane. Seeing her sister still asleep, she tossed a pillow at her head.
“Hey!” Jane said, her pretty blonde hair still in place.
“Up! It will take hours and hours to get you ready! You have an appointment with the hairdresser in seventy minutes! Lord knows if you’re not perfect he will probably leave you right there at the altar and then think of what the neighbors will say? And the cost! How can you be so selfish, Lizzy? Get up now!”
“Mom, William would never do that. He loves Lizzy.”
Their mother had already left the room, but Elizabeth gave Jane a hug. “Are you sure you’re okay with seeing Charles again?”
“Of course, I am.”
Elizabeth chewed her bottom lip. She was less certain her sister’s fragile heart had wholly mended after the terrible breakup with her on again off again boyfriend of the last year. Jane still hadn’t told her everything that happened at the rehearsal dinner, but just when Elizabeth expected Charles to propose, Jane was saying they had broken up for good. But, he was Will’s best man and it was rather late to do anything about it. Sighing, she headed to the shower.
Seventy minutes later, Elizabeth and her four sisters arrived at the salon. After a manicure and pedicure, she sat in the chair for her hair. Being a low maintenance girl, she asked for a simple, sophisticated pony tail with shiny curls. With a sinking feeling, she saw her mother speaking with the manager and shoving a manila folder, undoubtedly full of pictures of more elegant hairstyles, into the woman’s hands. Determined to not let all the wedding fuss get to her, she resigned herself to whatever her mother ordered. The woman approached Elizabeth with trepidation.
“Miss Bennet, I’m so sorry but your mother…”
“It’s perfectly alright. Really, just as long as it fits under my grandmother’s veil, I don’t care.”
The woman let out a deep breath. “If you’re certain…”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Okay, then…” she trailed off as the receptionist from the front called her forward. “Please excuse me for just a moment.”
Elizabeth popped in the ear buds to her ipod and was content to listen to her favorite mix until the woman returned, again with a look of trepidation.
“It seems that we have double booked the salon this morning by accident and are understaffed. The other bride’s wedding is an hour before yours…”
“Oh, it’s no problem! My mother planned on everything taking so long. I’m sure we’ve got plenty of time. We’ll just dress first.”
“Thank you for being so understanding. If you need anything, please let Kelly up front know.”
The manager left, and Elizabeth turned to tell her mother the change of plans. In a matter of minutes, her father arrived with the bridesmaids dresses and the ladies took turns popping in and out of the restroom in the back. When Lydia came out first, Elizabeth was confused.
“Lyddie…what are you wearing?”
“The rockin’ dress you picked out! Way to go Lizzy!”
“This isn’t what Jane and I agreed on.”
“Huh…well, it’s awesome. Look at my legs They’re going to look even better in these heels!”
Elizabeth sighed and was silently thankful her sister was at least over eighteen now. “Jane?” She called to her sister who was chewing her nails and trying to not look guilty. “What happened?”
“Well, you had to leave the appointment early!”
“I was taking my master’s examinations! It was kind of an important thing!”
“It’s just after you left the attendant said they couldn’t have that dress for another six weeks, but they had these, and I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t get bother you, and you had gone on and on about how you didn’t care about things like that. So I text Carrie and…”
“You let CAROLINE BINGLEY select the bridesmaids dresses in my wedding to the man she nearly stalked for years?”
“Come on! You know she never stalked him! She loved him. And you don’t know what loving someone who doesn’t love you back can do! You don’t know!” Jane burst into tears, and Elizabeth’s anger died. The dresses were cute. She’d wear them to a party. They would totally steal the show from her understated bridal gown, but what did she care? She got the man, and she had made her sister cry.
Jane took a deep breath and composed herself. “I’m so sorry, Lizzy! I shouldn’t be crying on your wedding day!”
“Jane, honey. It’s okay. I’m sorry for snapping at you. The dresses are beautiful. Here, you go next for your hair.”
Elizabeth was attempting to put mascara on and wondering how women didn’t poke their eyes out with the wand when her sister, Kate, began sneezing.
“Kate, you need to stop that sneezing. You’ll ruin the wedding,” her mother chided.
“I’m not doing it on purpose!” she wailed and Elizabeth saw that her eyes were puffy and redrimmed as well.
“Are you okay, Kate?”
“I was fine until the bouquets were brought in.”
“What do you mean? Why were they brought here?”
“We have to get ready for everything here!” her mother replied. “Now, Will’s sister and aunts should be arriving any minute now. The photographer is here already so we can take pictures of all the primping!”
Elizabeth began to wonder how many wedding planning movies her mother watched during her engagement. She was relishing this entire ordeal far too much. Kate began scratching at her arms. Elizabeth’s eyes went wide.
“Kate, I think you’re allergic to something.”
“Your grandma Glenda was allergic to some flowers like that.”
This is not happening, Elizabeth thought. “Do you know which kind?”
“Chrysanthemums!” Elizabeth gasped. “I picked that kind because you said they were Grandma Glenda’s favorite.”
“Why would I say that? She never cared for flowers much.”
“I asked if there were any flowers she was particularly fond of or not fond of and…” she trailed off. She had been so scatter brained planning this wedding and studying for her finals and worrying about defending her thesis. Her mother would have answered Chrysanthemums to that question, and Elizabeth would have understood only what she wished.
Mary, who had been overhearing the concern, came forward. “Well, we just won’t have bouquets then. I think this entire wedding thing is far too gaudy.”
“No bouquets!” their mother shouted. “No, we’ll think of something! And what did I tell you about that eyeliner today? Take it off!”
Mary glared before scampering off to redo her makeup. She enjoyed pretending she was somewhat “goth” and eschewed all things mainstream, but when it came down to it, Elizabeth thought Mary just liked the attention and wasn’t that committed to the philosophy. Their mother corralled the other girls to get the bouquets out of the shop.
Will’s sister, adopted aunts and cousin arrived at just that moment, followed by Elizabeth’s aunt, Meg Gardiner. “Oh, Meg!” her mother cried. “We all in an uproar. Kate has my mother’s allergies to Chrysanthemums—which Lizzy never would have ordered if she would have let me plan the whole thing but she was so headstrong—well, never mind. We can’t have a speck of them around today, and now there’s nothing for the girls to carry!”
“The wedding of William Darcy is the most talked about event this season. It is imperative it does not appear as some kind of thrown together backyard barbeque!” Will’s “Aunt” Cathy declared. Her daughter, Anne, giggled. “What are you laughing about?”
“I was looking up bouquet alternatives on my phone. Here’s one for wine corks. I think us Fitzwilliam ladies might be able to gather up enough.”
Cathy blushed. “Hush, Anne. You know the doctor even recommends a glass or two of wine at dinner each night.”
“Uh huh,” Anne said and bit back a smile.
“Elizabeth,” a hairdresser called her name. It was finally her turn. Aunt Meg walked to her.
“Go, we will find an alternative. Nothing will ruin this day. Relax!” The two women hugged, and Elizabeth took a deep breath to calm her nerves.
Upon sitting in the chair, she wished her hairdresser would do the same. The woman was young, exhausted and clearly frazzled.
“Just like in the picture?” she asked.
“Yep, that’s fine.”
“Okay, then,” and the woman set to work.
Elizabeth popped in her ear buds and tried not to notice what seemed like an inordinate amount of pulling and hairspray. When the stylist at last got her noticed so she could look at the finished product, she was speechless. There was something that was supposed to be either beehive or a victory roll protruding from the side of her head, and she had a braid wrapped around her forehead.
The woman came dashing over. “Oh, Lizzy! You’re so beautiful!” Tears welled in her eyes. Aunt Meg came just behind her with the veil ready to pin it in place.
“You truly are lovely, Lizzy.”
“Aunt Meg…” She stopped as she looked at her mother again.
“It is just like how I pictured it.”
Elizabeth put on a fake smile, to please her mother, and was thankful she had noted to the photographer she liked a lot of silhouette poses.
“Lizzy, you’ve got to move, now.” There would have been no time to redo the hair even if she wished it. She was shoved toward the bathroom and shimmied into her proper undergarments and gown. At least this went as she had planned. Almost. First she fell in love with a short, swingy number but her mother insisted her gown needed more lace. Then, she adored an all lace sleeveless gown with a bare back. It was sleek and sexy. Will was certain to love it. Her mother declared it was too modern. In the end, Lizzy chose a classic A-line white satin gown with a v-neck front and lace sleeves. It wasn’t her first choice, but it was perfect.
She piled in the car with Jane and Will’s sister, Gina- no limo was rented since she intended to get ready at her home- and was handed a beautiful bouquet made from vintage brooches. “Anne found the idea online and then Aunt Ellen and Cathy had someone pick up some of their old ones. These here,” she pointed to several stunning pieces, “were my mother’s. Several are from your grandmother as well.”
Elizabeth blinked back tears. She couldn’t think of a more meaningful bouquet to carry, and it would last forever. The car pulled up, and she could see they were the last to arrive. Will’s cousin, Richie, greeted them.
“Glad you ladies decided to show up!”
“Very funny, Rich. Is everything set?”
“Yes, but I think if you don’t start walking down that aisle Caroline is going to usurp your place.”
Elizabeth frowned. “Someone told Will, right?”
“Yes, he knows. He looks like he’s going to pass out, but that’s just his usual ‘being in front of people’ face.”
“Well, let’s put him out of his misery, shall we? Daddy?” Elizabeth asked while searching for her father. Her mother began shooing everyone in their places, and the groomsmen appeared to seat her and Will’s aunts.
“Honey bee, I didn’t tell you last night because I didn’t want to worry you, but now I hope you can contain your reaction. Pastor Ron called last night. He’s in the hospital with food poisoning.”
“Oh no! Is he going to be okay?”
“Yes, he’s doing much better.”
“I’m glad to know it. Since the wedding is still going on, I assume you found a replacement?”
“I did…” he prevaricated and Elizabeth narrowed her eyes.
“He is…well, uh…more impressive than you might guess.”
Taking a deep breath, Elizabeth shrugged. “As long as it’s legal, I don’t care.” It was beginning to be her mantra for the whole event.
The bridesmaids had gone down the aisle and the song she selected for her bridal march began. They walked arm in arm and turned the corner to go down the aisle. The attendees stood, and there was an audible gasp. Elizabeth chuckled. There was nothing else to do about it.
Her eyes met Will’s. If he could make out her unique hairstyle, he didn’t seem to care at all. And she knew he wouldn’t. All he wanted was to marry her and begin their lives. This ceremony was entirely for her own vanity and to please their family. She really ought to know better by now. Her vanity nearly cost her everything with Will. But then, he had been stupid and proud too.
At last she was in front of her love. He mouthed the words “I love you,” to her and it was only because she was so impatient to be at his side that she paid attention to the minister at all. She listened for the cue on when her father would place her hand in Will’s and give her a kiss. Suddenly she realized the minister dropped his r’s completely. Not in a Boston way…but in a very impressive clergyman way. She and Will tore their eyes from one another at the same time to take in the officiant.
He looked exactly like the pseudo-Medieval minister from the movie The Princess Bride. It had to be a joke. Priests didn’t still dress like that! Beside her, she felt her father laughing. His breathing was hard, but he didn’t let a sound escape. Just when she wanted to step on his toes for playing such a trick on her, she glanced at Will again. He had a small smile on his face, and his eyes shone with amusement. She couldn’t help but join in. Her shoulders heaved up and down and from behind she supposed it looked like she was crying, but she contained her laughter.
At last her father kissed her cheek and took his seat. Will grasped her hands and leaned in and whispered, “Do you think we could just skip to the end?”
Elizabeth had to bite her cheek to not laugh. From behind Will, she heard Richie cough but it sounded suspiciously like “Say, man and wife.”
She grinned and shook her head. Somehow, they made it through the ceremony without collapsing in laughter. After ceremony pictures went quickly but Elizabeth rolled her eyes at the number of times Lydia was called to attention from flirting with a groomsman. Jane and Charlie did their best to avoid one another, but nobody missed the awkwardness between them. Aunt Catherine knew the best poses for everyone, of course.
Finally, they made their way to the reception. They nearly chose a mash up of songs for their first dance but then decided upon “Come What May” as it seemed to capture their route to the altar; everything was worth it. She expected her new husband to be a ball of nerves, but he was nearly as calm as he had ever been.
“You’re not nervous?” she asked Will as they were alone on the floor.
“I hope you are not consulting your own feelings with that question. It wouldn’t do for a bride to feel nervous with her groom.”
Smiling at the tease, she replied, “I’m not even sure that ceremony was legal. Daddy told me the pastor got sick, and he found a replacement, but I can’t imagine how he found someone with a costume like that!”
“I’ve been told your father called Rich…who knows all kinds of people. I asked no other questions but to confirm that the ceremony was valid. But you have not answered my question.”
She laughed. “Today has been long and trying with surprises at every turn, but the only feeling I have right now is happiness and completeness. Will, when I think of what I almost threw away…”
He silenced her with a gentle kiss, their guests cheered. “You know I bear most of the blame. Today is for new beginnings.”
Elizabeth couldn’t agree more and returned the kiss. Upon breaking it, her eyes landed on an unexpected person. “Is that why you invited George Wickham?”
“We can’t keep them apart, Lizzy. If I kept George from Lydia, it would be no better than when I tried to separate Charles and Jane. We can’t decide what is best for others.”
“Yes, but she’s so young!”
“He stayed away until she turned eighteen. She has her whole life ahead of her!”
“She may not want what you want.”
“You didn’t think that was enough when it was your sister he was trying to feel up.”
“I was wrong to let my grudge get in the way for them if they could have waited until she was older. You taught me true forgiveness. But Gina is happy now.”
Elizabeth looked at the young women in question. Gina was talking with guests, something she was surprised to see. When they had first met, she was terribly shy. She also knew how excited Gina was to begin college in the fall. Lydia declared she wanted to take a year off and travel with some friends or work before trying to settle down and think about a career. She wondered too if some of Lydia’s behavior the last few months had more to do with trying to forget her feelings for George.
“I guess you’re right. It’s their lives…” She trailed off and bit her lip. “Do you know what happened with Charlie and Jane? Jane won’t tell me anything.”
Will rubbed the back of his neck. “I think maybe I had a hand in that?”
“What did you do?”
“Charlie wanted to practice his proposal and I may have given him a nudge with certain wording. I’m not sure it came out well.”
“Will! Why would you try to help there? If you were the last man in the world, I wouldn’t ask you for speaking advice.”
His grip on her waist tightened a bit. “You’ve obviously amended some of your other ideas on what you’d do with me as the last man in the world.”
She sighed. “You’re right. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.”
He leaned his forehead against hers. “I may need that in writing.” She laughed and he kissed her forehead. “I promise to help Charlie with Jane. If they’re meant to work things out, a poor choice of words can’t stand between them.”
“I suppose you know that from experience.”
“I certainly do.”
“Hmm…I like the sound of that. I do. The best words I’ve ever said.”
“I was thinking after the speech.”
“After the speech, what?”
“After the speech you could bring Jane to a certain spot, and I could get Charlie there and then they could talk.”
“You’re going to try and patch this up during the wedding?”
“What’s the worst that could happen?”
“Ask me that some other day. This dance is the only thing that’s gone right!” He raised his eyebrows at her. “Well, and you being there, of course.”
She worried he might be offended, but he just laughed. “I love your fierce loyalty and sense of justice, Lizzy.”
The dance ended and soon they were seated at the head table. Rich leaned over and said that it was time for the speech. Charlie wasn’t at his seat and before they could even look for him in the crowd, Aunt Cathy was taking the microphone from the DJ. Elizabeth held her breath. The woman made no secret of her dislike of all things Elizabeth Bennet, although she seemed had seemed helpful earlier today at the salon.
“Willie was just a teenager when he came to live with me,” she said and Will blushed red. “His mother was always like a sister to me and I was humbled they left Will and Gina in my care. I know there were times in life when I was hard on him. I always expected him to make his parents proud. There have been times when I’ve disagreed with how he did that, but I always wanted what was best for him. Will, I know your parents would be proud of all you’ve accomplished and very pleased with Elizabeth because she makes you so happy. Congratulations to you both.”
It was as near a blessing on their marriage as they would probably ever get from her, and when put that way, Elizabeth found a great deal of compassion for the woman. They stood in unison and walked to her, hugging her tightly until she pushed back and playfully smacked Will’s arm.
Soon, dinner was being served, and they returned to their seats. Jane and Charlie appeared hand in hand. Elizabeth immediately pulled Jane to her side. “Tell me everything now!”
Jane blushed. “I was so silly, Lizzy! He was trying to propose!”
“Of course he was! But what made you angry?”
“Well, he started off with ‘There comes a time when you realize you’re going to have to settle’ and I thought he meant he was settling for me, and I just ran away before he could say anything else!”
“He would never mean that!”
“No, that’s what he said when I finally let him talk to me tonight. You don’t mind do you?” She held up her hand to show Elizabeth her engagement ring.
“No! I’m thrilled for you!” The sisters hugged. “So what was he trying to say?”
“He said he was explaining that he was beginning to think he was going to have to settle for something less than what he hoped for in life, that he couldn’t have it all. Then he met me.”
“I knew you would work it out!” Elizabeth was soon called away to greet other guests, but she thought between marrying her best friend and her sister’s engagement, nothing could make today better.
Before she knew it, it was time to cut the cake. Her mother insisted they do the Southern tradition of a cake pull, and the single ladies all gathered around. Lydia pulled a hot air balloon, prefect for her desire to travel. Gina pulled a flower-meaning blossoming, love. She blushed before glancing at one of the guests she had been chatting with. Caroline got a star, and Elizabeth found she truly wished all of Caroline’s dreams would come true…as long as they had nothing to do with Will Darcy. Jane pulled the ring, of course, she would be the next to marry. The other charms were less symbolic- meaning things about happiness, security and longevity.
The single ladies were already gathered, so the bouquet toss was next. She hoped her friend, Charlotte would catch it but decided against aiming for her. She tossed it high, and there was a bit of a struggle, Caroline and a woman named TaNeshia knocking each other out of the way for it. Anne had just reached out her hand in response to Caroline falling over when the bouquet landed right in her arms. Elizabeth thought Anne looked mortified, but Aunt Cathy smiled as though there was more to the tradition than just an old wives’ tale on who would marry next.
The garter toss had an entirely different feeling to it. Will’s eyes never left hers as his hand slipped under her dress and seemed to travel far too high for where she had the garter directly above her knee at. His look conveyed the promise that they would be leaving very soon. As he tossed it over his shoulder, Elizabeth was struck with the awkwardness of her husband throwing her garments at other men. Strangely, the only one who seemed interested in it was her father’s junior partner, who she always found rather creepy, Bill Collins. He lunged and tripped over Rich’s feet. The garter hit him in the chest, and he caught it by reflex.
During the obligatory subsequent dance, Will whispered in Elizabeth’s ear. “Anne has been in love with Rich forever. I was sworn to secrecy, I hope she doesn’t read more into this than he means.”
Elizabeth looked at the dancing couple. “I don’t know. Rich seems to be enjoying himself. Didn’t you say earlier we have to let others live their lives?”
“I did. Will you choose now to learn of my infinite wisdom?”
“If you’re so wise then why do you keep our honeymoon destination a secret from me?”
“For the surprise, darling.”
She would argue more, but she loved it when he called her darling. The next song came on, which was to be the final one and instead of the DJ’s voice, they heard Mary’s over the microphone. “We’re closing out tonight with what I call Ode to Mainstream Mix.”
Elizabeth groaned as Lydia’s favorite dance came on, and she began twerking with George. She truly thought she might be nauseaus, but then she saw Aunt Cathy attempting it and began laughing. The entire crowd danced in tandem to other overdone songs such as the Macarena and the Electric Boogie before finishing it up with the Chicken Dance.
Finally, Will was pulling her to the door. His red, convertible mustang was just outside. Their family surged forward for hugs and kisses, they would be gone for a month. And then, it was just the two of them, driving into the night.
“Will you tell me where we’re going now?” Lizzy asked while she unpinned her hair and shook it free, letting it whip in the wind.
“No, because it’s up to you.”
“Look in the glove box.”
She opened it up and found information for Italy and Hawaii. “Oh, Will! How am I going to choose?”
“Well, I thought we’d do one for our honeymoon and then go away again before school starts again for you.”
“It seems like too much!”
“Making you happy is never too much.” He pulled off the road and pulled into a hotel lot. “But for tonight, we will be staying here and I plan to make you very, very happy several times.”
“Will,” she scolded and blushed, but it secretly thrilled her when he talked that way.
He checked them in and led them up to their room. In the elevator, he pulled her close. The kiss started with her hand. He turned it over, he kissed her palm and then lingered on her wrist, making her pulse race. His lips had just met hers when the door opened. Without breaking the kiss, he led them to their room. When his head fell down to her neck while still in the door way, she pulled away just enough to shut the door.
Elizabeth awoke the next morning to her husband kissing her awake. Raining kisses over her face, he started with her eyelids which fluttered open to see his beaming smile and ended with her ear. It was a good thing their flight time was so flexible…