"William, old chap," Alexander said enthusiastically. "Apparently, I've been boring Ms. Darling with Mozart so I thought your stories and opinions would make for a better conversation."
"I see," William responded with a small smirk forming on his lips. "Your knowledge of classical music really is quite boring."
"Hilarious," Alexander replied sarcastically.
Cath smiled politely at their little banter, but she was unable to look away from William's eyes practically boring a hole through her soul. His eyes were intense, so intense that it reminded her of another Mr. Darcy currently engaged to her cousin. If their relationship hadn't flashed before her eyes, she wouldn't have stopped herself from engaging in a staring contest with William. Fortunately, she was able to snap out of it.
"Well, they weren't that boring," she said, again trying to sound sincere. She started to stand up and be a little more polite when William placed a hand on her shoulder and gently pushed her back to her seat.
"Please, you don't have to get up," William said with an almost solemn look on his face. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Darling."
Not that a kiss on her hand would instantly woo her, but Cath couldn't deny that the sight of William looking up at her as he placed a chaste kiss on her hand was leaving her a little breathless.
"The pleasure's all mine," Cath said. Whether she meant it or not, she still had no idea. It was an automatic reply she wished she hadn't made, but she didn't want to seem rude in front of William, even though she's not his biggest fan.
"Is it really?" William challenged with a toothless grin.
"'A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.'"
After saying the quote, Cath had realized Oscar Wilde wasn't supposed be born yet, but when she saw a ghost of a smile on William's face to acknowledge the quote, she could feel herself relax in his presence.
"So, you don't like music?" William joked as he sat down on Cath's right. On her left, Alexander plopped down with an enthusiasm she was going to have to get used to.
"No, I do like music," she said, "but I prefer listening to it, rather than talking about it."
"Ah, say no more," Alexander said with a big grin. He suddenly jumped out of his seat and walked to the piano on the other side of the room.
On her right, she could hear William sigh, "Oh, no."
Cath tried to mask her giggle. "What's wrong?"
"He gets very arrogant when playing music."
And Cath couldn't see why he shouldn't be. Whatever piece he was playing, he was phenomenal. Again, Cath was impressed by Austenland's dedication to keep everything authentic. While everyone awed at Alexander playing, William leaned a bit closer into Cath.
"So, you're a fan of Wilde," William said.
When Cath turned her head, she was surprised their faces were inches away from each other. "I'm not a huge fan, but I like his work."
William then drew back. "Like his work? You sound like a jealous critic."
When Cath got into debates, they were always heated. She knew this one was about to be. "Ah, a Wilde fanboy, I see."
William scoffed. "Don't tell me, your favorite authors are people like Austen, Plath or Woolf."
"And what's wrong with that? They're amazing writers."
Before William could respond, Cath raised an expectant eyebrow at him. By the tone of his voice, it seemed like he had a vendetta against female writers. If that was the case, Cath wasn't afraid to defend them.
Taken aback by her eyebrow raise, William laughed. "You seriously think they're better than, say, Dickens, Salinger or Tolkien?"
"And you seriously think you're not sexist right now?"
"I'm not being sexist. I'm just saying—"
"Women can't write as great as men?"
"Well, majority of the best writers are men. I think that says a lot."
Cath's eyes, unable to take his ignorance, widened with anger.
"The only thing it says is how oppressed women were that the only ones who were allowed to be educated enough to write some of the best novels in the world were born into wealthy, noble families. If women were treated like human beings who had the right to be educated and not treated as adornments or reproductive machines, then maybe the literary world could've reached its fullest potential. But we'll sadly never know some of the greatest stories because they're trapped in the minds of brilliant women who will be married off to cocky idiots and never be educated."
By the time her rant was over, William was just staring at her, mouth agape. What she didn't know was Alexander had stopped playing and they were now all staring at her. Miss Charming, Alexander, Olivia and Thomas all had confused expressions on their faces. Emma, on the other hand, rolled her eyes at her sister's annoying pretentiousness, while Jane and Henry tried to stop themselves from laughing.
"Well, I apologize if I've insulted you, Miss Darling," William said sincerely, but Cath could see the agitation on his face.
"Oh, but don't apologize for insulting him," Alexander suddenly interjected, "because no woman has ever put him in his place."
William glared at him, and then rolled his eyes. "If you'll excuse me, Miss Darling, I think Lady Turner needs some company."
And just like that, Cath was all alone. Not that she minded. She still needed time to process what had happened. Cath was never afraid to admit she was a feminist, hence the rant that just took place. Now she was afraid of everyone else thinking she was out to get everyone. Ugh, get me out of here, she thought as she buried her face in her hands.
While everyone else continued on with their chatter, another set of double doors suddenly opened, and a servant steps out while ringing a bell. He announces it was dinnertime, and Cath had forgotten that women are always escorted by men. So when Alexander escorted Miss Charming, Henry escorted Jane, Thomas escorted Emma and William escorted Olivia, Cath had to stay in the back of the line, alone.
Jane, having had a similar experience back then, noticed Cath standing alone by herself, and the old Jane Erstwhile in her couldn't handle the sight of her cousin.
"Henry, I think you should escort Cath instead," Jane whispered. "I can't stand seeing her alone."
Henry, taking a peek of the back, turned to Jane. "Too close to home, huh?"
"Hey, I have a fiancé when I get home. She has, well, her books."
"Alright," Henry laughed.
Both of them made their way to the back, and without even opening their mouths, Cath stopped them.
"Oh, please. Don't give me your looks of pity. I don't need an escort. In fact, I'd rather not have one."
Henry couldn't help himself. "Are you sure? We don't mind."
"Hey, this isn't a pity party, and I'm 19-years-old. I can handle being alone," Cath said matter-of-factly.
Before Henry and Jane could get another word in, their line starts moving. Why there was even a line, Cath had no clue, but regardless, she thought it was stupid. One by one, each pair walked into the room and each person stood behind a large chair. Cath came in last, of course, and stood behind the remaining chair. Instinctively, she pulled her chair out, but stopping half way when she realized she pulled her chair out the same time all of the men pulled the chairs out for the ladies.
She didn't want it to bother her, but it did, much more than she'd like to admit. Yeah, bad things happened to Cath, and she was usually alone, but she never considered herself as a loser. Not until now.
She was about to continue all the way when she felt a hand on her shoulder. William still had the same agitated expression on his face. In fact, he kind of reminded her of Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movies. This time though, she saw pity in his eyes, and that agitated Cath.
William placed both his hands on the chair to pull it out for her. "If you don't mind Miss Darling, I'd be happy to—"
"Oh, would you really?" she snapped. "I'm fine."
She grabbed the chair from William, but underestimating her strength, the chair suddenly slips from her grasp and lands on his foot, eliciting a guttural sound from him. Everyone around the table turns to them in shock.
"Sorry," Cath squeaked, her hands still planted on her cheeks.
William, still gripping the chair, pulls it out for her. "No worries."
Cath just sits down anyway and pulls the chair in while William pushes, and after she's settled in her place, he sits down beside her, surprising Cath. This is going to be a long dinner.
Everyone engages in friendly chatter as the servants put plates on the table. Cath just watches each one, listening in on the conversation before deciding to join it. Emma and Thomas are still flirting like crazy, with Henry is trying to separate them while keeping another conversation going. Jane and Miss Charming catch up on their lives, with Alexander actually joining them. Sitting beside them, Cath thought he would've wanted to start a conversation with her, considering his comment from earlier. Instead, she's forced to listen to Olivia blatantly trying to flirt with William, who clearly isn't interested.
As a servant places a plate in front of her, all nine standing in between them remove the plate covers to reveal one of Cath's worst nightmares: seafood. One of the servants gives them a rundown of their three-course dinner, starting with the appetizer. Cath didn't really listen to the names of the dishes, but regardless of what they were, seafood was not going to sit well with her.
They had a soup appetizer, which Cath could make out as clam chowder. Considering she ate more chowder than clam, she got through the appetizer without a hitch. But of course, she could feel a light mist of sweat on her forehead.
"So, Miss Darling—"
"Catherine, please," Cath interjects, feeling the summer heat in the room.
"Uh, alright, Catherine," Alexander smiles, "Miss Erstwhile tells me you are a writer just like your aunt. Have I read any of your work?"
"Probably not," Cath says with a big breath. "I'm still studying, but you might've heard this short story I wrote based on Jane—I mean, Miss Erstwhile and Mister Nobley's affair."
Alexander takes a moment to ponder, but he shakes his head. "No, I haven't, but now I can't wait to get my hands on it."
"It's easy to find if you just type—uh, mention their names when you look," Cath smiles at him. Whether he's genuine or not, Cath didn't mind the distraction from the food. She was already dreading the main course, and true enough, when it arrives, she could feel her stomach churning.
When they set the plate of salmon in front of her, Cath couldn't help herself. "Son of a—"
"Is there something wrong, Miss Darling?"
The soft, deep voice didn't sound like Alexander's, but without the agitation in them, it actually soothed Cath's nerves.
"No, nothing's wrong," she says, her eyes trained on her plate. With the way she was poking her food William could sense her discomfort.
"You don't like fish?"
Cath finally turns to him, sweat now visible on her face. "I'm not particularly crazy about it."
William offers his napkin, even to wipe the sweat off her face, but she just snatches it from him and starts patting down her face herself.
"Do you want another meal? You don't look very well."
Cath shakes her head. "No, it's fine. I just need some water, I'll be fine."
As Cath chugs down her glass—screw her manners—William asks, "May I ask why fish makes you ill?"
After dabbing water away from her mouth, she clears her throat. "I had a little bad fish one time. Let's just say it was traumatizing."
"Oh, my God. Is she alright?" Olivia suddenly butts in. She couldn't care less about Cath, but she was taking away too much of William's attention on her.
"Yes, I'm fine, and if you don't mind, I'm going to eat now," Cath snaps.
"I don't think that's such a good idea," William says.
"Look, the only thing I've eaten since lunch were a couple of cookies. If we only get to whenever food is served, I'd rather take this chance."
William, whose calm and concerned demeanor, turns irritated again. "Fine."
He focuses on his food again, and leaves Cath alone. Cath, now face-to-face with her nightmare, cuts up a bit of her salmon, and shoves it into her mouth to get it over with. As she chews quickly at first, she doesn't feel the soft texture she's grown to hate. In fact, when she just throw her head back to swallow it just as fast, it's like she's not even eating it. She repeats this several more times, going through a quarter of her meal.
However, when she accidentally eats part of the skin, she feels a slimy texture tumbling in her mouth, and whatever contents her stomach had before, were now trying to escape her mouth. At first, she tries to get up to find the bathroom, but due to her weak limbs, she only managed to push it halfway, and in a second, she was spewing her guts out.
All over William's shoes.
Everyone was just staring at her in horror as retching sounds came from her general direction. William, on the other hand, was so shocked that he couldn't even move. Cath didn't have much to empty; like she said, she had barely eaten since lunch. She thought the worst was over when she stopped. Seeing everyone staring at her again, her mouth dry and her face drained, tears started to form in her eyes.
"Well, this certainly isn't her most darling moment," Olivia suddenly quips.
Cath turns to her with furrowed eyebrows, but when she catches a glimpse of William's disgusted face, she wipes off her mouth and storms out.
Immediately, when she gets to her room, she goes to the bathroom and rinses her mouth out. Soon after, she didn't think twice about packing. She violently opens her wardrobe and starts pulling at each dress and throwing them in. While she was in a fit of rage, she hadn't realized Jane had walked in, and was watching her from the doorway.
"Cath," Jane says, to break her out of her rage.
Cath looks up from her trunk, but still continues folding and just ignores her.
"Are you seriously just going to leave?"
"After what I did, I shouldn't even stay the night."
Unable to think of what to say, Jane sighs and sits on her bed. "It wasn't that bad, Cath. They didn't know fish made you sick."
Cath stops packing and sighs. The image of a disgusted William pops into her mind. If she had to face him for the rest of the week, she'd rather leave and actually never come back to England. "That's not what I'm embarrassed about."
Jane raises her eyebrow in confusion, but suddenly realizes what had taken place. "Oh, William? If this'll make you feel any better, William's asking if you're okay."
"It doesn't, actually."
"Why not? He's pretty cute," Jane says, just to get a rise out of Cath.
She, in turn, cringes. "I did puke on the guy, but he's still a sexist douche."
"So what? Like Alexander said, you put him in his place."
"Yeah, I don't think I want to keep doing that every time he undermines my womanhood."
Jane moves from the bed to the floor beside Cath and helps her fold her dresses. This surprises Cath, but she just continues packing.
"You know who else embarrassed herself on her first day in Austenland?"
Oh, Cath knew alright. She didn't want to turn out like her cousin, but she was much worse. "You."
"And after days of repeatedly embarrassing myself, I called my best friend and told her I should leave."
"But you didn't."
"And if I didn't, if I hadn't given this place a chance, I never would've fallen in love with Henry and I never would've lived out my fantasy."
Jane paused as she looked at Cath, and couldn't help but show her disappointment if she leaves.
"I know you're not after love, but you don't have to find that here in Austenland. I believe there's something here for you, but if you don't give this place a chance, you'll never know what that is."
"But what if there isn't, Jane? I'm just not an Austen character, and whatever I need in my life, I don't think I'll find that here."
What Cath was really looking for was closure, and has been for the past two years. If Jane thought she could find that in a 'romantic getaway', she was definitely mistaken.
"Fine, let's make a deal. Stay one more day, and if you don't like, it you can leave. I'll get you tickets for an earlier flight."
"Cath, please. If you're not going to do it for yourself, at least do it for me."
Ugh, Cath hated it when they pull the family card. This place does mean a lot to her cousin, and her future cousin-in-law. Well, actually, that's still debatable, and Cath wouldn't be able to clear that up with Henry if she were to leave…
"Fine, I'll stay."
"Yay!" Jane engulfs her in one of the tightest hugs she'd ever given. "Okay, now that you're staying, I want you to at least try to get into it."
"If Mr. Darcy won't be a jackass, I'll promise to try my best."
THIS THING WAS SO LONG, I COULDN'T UPLOAD IT ONE, OR TWO.
Hello! I hope you missed this story! I know I did. I'm glad I got back into reading and got into writing again. So what did you think? What do you think of William? I really wanna know haha! And if you wanna see Cath and William in more sticky situations, I'm open to suggestions haha! I can't promise I'll update much faster, but I'll definitely try. I only have three fanfics left in my laptop, might as well finish them! And to be honest, I haven't seen Austenland in a long time, so I'm happy this'll give me an excuse to watch my fave rom-com over and over and over again haha. Anyway, hope you enjoyed this, and trust me there's more to come!