The world is grey.
When she wakes up in Pemberley in the morning, the sky is iron, the air is stifling, the walls are bleak. She gets dressed, well, her maid dresses her, her maid is grey, well, the maid's eyes are grey, she hardly talks, there is a hardness in her young, stern face – to be honest Elizabeth hardly talks to the maid either.
Then Elizabeth goes down for breakfast, and the food has no taste. It is strange. Food tasted good before, she remembers how ravenous she was, in Longbourn, her childhood home, eating in the morning with her parents and noisy sisters. After a brisk walk, coffee tasted like luxury and strength, bread smelled like kitchen and laughter, butter and honey.
And there is butter and honey at Pemberley, of course.
And much more, an elegant display of much more, but nothing feels real, everything seems to be drowned in grey tones. Maybe it's the season. February, February is a bad month, always. It is the month where people starve because winter provisions run out. It is the month where lovelorn maids hang themselves in the attic, it happened once, not at Longbourn, but at Lucas Lodge, Elizabeth was thirteen but she understood.
February is the month where she's eating breakfast, at Pemberley, alone.
With three footmen and her husband. Who does not look at her. Or maybe he does. But she sure doesn't look at him.
Though, nobody could say that Elizabeth Bennett (Darcy) is not always perfectly polite.
"Do you want some more coffee, Mr. Darcy?" she asks, with a smile.
Of course she has to look at him now. "No, thank you," he answers.
She smiles again. Then she eats.
The world is grey beneath the windows' panes. The air is grey in the room. She can hardly breathe.
"I like red," she says. "I wonder where all the red has gone?"
She thinks her husband is looking at her. "It is winter," he whispers.
She just says, "I understand."
She finishes eating, and goes back in the grey, silent corridors of the silent, grey mansion.
"Elizabeth, you have changed," Jane said, when Elizabeth visited her, three months ago. Jane leaves far away. She has a husband. Not Mr. Bingley. Jane is with child.
Jane is far.
Jane lives behind a wall of grey mist. Elizabeth can't see her, she thought Jane couldn't see her either, but clearly she could. "Elizabeth, I think you are suffering from melancholy," Jane says.
She does not say, "you have a melancholic character." Elizabeth doesn't have a melancholic character. Did not use to have one, at least.
Jane's voice makes "melancholy" sounds like an illness.
Maybe it is.
Elizabeth thinks about Jane's words, those words from three months ago. After breakfast, when she is back in her room. The room is grey. It's really not, of course. The colors of the walls were beautiful, Elizabeth seems to remember.
She wonders where all the colors have gone.
Maybe she lost a bit of the colors when her father died. Elizabeth was left with Jane, her mother wailing, and two sisters she despised. No, no, the word "despised" is correct. Elizabeth despises her sisters, three of them at least, because she can see their mother in them.
But Jane is still there, and Jane makes everything better. (Lydia is gone.)
Then Jane gets married.
To a guy she really does not love that much. But they are going to be thrown of the house by their cousin, so Jane accepts him.
The colors get a little dimmer.
Then there is the incident. Elizabeth is compromised, et cætera, you know the story, she has to marry Mr. Darcy.
She does not want to marry him. But she has to.
Their wedding night, they fight. He says marrying her is a degradation. That she's below him, in every way. Elizabeth should fight back, she should answer, but she doesn't. She does not have it in her anymore. She just sits on the bed while he berates her. Finally, he stops.
He waits for her answer.
"Very true," she says.
He just stares at her. She doesn't, so she can't see his face.
Then they arrive in Pemberley. This huge, empty building, with nobody in it. Except her husband. And an army of servants.
Elizabeth despised her mother and her sisters. Now, her husband despises her.
How God must laugh.
It's that day, her first arrival at Pemberley, taking a stroll in the empty park, where she doesn't meet anybody, that she realizes the colors are all gone.
It's been ten months.
That day, after breakfast, Elizabeth visits the tenants. She talks with Mrs. Reynolds. She does what she has to do.
Dinner. They eat, at the long, empty table. Elizabeth is very polite. She talks a little. She smiles. She doesn't know how to act otherwise. When he asks how she finds the soup, she says it's delicious, and that they should thank the cook. She asks if he had a good day, he says it was a productive one. She nods, and smiles, and says she's glad, and then her thoughts wander.
When she's back, he's staring at her. He's worried.
He's very worried.
It does something to her, that look. It pierces the fog for the duration of a heartbeat.
Then it goes back to grey.
But still, at night, she wonders.
She remembers his look. It was a strange look. Worry, yes, but not only. If she listens to her intuition, she'd even think she saw something like despair.
Despair is strong. Despair is... not what Elizabeth expected. She lets her mind wanders for a while, wondering. Then she decides she was wrong.
Two days pass.
Everything is still grey.
She's taking her breakfast on Tuesday when her husband enters. He puts something near her plate.
They are very red. Deep red. Red like blood, red like velvet, red like beautiful mysteries lurking behind theater curtains. The red is so strong she almost gasps.
She raises her eyes to him. "You said you missed red," her husband explains. "Those are from Lady's Harden's hothouse. I rode there yesterday."
She does not say anything. Just gazes at the flowers.
"I... I thought you might prefer poppies, I think I heard you once say how much you liked poppies, but they are impossible to find in February," he explains. "Well, maybe in London. I sent a letter. I will have news, soon. Next week, I think."
She looks at him. Her eyes sincere.
"Thank you," she whispers.
He doesn't say anything after that.
The footman goes to fetch a vase. Elizabeth drinks her coffee, eats her eggs, looking at the flowers the whole time.
"Do you want the flowers to be put in your room?" her husband asks, after she's finished.
"No!" she says, a little too quickly. Truth is, she hates her room. She can't breathe in her room. She does not dislike the breakfast parlor. The parlor is nice, high ceilings, large windows, opening - on the grey outside - but opening.
"No, she repeats, smiling, "I like it here. I think I'm going to stay and read here today."
He gives her a wan smile, and observes her for a moment. Then he nods, and leaves.
She wonders, for a fleeting moment, how he was before.
How he was before the death of his sister.
But mostly, she just looks at the flowers.
The world is grey, and red.