Darcy knew Chad would be stopping to talk to anyone and everyone, but he was still relieved when he finally made it to the roof. "Everything went OK with parking the car?"
"Yes," he said handing Darcy a bottle of wine and a stack of five plastic cups, "and the pretty new waitress managed to snag me these." With a flourish, he produced a plate full of appetizers.
"Bless you." Darcy took a crab puff and ate it then poured everyone some wine. "Pretty new waitress? You don't mean the girl on the door do you?"
"No, I should have said the beautiful new waitress, Jane. The one with the long blond hair pulled back in a French braid."
Darcy shook his head, "I didn't notice her. But you managed to make her acquaintance on your way up the stairs?"
"Lucas introduced us when I stopped to say hi to him." Of course, he had.
Chad took a seat and told them all about the new waitress. She and her family had a house in Seaside Park, she and her sister had jobs here for the summer, the rest of her family would be arriving in a few days. She had four younger sisters including the one who worked here…
Darcy was only half listening, but there was something about Chad's chatter that relaxed him. The wine and the food helped too. Chad always seemed to do just the right thing to make him feel better without making a big deal out of it or even indicating he was aware Darcy was upset. For all that he was more than two years younger, and Darcy still tended to think of him as the kid he needed to watch out for, Darcy knew he would never have gotten through the last five years without Chad. Even if Chad's flaming extroversion was unfathomable to him, and his tendency to trust everyone often gave Darcy cause for concern, he found his friendship invaluable.
By the time Lizi got down to Darcy's name on her list, the crowd had thinned out. Monica buzzed her to let her know there was a table for six available.
"There's a party of five on the roof. Will the pager work up there?"
"Darcy's here?" She actually sounded happy about it.
"Yea, should I have told you?"
"No. He hates a lot of attention. The pager should work, but if his party doesn't come down soon, I'll check on them. Is Chad with him?"
"Yes." Lizi smiled thinking maybe Monica was only happy about Darcy because she hoped Chad would be with him. That would make sense. Chad seemed nice.
Finally, it was time to put up the closed sign and head upstairs to help reset for the morning. Technically Lizi's shift was done at closing time, one of the few benefits of being on the door, but she usually stayed to help out at the end. It got everybody done that much sooner, and she had to wait for Jane anyway.
Only a few tables were still finishing their meals. Darcy's group was one of them, but Chad wasn't sitting with his party. He was talking to Jane while she cleared tables, no; he was helping Jane clear tables. It certainly hadn't taken Chad long to notice Jane.
Jane smiled to see her. "Lizi you met Chad already downstairs?"
"Good to see you again Lizi," he greeted her as if they were old friends. "Jane's been telling me all about your family."
"Well, don't hold it against us."
He grinned, "Come on I'll introduce you to my sisters."
"Oh, I don't want to interrupt their meal."
"No, no, we are just finishing up, they will want to meet you."
Lizi doubted that, but Chad's enthusiasm was hard to resist. She followed him reluctantly over to the table. Now she had a chance to study the party more closely. The women and the third man looked like they had stepped out of an ad for summer clothing or fun at the Jersey Shore. Darcy looked like he had come from a business meeting and barely bothered to loosen his tie.
"Lizi this is my sister Lois," Chad said indicating one of the women, she gave Lizi a forced smile and returned to her phone where she was looking at clothes, "Her boyfriend-soon-to-be-fiancé Herb," Herb gave her a brief nod and returned to his desert, "my sister Karo…"
Karo actually shook her hand in a way that almost made Lizi expect her to say something like, "Charmed I'm sure" but what she said was, "That's Karo with a K."
"… and you met Darcy."
Darcy looked up from his phone in surprise, "She did?"
And she was worried about having made a bad first impression? Apparently, she hadn't made any. He could have at least tried to pretend he remembered her and had Chad fill him in later. It was what any halfway polite person would have done, but Chad seemed to take Darcy's rudeness in stride, "Lizi was on the door when we first came in. She's Jane's sister. You remember."
"Ah," he looked her up and down, creep, "You shouldn't leave when you are on the door Lizi." He finished the text message he had been typing and hit send.
"I had gone to look for two of the guests. Their table was ready, and they didn't seem to be coming."
"Did their pager malfunction?"
What difference did that make? "No, they just…misunderstood how it worked."
"I see. Well, in that case, I appreciate your making the extra effort to find them, but in the future, please be more careful about crossing the street. It isn't worth risking your life to assure that customers are seated in a timely manner."
Her confusion must have shown on her face for Darcy continued, "I almost hit you on our way in."
"So you have remembered me after all, Mr. Darcy."
"It's just Darcy. I tend to remember those I almost kill."
He said it so gravely she couldn't help but laugh, "It was hardly life-threatening. You were three car lengths away at least."
"I disagree; to my mind, it was more like three inches."
"Well," Chad interjected, "we must allow for difference of perspective. There was no harm done, and I'm sure in the future Lizi will remember to look both ways in spite of her work ethic." He winked at Lizi as he said it.
Karo plastered on a smile, "So, is that Lizzy with a 'y' or Lizzie with an 'ie'?"
"What an interesting spelling, short and to the point."
"I guess." What was this girl's obsession with how names were spelled?
Darcy looked at his phone. "We ought to get going soon. We still have to open the house, and I have some work to do tonight."
It sounded like she was dismissed. She resisted the urge to curtsy before walking away. Herb looked surprised and started shoveling his desert into his mouth as fast as he could.
"Just let me finish my coffee." Chad said then looking at her added, "We'll see you soon Lizi. Welcome to an exciting summer career at Fitzgigi's."
"Thanks," Lizi smiled and went to help reset. Chad made it impossible to stay angry. That must be why Darcy kept him around.
As she walked away, she could hear Karo saying, "If you didn't feel the need to talk to everyone you would be done your coffee already."
Lizi was setting out the breakfast condiments as Darcy's party rose to leave. Lucas was talking to Darcy, telling him how nice it was to have him back, etc. As they passed Lizi Darcy glanced at her and said, "Lucas, tell Lizi to do something about her hair. It's unprofessional for it to be falling in her face like that."
As the five of them left the restaurant, Karo considered her next move. She was determined that this summer she would finally make Will Darcy see her as a sexy, available, woman instead of as Chad's little sister. Lois, though she still flirted with Will, seemed to have given up on him and settled for Herb, but Karo would never settle. Of course, she dated other guys during the school year, but she always broke up with them in time for summer in order to concentrate on Will. Not an easy task since it was almost impossible to get his attention, even with their families spending summers at the shore together. Ever since Karo had gotten old enough to see Will as potential boyfriend material, he had been keeping a certain distance from her. When his parents died four years ago, she'd hoped he would turn to her for support. It would have been the perfect opportunity for him to depend on, and gradually develop romantic feelings toward, her, but he had responded coldly to any attempt she made to comfort him. Instead of crying on her shoulder, he worked with his advisor at Princeton to graduate early and spent all his time studying (even in the summer) or at Darcy enterprises learning what he needed to know to run the company. Since graduating, he was always working remotely. The free time he did have was almost entirely devoted to his sister, who he was annoyingly attached to, but his sister wasn't with him this year. This summer was her chance. She only wondered whether she should take some time to try to ingratiate herself to him strike quickly with a bold move, like showing up in his room in sexy lingerie.
Chad pulled out Darcy's keys, "Want me to drive?"
"No, I'm fine now."
Chad tossed Darcy the keys, and they climbed into the SUV and headed to their house at Neatherly beach. It was on the other end of the island, past Seaside Park, Seaside Heights and Ortley Beach, but traffic was light by now, and the island was not long. They would get home quickly, and Karo knew Darcy was probably looking forward to being alone in his room at the top of the house.
Chad was in an exceptionally good mood, even for Chad. "It's really nice to be back and see everyone at the restaurant again, and so many of our acquaintances were there for dinner as well."
"You certainly seemed to enjoy yourself," said Darcy. "I would prefer to eat our meal in peace our first night, but it is impossible. The number of our acquaintances here seems to grow larger every year."
"Yes, that's what I like about the shore. It's a small community, and yet one is always meeting new people. Do you know that Jane and Lizi have been coming to Seaside Park every summer since Jane was six years old? And yet we never met them until now!"
"Astonishing," said Darcy dryly.
Chad continued as if the others were as interested in this topic as he was. "Jane is very nice and so beautiful. She could be a fashion model or an actress. I think even you will have to admit she's attractive, Darcy."
Karo held her breath waiting for Darcy's reply. So far the only comfort in Darcy not paying her much attention was that he didn't seem to take much notice of women in general, but she couldn't be confident that wouldn't change.
"She is very pretty, but she smiles too much."
Karo leaned forward, "I thought Lucas mentioned two pretty new waitresses. I suppose he meant Lizi as the second, but I didn't see anything remarkable about her."
"Neither did I but I have never liked freckles." said Lois, "Did you find her attractive Will?"
"How could I notice anything beyond her carelessness and her hair flying in every direction?"
Karo would have been happier if he'd said she was not at all pretty but with this reply she was forced to be satisfied.
"It is only a few freckles across her nose!" Chad's voice rose in a tone of surprise, "I found them endearing."
Karo didn't reply. She was too busy taking a mental inventory of the lingerie she had packed and considering what would be best for Will to see her in for the first time. The black teddy with the red lace was the sexiest, but the cream negligee with the pale pink roses was very pretty and clung in all the right places while still leaving some mystery. Plus she had the high-heel feather slippers to match, and they made her legs look amazing.
Lizi's friend Carla joined her and Jane on the beach the next morning. "I heard you met Will Darcy last night." Carla's brother Lucas was the manager of Fitzgigi's. They lived in Seaside Park year round.
"That's his first name?" Lizi asked, "Who, if their last name is Darcy, actually chooses to name their kid William?"
"You have a problem with that Lizi Bennet?"
"That's different. My father named us ironically."
"OK, but aside from his name, gorgeous right?"
"Meh, he could be if he smiled once in a while." Lizi went on to tell Carla about her encounter with Will Darcy. She had been annoyed with him at the time, but she delighted in anything ridiculous and told the story in a lively manner that had her friend and sister laughing, especially at her impressions of Darcy. Their responses were typical of their personalities.
"Normally I would think that was rude," said Carla, "but he has every right to go wherever he wants in a place he owns without stopping to explain himself. Plus Darcy must be so used to being recognized he probably never considered that you didn't know who he was."
"My asking for his name ought to have been a clue. He just blew me off, like I was nobody like he was swatting at a fly." Lizi did an impression of a fly and then acted out an exaggerated death scene. "Bzzzt…arrghh!"
Jane smiled at her sister's antics. "Maybe he was just stressed from the drive down. Chad said there had been an accident on the Parkway. He said it looked like no one was hurt but they were stuck in traffic a long time."
"Chad was stuck in the same traffic, and he managed to be polite enough to explain who they were and where they were going."
"Maybe Darcy was in a hurry to get the restroom."
Lizi shook her head. Jane always gave people the benefit of the doubt and could usually come up with a plausible explanation.
"How long does it take to say, 'I'm the owner, and we're going to the roof'? No longer than what he did say. Plus if he had a problem with my hair he should have just said so to my face, not passive-aggressively when he was sure I would hear him."
Carla turned her attention to Jane, "I heard Chad was talking to you a long time."
"Chad is very nice. He spoke to everyone who works there and too many of the other customers."
Carla answered in a singsong tone, "But not as long as he was talking to you!"
Jane actually blushed. A lot of guys made a point of talking to Jane, but she didn't usually blush when someone teased her about it. She had mentioned to Lizi on the way home how nice Chad was. She had also given Lizi other information about Chad. He was a senior at Princeton majoring in Environmental Engineering. He and his sisters had grown up spending summers at the shore with the Darcys at Neatherly beach (Neatherly Beach was the rich end of the island). Chad's family owned the bottom unit of the house, and the Darcys the top. Chad's sisters were fraternal twins, only a bit more than a year younger than he was, and also at Princeton. Karo was majoring in French and Italian and Lois in Music History. Now that Lizi thought about it, either Chad was a super fast talker, or Carla had a point.
Carla must have noticed the blush too and decided to be merciful. Her next question was to Lizi, "So, what are you going to do with your hair?"
"The same thing I always do. Just because his parents own the company that owns Fitzgigi's doesn't mean he can tell me what to do with my hair."
"His parents are dead Lizi. They died four years ago. He owns the company."
"Why would I lie?"
"I don't know, to make me feel like crap for badmouthing an orphan?" To be honest, she did feel kind of bad about it now.
Jane was full of sympathy, "That is so sad. He must have been very young when his parents died."
"He had just turned 19."
"Then we must make allowances for him because of his grief."
Lizi would have liked to lighten the mood with a witty reply but she held her tongue, and they all sat quietly watching the ocean and a group of children playing on the beach. After they had been quiet for some time, Carla said, "Jane, I meant to ask you if you are student teaching next semester."
"Yes, I'm looking forward to it. I'll be at a School in East Windsor, a mixed first and second-grade at first and then a fourth-grade class. I've already met the teachers I'll be working with."
"East Windsor, won't that make it hard for you and Lizi to share a car?"
"We'll figure it out," Lizi said quickly. She knew Jane was concerned about inconveniencing her. The only way it could work was if Lizi scheduled her classes around dropping Jane off in the morning and picking her up after school, or if Jane dropped Lizi off on campus super early. Either way, Lizi would have to get up at an ungodly hour, and Jane knew her too well for Lizi to convince her she didn't mind.
Jane spoke more about student teaching, and the three of them continued to talk about school and other subjects that had nothing to do with men.
A/N: Usually what I enjoy about writing JAFF is trying to give it the "feel" of JA's writing, but I've always enjoyed modernizations and decided to take a shot at one. As you've probably gathered, I'm writing in a world where the original book exists. I'm not sure if that will work as I'm envisioning it, but I wanted to give it a try. I thought about holding off on posting this story until summer, but I was eager to start getting it out there and maybe some of you will enjoy some summer fun in the middle of January. Another thing I'm trying is setting most of the story in a place that is as Barnegat Peninsula would be if it were an Island with "Neatherly Beach" at one end instead of Lavallette etc. and a few more fictional places (like Fitzgigi's where Berkley's use to be.) If people who know the area find it confusing to have it part real-place part not, let me know.
Anyway, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the first couple of chapters.