July 3, 1811 Gracechurch Street, London
Elizabeth Bennet was angry. Her memories of the last two weeks swirled around her head like miniature whirlwinds. She had been preparing for the upcoming trip when a letter had arrived for her father. He had never been amicable with the members of the family that would eventually inherit his estate, so the letter from Mr. Collins had come as a shock to the entire family. Well, Lizzy amended to herself, her youngest sisters had not cared as the news would not affect their lives. In their minds, if it didn't concern boys, it didn't concern them.
She wished it was not so late in the evening, so she could walk off her frustration in the park. Laughing softly, she admitted that she had done her fair share of walking, both at Longbourn and here in London, and it had done little good. Still, whenever she felt like this her first instinct was to move. Instead, she picked up her little brown journal that she had poured her thoughts into so many times and opened the cap on the bottle of ink.
She sharpened her pen as the inane phrases her cousin had used made her roll her eyes in an unladylike fashion. His offer to "extend an olive branch" would end up destroying all of her hopes of marrying for love, affection, and even respect, for she knew that she could never feel that way toward someone who was so devoid of sense as Mr. Collins appeared to be. Lizzy had initially presumed that her father was joking when he informed her that he had written back offering the ridiculous man the hand of his second eldest daughter, but was soon convinced that he had been in earnest. She still did not understand his reasoning, and his unwillingness to explain caused her much exasperation.
Bitterness filled her as she wrote the last journal entry of her current life. She couldn't bear to reread her own thoughts that she had recorded since the time she was seven. The little book had almost always been secreted inside the hidden drawer of her desk at her aunt and uncle's house. The one time she brought it to Longbourn, she actually caught Jane looking in it. She had never spoken of it to anyone, but feeling anxious, and admittedly not a little betrayed, she had never taken it there again. She couldn't stand the idea that any of her family would read her innermost thoughts, especially Mr. Collins. No, the book and this room were never to be hers again, and Lizzy felt bereft.
Lizzy sighed as she laid her pen down after finishing her last entry in her journal. She knew her words were hopeless and angry, but that was how she felt as she sanded the paper, placed the little book inside the hidden drawer, and slid it closed. Inexplicably, she never even wanted to see it again! Perhaps she should burn the little book, but she couldn't imagine that either. Somehow, it seemed important to leave it behind. It was the end of all her dreams. They had shattered, and she felt too tired to begin picking up the pieces.
Being melancholy did not come naturally to her, in fact she felt like she was being pulled deeper into despair against her will, against her reason, and even against her character. She looked around her little room, much more of a home to her than the room that she shared with Jane at Longbourn. She had certainly spent more time here over the years.
Appreciative thoughts toward her aunt and uncle ran through her head. Aunt Madeline had never complained when she showed up, even if it happened in the middle of the night. She would wait patiently as Lizzy cried in her arms, wetting her shoulder, and would listen to her anytime she needed to talk. Her advice was always wise and well-thought-out over the years. She had always treated her like one of her own children. This was the last time Lizzy would reside in this little room, and her heart was breaking. Tomorrow she would leave on her last trip with her aunt and uncle. Bittersweet feelings flooded Lizzy's soul. Their last trip together would be to Derbyshire and the Peak District. Aunt Maddie wanted to show her Lambton before it was too late, while Lizzy ached to both see and climb the Peaks.
She had experienced so much thanks to her aunt and uncle. She knew that she was different from her family in large part to them, and she was truly grateful. Most of the time, she felt closer to them than she did her own parents. Her uncle had provided her an education that was perhaps not exactly considered ladylike. He had encouraged her to read and learn anything she wished, and he promoted critical thinking by having spirited debates with her in the evenings sometimes. Her aunt had taken on her training in ladylike behavior. She taught her to sew and embroider and hired masters to teach her to play the pianoforte and sing. She had shown her how to manage a household and to follow a budget. Lizzy had used this education to assist at Longbourn, and taught herself how to manage an estate with the help of her father's steward. Of course this had ended up biting her, but she couldn't repine the education. She was reasonable and rational while most of her family was anything but.
She felt the weight of poor decision making on her small shoulders. Why she was the one responsible for saving the family, she would never know. Unfortunately, the decision had been made, and Lizzy saw no way to escape. She climbed into her comfortable bed, and blew out the candle. As darkness filled the room, tears welled in her eyes and, for the first time since the edict had arrived, Lizzy cried herself to sleep.
The next morning she woke early, feeling much more like herself. Her courage had always risen when she felt intimidated, and it didn't fail her now. She would take this summer and enjoy every moment. When it was over, and she was returned to Longbourn, she would plan her future. She would take it one day, one moment at a time. However, she was also determined that if her cousin turned out to be as ridiculous as his letter suggested, she would not condemn herself to a marriage with him. With her mind resolved, she finished her packing, then proceeded to enter the nursery to help the children get ready for the upcoming trip.
Shattered by Trading Yesterday