Summary: Eliza's an outspoken activist at NYU; Darcy's a British law student. Eliza's prejudiced to think her opinion is the only one worth having; Darcy's pride causes him to be ill suited to recommend himself to Americans. Hate turns to love as our favorite characters get a modern twist… plot may or may not follow Austen's that closely.
Chapter One – The Ladies of Bennet
It is widely assumed that a young woman, leaving the age of hormonal teenage lust and entering the pre-marriage age, is in want of a man. For the Bennet ladies, this was no falsehood, but perhaps with one small alteration: the man in question should preferably be rich.
Not all the Bennet girls were quite so shallow as to make this their first demand of a potential beau; indeed, the two eldest, Jane and Elizabeth, had never been inclined to be the social-climbers their mother wished them to be. Mrs. Bennet had been a Long Island housewife ever since she had married her husband, an attorney in New York City who made a very respectable income but chose not to engage in the many social offerings his job offered. Not a day went by that Mrs. Bennet did not exclaim in an overemotional voice how much she wished she had married someone with a bit more ambition. Mr. Bennet barely listened to a word his vapid wife ever said, and so the marriage rattled on; deep down, their children assumed, they loved each other. Mrs. Bennet had been a beauty in her day, and her personality allowed her to be content with a life of constant complaining and trivial gossip. Mr. Bennet worked all the time, although he would stop now and then during dinner conversations to put in a good word for his beloved Eliza.
Jane, the eldest of their five daughters, a wonderfully good and kind young lady of twenty-five, was a social worker in Brooklyn. Never had a job been more perfectly suited for someone. Jane, with her sunny blonde hair, porcelain complexion, and sparkling blue eyes, was so pretty and innately good that even the toughest of people she had to deal with often melted under her smile.
Not quite the same could be said about Eliza. While very pretty, Eliza paled next to Jane's beauty, and she found it very hard to be as kind to everyone as Jane was. Eliza often found fault in nearly everyone she met, as she held very high standards in what she thought constituted a good person. Often where people fell short was their disagreement with her opinion; however, she could always be counted on to listen to you respectfully before she told you why and how horribly you were wrong. Taking more after her father, Eliza had thick, espresso brown hair, a straight, somewhat long nose, an easy, sparkling smile, and rather uninteresting hazel eyes. She was to be a senior at New York University in the autumn, where she was involved in many activities like the recycling program, a fair trade organization, and the university's students' civil rights board. Both Jane and Eliza still lived at home; Jane, because being a social worker didn't exactly pay enough for rent in Manhattan, and Eliza because going to NYU was at least a little cheaper if they didn't have to pay for room and board.
It was quite a hot day at the end of June, when as all the girls were sitting in the living room, either reading or just trying to stay awake in the thick heat, their mother came running in, not a bead of sweat on her face.
"Mr. Bennet!" she cried; it was an odd habit of hers to call her husband "Mr. Bennet," but she knew it annoyed him. "Mr. Bennet, I insist you come in here this moment!"
Eliza rolled her eyes noticeably, knowing her father absolutely hated being brought away from his work. Surprisingly, though, he appeared in the doorway, looking irritated and sweaty.
"Why is this confounded air conditioning not working?" he said at once. "I can't work in this horrible heat!"
Mrs. Bennet ignored him, and continued with an air of upmost excitement.
"The Lucases have just told me the most wonderful news! Guess what it is!"
When no one even batted an eyelash, she sighed and continued.
"The mansion on Netherfield beach has just been leased! And guess who has leased it!"
"I did not leave my desk to play guessing games, Fanny!" Mr. Bennet said warningly.
"Alright, alright. Charles Bingley!" she pronounced with great expectation.
This proclamation had no effect whatsoever on the others. Mrs. Bennet looked disappointed for a moment, but then plowed on.
"Mrs. Lucas has told me that he is a very, very wealthy businessman and guess what?" But one look at her husband, and Mrs. Bennet did not wait for an answer. "He's only twenty-seven! Twenty-seven, did you hear me, Mr. Bennet?"
"I heard you quite well, Mrs. Bennet. At first I had no inclination to feel anything but mild surprise that someone actually rented that rusty old dump, but now I feel much relieved that it was a foolish boy of … what did you say, dear?... twenty-seven, and not someone with a little more sense."
"But Mr. Bennet, you must go and see him first thing, before the Lucases get their hands on him. Charlotte's nice enough, but rather homely don't you agree?"
"Whatever do you mean, Mrs. Bennet, by bringing up Charlotte Lucas? What does she have to do with Mr. Bingley's arrival?" Mr. Bennet inquired, though he already knew the answer.
"We can't have Charlotte Lucas taking Mr. Bingley! He must have one of our girls!" cried Mrs. Bennet.
"Hey, Mom, in case you couldn't tell, we're right here. And we're not slabs of meat to be betrothed to any rich guy who happens to walk by," Eliza said, the heat making her irritated.
"Speak for yourself, Lizzie. I know I wouldn't mind marrying a hot rich guy," the second youngest, Lydia, said. She was a lot like their mother: flighty and prone to gossip.
"One out of three marriages end in divorce, Lydia. It's a fact," the middle girl, Mary, scoffed at her sister. Mary was a complete bookworm who until now had had her nose buried in Tolstoy.
"Only cranky old spinsters end their marriages. I bet you'll get divorced, Mary," Lydia said with sneer.
"Girls!" Mrs. Bennet finally cried. "Can we please get back to our original subject? Mr. Bennet must visit Bingley so that we can make a good impression on him! Don't you care at all for my poor nerves? What will I do when your father is gone, and five poor, single daughters that can't look after me?"
"If we're finished…" Mr. Bennet said, turning back into his office.
"We most certainly are not!" Mrs. Bennet cried, but the door had shut behind him.
"Oh! My poor heart," Mrs. Bennet sighed, slumping into a chair. "Will I never feel the joy of seeing a daughter walk down the aisle, and handed to off to a well-suited gentleman? Oh!"
Cate and Lydia, the two youngest and Mrs. Bennet's favorite daughters, hurried over and began to assure her that they would do everything in their power to marry rich (and hot) men. But seeing as they were only fifteen and sixteen, Mrs. Bennet was but little relieved.
A few days later, Jane and Eliza had finally risked the beach after several scorching days had driven them inside. Jane was slathered in SPF 50 sunscreen from head to toe so that her porcelain skin wouldn't fry up like a tomato. Eliza was simply wearing a sundress that covered her shoulders, but not her upperarms, as she, too, tended to burn. They were just walking by the mansion that had caused such uproar in the whole neighborhood for the past week when they noticed that the entire front yard was swarming with people scuttling every which way. It seemed the infamous Mr. Bingley was finally moving in.
"Let's get a better look," Eliza said with a smile, and they casually strolled along the walkway a couple yards from the edge of the property that led back to the street. All sorts of furniture were being hauled out of five different trucks and being carried into the very grand white mansion; a man stood on the front porch apparently directing everyone around.
"That must be him," Jane whispered quite unnecessarily. Eliza squinted her eyes in the hopes of getting a better look, but it was no use. He was too far away, and constantly being obscured by big, muscular moving men. She shrugged to Jane and they went back home, eager to tell their family of what they'd seen.
That night at dinner, Eliza was finding it very hard to concentrate on her steak, due to the fact that every few seconds, her mother would let out an almighty moan and somehow comment on Bingley and his arrival.
"He'll think it so rude that we didn't introduce ourselves! We have the second largest home in the entire neighborhood, and we don't even introduce ourselves! A fancy man like that, he's bound to think us complete boors!"
There was silence, except for Cate and Lydia's murmurs of agreement.
"And now Charlotte Lucas will get him! Such a plain, uninteresting girl. She cannot possibly be a match for him! He must be so handsome!"
"He's an absolute dreamboat," Mr. Bennet suddenly cut in.
Eliza snorted into her couscous; Jane burst into giggles; the rest of the family was staring, awestruck, at Mr. Bennet.
"Blonde hair, blue eyes… a very handsome match for Jane, I daresay," he said with a wink to his eldest.
"How did you come by this information?" Mrs. Bennet trilled. "I thought-"
"I took the liberty of paying a little visit to Bingley, to tell him he has the entire female population of the neighborhood absolutely giddy, and to ask him to please put an end to it as soon as possible."
"Oh Mr. Bennet!" Mrs. Bennet cried. "What a wonderful father you have, girls! Were you there before Lucas?" she added.
"I was the first person of the neighborhood he ever saw, Mrs. Bennet."
"How wonderful!" The rest of the girls were also pleased with their father; Eliza secretly did think it would have been rather rude not to at least have said hello, but had known her father would do it. She happily finished her dinner, blocking out her mother's high-pitched squeals of excitement.
"I am rather excited to meet him, Lizzie," Jane was saying later, when they had regained the sanctity of their room.
"It won't be long. The Lucases are having one of their soirees on Saturday, Charlotte told me," Eliza answered, reaching over and turning on her stereo.
"It'll be nice to have a new face around here," Jane mused.
"A new, handsome face, eh?" Eliza said with a cheeky smile.
"Eliza, I am not Lydia. I don't like people just for their looks!"
"But it sure does help," Eliza shot back, her smile getting broader every second.
Jane giggled, trying to reach over and turn down Eliza's music.
"Hey! You do not turn down the Zeppelin. Just because you listen to crappy soft rock, does not mean I will suffer the same fate," Eliza said, slapping Jane's hand away.
Jane rolled her eyes. "It's adult contemporary music, Lizzie."
Eliza faked puking over the side of her bed. Jane laughed, sitting up in her bed.
"I suppose it wouldn't hurt to marry someone wealthy," Jane said, surprising her sister greatly. Eliza sat up too, wanting to say something witty and offensive, but knew her sister spoke the truth.
"Putting five girls through college has got to make a dent in Dad and Mom's retirement money. It would be nice to be able to help them out," Jane went on.
While Mr. Bennet's job paid a respectable income, it had already been stretched very thin paying for the girls' prep school and Jane and Eliza's college tuitions. Jane's job paid very little indeed; Eliza, who was majoring in anthropology, knew she had a slim chance of getting a good job unless she went to grad school.
"Well, then, you'll just have to look your hottest on Saturday, won't you?" Eliza said with a smile.
"Oh! What should I wear?"
And although both sisters were professional, smart young women, this question was enough to send them off talking about clothes throughout the night.