One More for the Road
'Many years ago Elizabeth Bennet made the mistake of choosing Wickham over Darcy, but having finally discovered what one man is and what the other isn't, she proves once again to be those lucky few blessed with a second chance…'
Was she happy back then, before the news the doctor had just given her? Was she really happy…? It was a question Lizzy often asked herself when she looked back at that time in her life. And the answer more often than not was, yes, she supposed she had been. She had a comfortable enough job, a fantastic house in the fashionable part of town and a damn good looking husband.
But then Lizzy went and decided she needed to have a child…hence her being sat there in the Doctor Klump's surgery and analysing the past twenty eight years of her life. There's always a bump in the road, she thought or in her case a mountain. And Lizzy's particular mountain had left her numb, as Dr Klump had gravely told her, she couldn't have children. What was the right response, should she break down, have a tantrum of tears right there with the obviously uncomfortable doctor looking on?
No, Elizabeth Bennet was better than that, she convinced herself that she was stronger than that as well. No fits of tears from her; no she merely gripped the hand of her husband George Wickham tighter and rose to leave. She didn't turn back to take the pamphlets the doctor offered, leaflets and literature on how to deal with the most devastating news a woman should never have to hear.
Lizzy's reaction to it all was strange, and no doubt unique. She didn't speak on the drive home, though Wickham tried vainly to encourage her to open up. She locked herself in the kitchen once they did get home. Sitting at the oak table she looked around her overly priced yet painfully chic kitchen and decided something needed to be done.
So she started baking, yes, baking. She raided the cupboards and the pantry for plain and self-raising flour, icing and caster sugar, raisins, candied peel and chocolate chips…and she started baking. It was strange, somewhere in her mind she had taken on the motherly task of baking sickly sweet treats for the children she was never going to have. Cookies, biscuits and great big chocolate cakes all went into the oven and all ended up on the various counters around her kitchen.
She stopped as suddenly as she had begun and when she did finally unlock the kitchen door, and Wickham had the courage to look in, the place looked like the shop window of a bakery. They were never really going to eat any of it, so the whole simply went to the bemused neighbours and their delighted offspring.
Barely a month after the terrible news she had received and her strange reaction to it, Lizzy took another blow. It was in the week that she had returned to work, she was not ready for it, however much she ascertained otherwise, and after suffering most of the day with a crippling migraine her sympathetic boss sent her home.
Wickham had supposed to have been at a conference for most of the day, he had not anticipated her arriving home early that day nor had Lizzy anticipated what she would find when she did.
The crippling headache was fast becoming one that was threatening to make her sick. As she tentatively climbed the stairs to the bathroom, she temporarily forgot her pain when she came across a strange item of clothing discarded carelessly on the top stair. It was a mini skirt, and given the length and material certainly not one of hers, further on and there lay a pair of trousers and a tie, clothes she most certainly did recognise, Wickham's.
It was then that she heard it, moaning. Not the painful kind like when one is unfortunate to stub their toe, no this was moaning of the other sort, the pleasurable kind. Well somebody was certainly having a hell of a time, and given it was in her bedroom and she was not the one making the noise even Lizzy's much pained mind could make the awful connection. But like those fools in those clichéd horror movies Lizzy had to see to believe the horror, and crossing over to the slightly ajar bedroom door, she peeked at the spectacle and was forced to believe.
There was Wickham, and Lizzy even recognised the blonde sat atop of him. Horror of horrors, her best friend Charlotte Collins! Lizzy retreated without a sound; she descended the stairs as hurriedly and silently. It was only when she got to the opposite street, and locked herself in her car that she let out a scream of anguish.
She sat there and banged her head repeatedly against the steering wheel, she wanted to gouge her eyes out; instead she had to open the door and throw up. Spent, she sat back against the car seat and rested her aching head and her broken heart.
She spent the next few hours in a bar contemplating what was to be done. She could never forgive him, or her. Whatever she thought of Charlotte, his betrayal was the worst, given how kind he had been over the past month…God, she had cried repeatedly on the bastards shoulder, and all the time he had been…Well no more, Wickham was going to pay.
Lizzy's reaction to Dr Klump's news may have been verging on a breakdown, but her reaction to Wickham's infidelity was infinitely more measured. He had a birthday coming up and Lizzy was going to give him the present of his life. She never let on she knew, and carried on as if everything was normal.
But she knew, as soon as her back was turned her darling husband, and 'Charlotte the harlot' as Lizzy had secretly christened her, would be up to their old tricks again.
She set up a camera in the bedroom, an inconspicuous little thing hidden between two books; it had the best vantage point to catch all their antics. She made sure Wickham knew she would be late home from work that day, and then it was merely a matter of waiting. Late that night, once she was sure Wickham was asleep she sneaked the camera into the bathroom and removed the tape. She looked at the tape and then at her reflection in the mirror, and smiled slyly.
Wickham's present was certainly one he would remember, they held his birthday party at a local restaurant. Lizzy had already spoken to the manager and explaining the circumstances, the lady who herself had been burnt in a similar way, was willing to help Lizzy in whatever manner she required. All Lizzy needed was video tape player and the largest television screen that could be found. The manageress hired out a no-expense spared high resolution, gigantic flat screen for the very purpose. After cake and presents Lizzy declared she had a special present for her husband, and gathered all their friends in front of the screen.
'You all know what I've been through this past few months…' she explained to them, 'but I don't think I would have gotten through it had it not been for the support of this wonderfully loyal and loving man…' she kissed her husband to emphasise her point.
She then crossed over to Charlotte and hugged her, 'and where would I have been without my best friend to talk to…so, this is a tribute to the both of them, the people who mean the most to me in the world…'
Lizzy then crossing to the room where the equipment had been set up, hit play and waited for the fireworks to begin. She high-fived the manageress as she left through the back door, once she had firmly ascertained Wickham was getting a thorough pummelling from Charlottes husband.
Revenge is indeed a dish best served cold, but where it involves the two people central to your life it also leaves you dreadfully lonely. Lizzy had driven blindly once she had left the restaurant, not knowing and not caring where she went.
She eventually ended up propping up a bar in a restaurant and steadily getting drunk. The night was long and she had nowhere to go.
What was sadder than a woman drinking at a bar alone? Drinking alone at a bar owned by a man she had once upon a time rejected. She recognised the tall, good looking man emerging fresh from a business meeting in the restaurant, and she remembered why the name above the door outside had seemed so familiar. Georgia's bar, of course, he had named it after his sister.
Her brain was fuddled and all she could think was that wretched line in that film, "Of all the gin joints in all the world and he has to walk into mine" or rather she had walked into his, God she hated that movie. She prayed he didn't recognise her, but of course he would.
'Lizzy…?' he stopped dead in his tracks. His eyes widened at the sight of her. She was a mess, her hair was all over the place and her eyes, those bewitching eyes he had spent so much of his life in love with, they were rimmed red. She had been crying.
'No…?' She replied meekly.
'What are you doing here…?' he demanded rather rudely. What were the chances, he thought.
She raised her glass to him, 'Getting drunk…what are you doing here, get out!'
'I own the place…you get out…!' Darcy shook his head and tried to remember how this conversation had gotten so stupid.
'Fine…I will!' She stood up unsteadily, and jabbing a finger into his chest declared, 'I hope you don't treat all your customers like this Mr Darcy…!'
She fished into her handbag and pulled out a set of keys, Darcy looked on in horror.
'Whoa…there is no way you are driving!' He followed her out of the place and caught her just in time before she fell.
'You can't tell me what to do…' she had reached her car and was unsuccessfully trying to fit the key into the car door lock. The effort of finally getting the door open first made her laugh and then pass out. Darcy caught her in his arms and lifted her up. He placed her in the passenger seat and taking the keys sat in the driver's seat himself. Darcy looked over to her; she was sound asleep, he pushed the hair away from her face and shook his head sadly. Somehow he knew this had everything to do with George Wickham.
Lizzy had the feeling someone was stood watching over, but though she had first attributed the sensation to thinking she had at last drunk too much, died and gone to heaven, upon opening her eyes she was fearful she had died and gone to the other place.
Someone was standing over her, two little someone's in fact with the faces of tigers!
'AAAH…!' her terrified scream was matched by the two strange aberrations stood over her.
'AAAH…!' they all three screamed in unison.
She sat bolt upright, and then wished she had stayed lying down, the throbbing in her head brought last night flooding back to her. Oh no, what had she done…what had she said, what must Darcy think of her?
Darcy hearing the screaming rushed in to find Lizzy sat on the sofa holding her head, flanked by two scary looking beasts.
'Hey…you two, what are you doing in here, you should be getting ready for school, and take those masks off.' He peeled them off and Lizzy was pleased to find the little beasts had the faces of cherubs.
'Sorry Dad…' they mumbled meekly, and skulked off, but not before they turned and gave a rebellious roar to Lizzy. She roared back.
'Dad…?' she asked.
He smiled at her, glad to see she was feeling better. 'Yes…my twin sons, Jacob and Joshua. I'm sorry about the masks; they have a rehearsal for their school play, Noah's Ark. They've been giving people heart-attacks left, right and center.'
Lizzy looked around her, the room was fashionably furnished, and bared all the hallmarks of a woman's subtle touch. But of course, if there were twin sons with cherubic faces, there must be an equally angelic wife. The room was indeed pristine; the only thing out of place was her.
She tried to stand up but swooned. Darcy forced her to sit back down again, 'I think you'd better have this before you even think of moving…' he held out the coffee he had brought with him. Good, strong black coffee that she took from him gratefully.
'Honestly Dad…we get told off for bringing home stray cats and dogs, but stray humans is fine…?'
Lizzy was surprised at the grown up voice coming from the figure stood in the doorway, this little girl couldn't be more than ten.
Darcy regarded her words sternly, but Lizzy could not help but smile at her wit.
Lizzy thought he was talking to her, 'What?'
Darcy looked at her a little bemused, 'No…' he shook his head at her, 'no, this is my daughter Elizabeth… who should be helping her brothers…' Elizabeth, the daughter, hurried away.
Elizabeth! He had named his daughter after her! This was…what was it? Weird…? Beyond that, it was downright deranged.
Darcy interpreted her thoughts precisely, 'my wife named her…I really didn't have a choice, she was her daughter from a previous marriage…'
Oh, now Lizzy understood. It still didn't make the situation any the less uncomfortable.
She leaned back against the sofa and tried to forget last night, unfortunately for her Darcy had other ideas.
'So…' he nudged her gently, 'care to tell me what last night was about. The last time I remember you ever getting that bladdered was when we were at college together. Do you want to tell me what happened?'
Lizzy didn't want to, but he was here and she was here, and there must have been some reason she ended up in his restaurant, something beyond mere fate or coincidence.
'What did you do yesterday…?' She asked him quietly. He was a little thrown by the question and shrugged his shoulders as he answered.
'Nothing interesting, balanced the books, and met some investors…'
'Do you know what I did…?' She interrupted him, 'I spent the whole day wishing I was dead…'
Darcy was shocked at her words; there were tears in her eyes. He took hold of her hand and interlaced his fingers with hers. She was grateful for the touch, and glad that he had been the one to find her; with all the concern for her crossing his features at that moment she could not help but open her heart to him.
And out it pored, all of it, the pain over the past few months, the knowing she couldn't have children and Wickham's sordid affair with her best friend.
He didn't know what to say, and could comfort her in the only way he knew how. He hugged her close and stroked her hair.
She buried her face against his shoulder, 'You know I wouldn't blame you if you said I told you so…'
'What…? Lizzy I would never…'
She drew away from him and smiled, 'I know, still I wouldn't blame you all the same…'
His smile and his warm eyes were melting her. Lizzy thought it best to change the subject, 'So Georgia's bar…How is Georgiana? I suppose she hates me, do you think she'll ever forgive me?'
The friendship between Lizzy and Darcy's sister had long been severed since Lizzy had chosen Wickham over the both of them.
'She's long forgiven you Lizzy; in fact she's married herself now, she moved on a long time ago…' Darcy looked away; the subject of Lizzy's marriage to that man was still painful for him.
'And what about you…' Lizzy although afraid asked all the same, 'I suppose you moved on sooner…'
'Do you blame me…?' his voice was unintentionally accusatory, 'After the way you'd told me how you felt about me…I had every right to look for happiness Lizzy…'
'I know…' she nodded sadly, 'did you find it?'
Darcy didn't answer at first; he picked up a picture frame from the table behind him and handed it to her. It was the picture of a beautiful woman, smiling and holding two baby boys, the twins. This was the angelic bearer of the cherubs, Darcy's wife.
'For a while, Mary died a couple of years ago…' he struggled to speak.
Lizzy felt for him acutely, 'God, I'm sorry…'
'It's alright…' Darcy shook off his gravity, 'So any idea on what you're going to do?'
No, Lizzy did not know what she was going to do then, but she soon figured it out. She didn't go back to the house, the one in the fashionable part of town that she had been particularly proud of. She realised it was empty and false, as false as her marriage to Wickham had been. She chose instead to stay in a hotel for the first month, before Darcy helped her find a flat of her own.
She filed for a divorce from Wickham and had been pleased to hear that he had spent a month in hospital due in no small part to the very thorough pummelling Mr Collins had given him.
Lizzy stayed close friends with the man who had rescued her, Darcy. They stayed close friends, that it is until they got married, and then they became the best of friends.
And yes, Lizzy did bake again, though this time in distinct moderation, or at least the sort of moderation that is known to three sugar hungry children. Though Lizzy could not have children of her own, she did become a mother to Darcy's. She loved all three of them equally, though perhaps it was Elizabeth Darcy's caustic tongue that appealed to her the most. To her she one day offered the most curious piece of advice, no doubt spoken from personal experience.
'Be careful of a sharp tongue little Lizzy…for one day you may realise that it serves to cut no one the deepest but yourself…'