º Books, Memories and Rain º
The night passed swiftly and the moon left the dark sky and returned to its sleep. Netherfield Park shone with a beautiful morning light which gently poured through each of the windows of the glorious house. The grooms and the maids had been long awake as they prepared their master's breakfast and dining room.
Darcy was hardly able to sleep through the night; he would wake up to dreams of the kiss he had shared with Miss Elizabeth and of her eyes, voice, figure and even her lips. As soon as sunlight crept through his silky curtains he got up and got dressed, he was not able to keep his thoughts from straying to Miss Elizabeth. I was supposed to build more distance between us…Whatever it is that I am feeling right now confuses me, I was supposed to stop paying so much attention to her, to stop thinking about her so much!
"Ah, blast," he said under his breath as he tried to get his cravat set for the third time. He went to his window and stared at the morning-glowing grounds and decided that he needed to get his composure back up, set his thoughts straight and calm down. He knew that if he were to see Miss Elizabeth in the state he was right then; he would not be able to control his actions…Just like yesterday.
He dashed out of his room, down the staircase, past the grooms, towards the stable, onto his horse and away from Netherfield Park.
Elizabeth breathed in deeply and slowly and quite reluctantly opened her eyes; she saw the handsomely decorated room which Mr. Bingley had arranged for her sister and herself. She sighed and turned to look at the canopy of her bed. As she laid there in her bed staring intently at the edge of her canopy memories of the previous afternoon plagued her. She gasped softly and unconsciously raised her hand to touch her lips.
"My God," she whispered to herself, "It was not a dream."
"Lizzy, are you awake?" her sister's soft voice whispered.
Elizabeth sat up on her bed and looked at her sister's face which was funnily framed by her sleep-ruffled hair. Jane gave her a sweet smile and she smiled back at her and then said:
"Beloved sister, how are you this morning?" Jane laughed softly, "Are you feeling better now?"
"Quite well, I do feel better, thank you for inquiring," She replied, "how are you today, dearest sister?" she continued.
"Awake," Elizabeth answered with a small smile; she stood up and went to get ready for breakfast. She walked towards her small suitcase and pulled out one of her dresses; she then leaned towards a wall as the thought of seeing Mr. Darcy popped into her reeling mind. Good Lord, how am I supposed to look him in the eye after such an interlude! She thought as she sighed once more, I do not think that staying in the room for the whole day is a wise decision even if it sounds very agreeable.
"Lizzy, the groom just announced breakfast so we better make haste," her sister said from the room.
"Oh, yes" Elizabeth looked at her reflection in the mirror, stared at her lips as the memory of a kiss touched them; she came back to her senses and ran to meet her sister.
"Shall we get going then?" Jane nodded with her usual sweet smile and they made their way down the staircase and towards the dining room.
As the grooms opened the white doors they revealed the occupants of the room. Mr. Bingley was already sitting at the table and engaged in conversation with his sister; when he noticed Jane's figure as she entered the room he completely lost the course of the conversation and gasped softly. Caroline Bingley turned as she saw the Bennet sisters approaching the table and directed a glare at Elizabeth who did not notice it at all for she was trying to suppress a smile at Mr. Bingley's blushing face.
They said their "Good Mornings" to each other and Bingley happily asked:
Miss Bennet are you feeling better this morning?" with a smile towards Jane.
"I do feel better, I believe it is because of the attention I have received here, Mr. Bingley," she smiled at Bingley and added shyly," I can not begin to tha-"
"I will have none of that, Miss Bennet," he smiled at both sisters and beckoned them to sit, "You must be hungry,"
Elizabeth was surprised by Mr. Darcy's absence and was about to ask Mr. Bingley about him but thought better about it and kept quiet; her sister however did inquire after him.
"Is Mr. Darcy not accompanying us this morning?" she asked politely.
"The groom informed me that he left earlier today," Bingley replied, "You need not worry, perhaps he had urgent matters to attend,"
Caroline seemed to sulk after her brother's remark. After not finding Mr. Darcy during the Sardines game which had taken place the previous afternoon and discovering that he had been hiding with Miss Elizabeth all those hours she hoped she would be able to spend some time with him. Caroline had felt outraged as she walked down the staircase the day before; she heard her brother's and Mr. Darcy's voices and when she saw him with Miss Elizabeth she almost choked with jealousy. They both had looked somehow uncomfortable that the thought of something happening between them popped into her mind; she shooed it away knowing that Mr. Darcy would not do such a thing.
"Let us not wait any longer," Bingley remarked after a minute of silence, "The food will get cold you know," Elizabeth gave him a smile, Jane laughed softly and Caroline simply kept quiet and ate her food silently. After breakfast was over Caroline excused herself and said that she was returning to her bedchamber; Elizabeth looked at her retreating back and understood the reason for her bad mood. While Miss Bingley felt utterly disappointed by Mr. Darcy's strange departure, Elizabeth could not be more relieved for she did not trust herself to be able to look him in the eye just yet.
It was not that she was ashamed or embarrassed; she found herself to be extremely confused by this man. She was so sure that the man that hid with her the previous day was not Mr. Darcy; he looked at her so differently that to believe that it was indeed the same man she met at the Meryton Assembly was unthinkable. He is prideful, arrogant, pompous, self-conceited…Who was that man I saw yesterday? She thought as she walked into the library. I have to remain calm...I have to stop thinking about what happened and not be blinded by it! I can not forget what he said about me!
She nodded as if to reassure herself of her position in the matter and took a book from one of the enormous bookshelves. She walked out into the garden for the day seemed to be much more promising that the previous one; she sat on a small bench which was located under some trees and started to read. Hours drifted by and Elizabeth stayed focused in the book she had picked out. After a while she went into the house for some refreshment and she saw her sister and Mr. Bingley walking towards the garden entrance.
"Miss Elizabeth would you like to accompany your sister and I in a carriage ride through the grounds?" Mr. Bingley asked kindly. Elizabeth saw her sister's slight blush and decided to leave the two of them to some solace.
"Oh, no thank you, Mr. Bingley," she offered him a small smile, "I am not feeling quite apt for a ride plus I am reading an excellent book which I am looking forward to finishing,"
"Very well then, we will see you for tea then, Miss Elizabeth" he remarked with his usual smile.
"Indeed," was Elizabeth's brief reply, and she watched them walk out into the garden and towards a small carriage. She smiled to herself as the carriage drifted away; she walked back out and decided to take a small stroll around the nearby grounds before resuming her reading.
Darcy had spent the whole morning galloping and then sitting under an enormously large tree, where he tried to arrange his reeling thoughts and calm his thumping heart. After what appeared to be eternal hours he decided to return to Netherfield and as he was about to mount his horse he decided that perhaps walking half-way to Netherfield would be helpful.
"I would like to walk with her," he thought to himself and he made his way back.
When the mansion came to view he mounted his horse and went straight to the stable where one the grooms seemed to be slightly surprised by him. You did bolt out of the house with no previous notice, he thought. He simply got off his horse and handed it to the groom; he straightened his coat and walked into the house, he asked one of grooms after Bingley and the Bennet sisters and he was told that they had left for a carriage ride around the grounds. Darcy felt slightly relieved that he was being given more time away from Miss Elizabeth; he decided to go to the library and perhaps spend the rest of the afternoon reading at least until tea.
When in the library he started looking for a particular book which he had begun to read a couple of days before but when he went to the spot where he had left it, he found an empty space. For a moment he stared at the empty space and then shook his head and looked for another book. It is a pity, that book was certainly quite interesting. He sat on one of the large velvety couches that were comfortably placed in the large room and began his reading.
Elizabeth ended up in a small clearing which was located in the middle of a large group of trees. She decided to continue her reading there and sat down, as sunlight shifted every once in a while in between the tree's leaves. Elizabeth read on and enormous grey clouds like the ones which settled on Netherfield the previous afternoon drew closer to the mansion. Rain drops started falling and suddenly it was pouring down. Elizabeth made her way back as quick as she could for it was quite difficult to see through the woods with all that rain. She kept running but suddenly she tripped on a large root; the book she was holding flew out of her grip and into a bed of flowers.
She stood up and went to the flower bed to look for the book which she wanted to maintain as dry as possible. When she could not see the book, she slid her hand through the branches, leaves and stems, and she felt the tip of the leather binding. As she inched closer to it she felt a stabbing pain in her hand.
"Ouch!" she yelped and finally held the book in her hurt hand; she drew it out and stared at a rather large cut she had in her palm; blood started dripping out of it so she closed her hand and continued running with the book safely kept under her left arm. When the house came to view she decided to take a breath and stood under a large tree which protected her from the pouring rain.
"Another rainy afternoon," she sighed and stared at her bloody hand and then at the grey sky; she leaned her head on the tree's bark and released a shaky breath.
Darcy's reading was interrupted by the sound of raindrops crashing against the library window. He stood up and saw the grey clouds which settled right above the mansion and he sighed.
"I hope Miss Bingley does not suggest another Sardines game," he said to himself.
He lowered his gaze onto the darkening grounds and saw a small figure standing under a tree, the person was staring at the sky and simply standing there getting drenched by the rain. Who would be so crazy to stand under a tree in the middle of a downpour? He tried to see who the person was, he suspected it was a maid or a groom and when he was able to tell who it was his breath hitched. Do not tell me…It can not be…
"Miss Elizabeth?" he asked to the empty room, "Was she not with Bingley and Miss Bennet?" he saw her shaky figure standing still and after a few seconds of staring at her he realized that she was getting quite wet out there; he got his coat and ran outside to get her. As soon as he crossed the door he felt awfully cold and shivered slightly, how in heavens has she managed to stay out here with this cold?
When he got under the tree he saw that Miss Elizabeth had not noticed his presence, she still had her eyes closed and every once in a while she would let out a soft sigh. Suddenly as he gazed at her silently he realized that he was indeed standing next to her, standing so close to this woman who kept on plaguing his thoughts and made him lose control of himself…this woman whom he had kissed and held the previous afternoon. He swallowed and with his usual low voice said:
"Miss Elizabeth," when she heard her name being called she almost jumped, she opened her eyes and turned to look at the man whom she had no intention of seeing at all, who confused her and her heart so…why was he standing there next to her? She felt her heart thumping in her chest and tried to calm it down.
"Oh, Mr. Darcy," she replied softly, "I did not know you were back already,"
"I already solved the business I had," was all he said.
"Right," she looked at him in the eye and he did not falter, "If I may be so bold to ask Mr. Darcy, what brought you out here in the rain?"
"You did", he was about to answer but he held back and cleared his throat.
"I saw you from the library, you were standing still and getting wet," he gave her a small almost non-existent smile, "I thought that something might be wrong." Elizabeth stared at Darcy and a small silence fell between them, they both tried to keep the memories of the previous afternoon in the back of their minds but it proved to be amazingly difficult. Darcy then noticed that Elizabeth kept on stifling her shivering and remembered that they were under a tree in the middle of a downpour.
"Perhaps it would be wise if we go back in," he suggested softly, Elizabeth looked at him and only nodded while shivering slightly.
"Here, have my coat, Miss Elizabeth," he said as he placed the coat around her shoulders, "You have been out here too long, you might get ill," he said almost to himself but Elizabeth heard him and was shocked by his worrying. She drew the large coat closer to her and turned to look at Darcy with a small slight smile.
"Let us go, then,"
They quickly made their back into the mansion, when they were engulfed by the warmth the house radiated; they stood in the hallway with no idea of what to do or say. Elizabeth stood there with Darcy's coat, the book under her arm and blood still flowing from her wound, she lightly closed her fist and the stabbing pain returned reminding her of her hurt hand.
"Ouch," she groaned softly and grabbed her bleeding hand, as she did so the book which was under her arm fell to the floor with a dry thud. Darcy hurried to Elizabeth's side and looked at her hand, he wanted to see the wound so he requested to do so; Elizabeth hesitantly showed him her wounded palm. Darcy saw that it pained Elizabeth to move her hand, even open it so he cradled it gently with his own hands and examined the bloody wound. It was not serious but it had to be taken care of so he drew out his hanker-chief and wrapped it around the wound to stop the bleeding.
"We better treat this so that it does not get infected," he said to her with a serious expression, "Does it hurt too much, Miss Elizabeth?" Elizabeth was feeling slightly dizzy by Darcy's close proximity and the fact that he was still holding her hand in his and unconsciously caressing it; when he touched her, her mind immediately jolted back to the small storage room, to the memory of his hand caressing her face, she shivered as she remembered.
"Are you cold?" he asked worriedly, "Come with me; allow me to treat you wound," Elizabeth only nodded her head and just as they were going to make their way to the drawing room she remembered the book she had dropped so she leant down and tried to pick it up but she felt a pang again so she quickly stood back up. Darcy saw her lean down and he directed his gaze to the floor, he saw a book and picked it up for her; he stared at the book for a minute before he realized it was the same book he had been reading. Was she reading this...We read the same book?
Darcy blinked and though it was a very silly thing to think of, the idea of Miss Elizabeth reading the same book he read made his heart thump in his chest, somehow it brought a small thought to his head in which his mind whispered to him: "She is made for you," and when he thought this, the memory of how awfully right it felt to have her close to him, to hold her in his arms and to kiss her, made him weak in the knees.
"Shall we?" he asked as he cleared his throat, Elizabeth nodded once more and they walked side by side to the drawing room; Darcy waited until Elizabeth was sitting to go to one of the maids and ask her for some cloth and a bowl of water. When the maid left the room Darcy and Elizabeth were left in an uncomfortable silence in which they stole small glances at each other without the other noticing. Neither knew what to say or rather they did not know how to voice their thoughts; Elizabeth was exceedingly puzzled by Mr. Darcy's worried behaviour, by his soft words and his warm eyes.
Darcy on the other hand felt utterly overwhelmed by Elizabeth, he felt drawn to her there was something in her which simply kept him enthralled…he discovered that despite his previous thoughts he felt comfortable in her company…he felt complete. He soon understood that his heart's wish was to hold Miss Elizabeth in the exact way he held her before and this thought frightened and thrilled him; he did not know how to act and what was worse he no longer could tell what could be his wisest move…whether to try and get closer to her or draw away from her and forget her. But I do not know if I will be able to forget her…
The maid came back to the room carrying the things Darcy had ordered. After she left, Darcy hesitated before nearing Elizabeth again. He took a deep breath and sat next to her in the large couch she was sitting on, he drenched the cloth in the water and said:
"Miss Elizabeth, let me see your hand," she stared at him as he took her hand and with exceeding gentleness started cleaning her wound; she stifled a groan when it hurt too much and Darcy admired her strength. He would look at her constantly to see her reaction to his touch and her gaze was the only thing that betrayed her strong attitude, it would falter when the cloth touched her skin.
When Darcy finished cleaning her wound he covered it with a small bit of cloth and sighed. He looked up at Elizabeth whom he found had been looking at him all along; Darcy blushed slightly under her intense gaze and after seconds of silence he cleared his throat for the umpteenth time.
"Is that any better?" he asked gently.
"It is," Elizabeth replied looking at her hand, "Thank you, Mr. Darcy,"
"Not to worry, Miss Elizabeth," he replied seriously and another silence fell yet again. Elizabeth kept staring at her hand and Darcy settled his gaze on the book he picked up for her and found himself asking after it.
"Were you reading that book, Miss Elizabeth?"
"I was, I started it this morning and found it quite interesting," she replied with a small smile.
"I am glad you found it to your liking," he replied while taking the book in his hands, "I myself enjoyed reading it,"
"Have you read it?" she inquired with pure surprise in her eyes.
"I am not quite finished," he said as he looked into her alluring brown eyes, "I looked for it this afternoon when I went into the library and felt slightly disappointed when I did not find it, I am glad to know you had it,"
"Oh, I am sorry I did not let you carry on with your reading," she stated with a slight apologetic look.
"Do not trouble yourself, I would have you finish it first," he replied with the same intense gaze he had the previous afternoon before he kissed Elizabeth. This made her breath hitch for a slight moment and she tore her gaze from his.
"I think I will return to my room now," she added as she stood up shakily. Darcy only looked at her with slight sadness for he liked having her near him. Elizabeth tried to support herself with her hurt hand and ended up in more pain than before; Darcy was immediately holding her steady and asking her if it hurt too much.
When she was able to stand Darcy was still standing amazingly close to her and was holding her hand gently in his, he looked down at her, gazing intently into her eyes, and with a low almost husky voice he asked:
"How is your hand?"
Elizabeth was speechless, there they were standing in the middle of the drawing room alone once again, Darcy holding her hand and standing almost kiss-close to her. She closed her eyes for a moment as memories came back to her; she released a shaky breath and looked back up at Darcy.
"Better now," she said to her surprise and Darcy's too.
"I am glad," he said with a slight smile which knocked out Elizabeth, "Miss Elizabeth…I must tell you," he inched closer and Elizabeth could feel his breath on her face, I am losing control again…They both thought as Darcy softly caressed her hand and looked at her with his passion-filled blue eyes.
"Darcy!" a male voice called from the hallway, "Darcy where are you?" Darcy and Elizabeth jumped away from each other and avoided the other's gaze. When Bingley came in he found Darcy walking towards the door and Elizabeth leaning down to grab a book.
"Darcy, back already!" he grinned at his friend who only twitched the corners of his mouth upwards, "Miss Bennet and I were caught in a dreadful rain! We almost could not make it back here," he finished with a laugh. When Caroline heard Mr. Darcy's name being called she ran out of her room and down the stairs to meet her brother, Miss Bennet, Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth.
"Oh, Mr. Darcy," she said with her light voice, "It is good to have you back," Darcy only nodded and excused himself with a last glance towards Elizabeth who was being questioned by her sister about her wet dress and wrapped up hand.
"I just tripped and fell," she said with a small smile, "I am fine now,"
They all got ready for tea, during which Caroline spent the whole time trying to engage Mr. Darcy in a conversation. Elizabeth and Darcy did not cross gazes throughout the whole rest of the evening and when everyone went to bed they each had new thoughts to plague their minds; they both felt confused and they both felt in the bottom of their hearts a sense of loss for what may have happened if Bingley had not interrupted. You can not think of that non sense Lizzy! Set your mind straight! She thought as she lay in bed. You can not lose control like that again, man! It is neither right nor proper! Darcy thought as he undid his cravat and washed his face with cold water.
The next morning came, Mrs. Bennet came to Netherfield with Lydia, Kitty and Mary. They all sat in Mr. Bingley's drawing room as they waited for Jane to get ready to go. Elizabeth sat there feeling embarrassed by her mother and sisters, and though she would not admit to it she also felt nervous because of Mr. Darcy's presence in the room. He had been silent throughout the whole course of the morning until Bingley asked how he liked the country side. He did not as much as look at Elizabeth at all and this puzzled her even more, she did not understand his changing attitude. Perhaps he has chosen to forget about both incidents…as I should do. She directed a serious glance at him but he kept looking elsewhere…Right that is what I should do. She thought firmly.
They walked out to the main entrance where their carriage was waiting for them, Elizabeth was the last to go out of the huge mansion accompanied by Miss Bingley; they curtsied and Elizabeth made her way to say her good bye to Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy. She almost glared at Mr. Darcy as she let out her cold "Good bye, Mr. Darcy," and turned to Mr. Bingley with a smile and a small curtsy.
She was about to step onto the carriage when she felt a large, warm hand holding hers and as she stepped up, she turned and found Mr. Darcy's serious gaze staring back at her. They stood there as if time had frozen for a moment, a moment in which they both remembered both encounters, each touch and each look and during that frozen moment they knew that both incidents would be locked away in their hearts no matter how much they denied it. Darcy let go of her hand and turned away from her almost reluctantly and walked away.
"It will be a secret," he thought to himself. "A secret and a memory which I will keep in my heart" he muttered to himself as he flexed his hand and entered the mansion.
"It was a simple touch," they both thought as they parted ways.