As she scurried through the darkness towards what she hoped was the horse fields, Isabella pushed all thoughts from her mind and concentrated on breathing and moving. The faint silhouettes of the shack and the increasingly unstable nature of the ground told her she was nearing her destination. She hadn't looked back since she'd left the house, turning around and looking at that place would just remind her that everything was a lie. And how do you react to the realisation that everything you ever loved and cherished was fake? It was too much to take in at once, so she ran, pounding the muddy ground with her obscenely expensive shoes as if it would distract her mind. Finally, with aching feet and legs ready to collapse, she made it to the shack.
Forcing her way through the mud with hiccuping breath, she found the faintly lit stable where Darcy's horse rested, eating a large pile of hay. The owner himself was not there, she didn't know why she expected him to be. Struggling under the weight of the mud on her clothes, she stumbled onto a a make-shift seat constructed from hay and rested. She hadn't quite stopped crying, but her tears were decreasing in volume. Someone would probably find her soon, she hoped it would be Darcy. Something in her mind doubted he would make her return to the house. Home wasn't the appropriate word anymore. Isabella didn't know if she'd ever feel at home anywhere now. The exhaustion began to set in but she dare not let her eyes shut. The dark water would creep back into her dreams, stronger and deadlier than before.
"Izzy?" A familiar and welcome voice called through the door. "Are you in here?" Darcy stormed through the door, mud splattered over his shirt and face, and sighed with relief when he saw Isabella lying on the hay. "Oh jeez, thank God you're here!" In the relief of the moment he grabbed her in his arms and hugged her limp body, the faint rumbling in her chest against his own the only sign of life in her. He kept her in that position tightly for a few seconds then Isabella gently lifted her shaking arms towards his shoulders. The barely visible blonde hairs on her arms rose to attention, she hadn't realised how cold it had become. She pulled away and saw dirty stains left across Darcy's shoulders.
"Oh Darcy I'm so sorry. Look, I've got mud all over your shirt." Isabella couldn't get the end of her sentence out coherently, for her tears started again and turned it into a blubbering mess.
"It's nothing, don't worry about it." Darcy replied, tossing aside anything that didn't concern Isabella. "Izzy, your dad's got about a hundred people looking for you. Your grandma's crying her eyes out and a step away from calling the police. What the hell were you thinking?"
"Did you tell anyone you were coming here?" Isabella asked, not wanting to hear about those people again.
"Well, no. I just thought I'd check here anyway. Don't know why. God, you're freezing. Come on, I'll take you home."
"I'm not going back to that house."
"Come on Izzy, whatever happened with you and your dad, it'll sort itself out. I argue with my dad all the time but we always make up. He just wants you back safely, he's so worried."
"I can't go back there, I don't belong there. They've done nothing but lie to me and I'm not going to be part of that anymore. I'm not their servant!"
"Oh God, I'm sorry, that was a stupid comparison. I just can't be involved with that house or those people or the liars that are part of the name Hockley!"
"Izzy, I am always going to help you out if you need it, and right now it sounds like you do. But I need to know why you won't go back."
"It's a little complicated."
"I've got plenty of time." He kept an arm around her, hoping it would warm her up a little. "Come on, what's wrong."
Darcy had been an unusual and sudden addition to her life, with his well meaning actions and meandering, spontaneous ways. He was always interesting, something that enthralled Isabella. He may have been a more recent aquanitance, but she trusted him more at that moment than anybody else who she could think of. He had never lied to her. Those few days of honesty compared to a lieftime of deceit.
"It's all a lie. Everything in my life has been twisted and made to fit with what those people in that stupid house find convenient! I... I don't understand why someone would be so shameless as to do that. Does basic human decency apply to these people?" Isabella rambled so quickly and incoherently that she began to choke.
"Izzy, slow down. Just breathe. I'm a little lost. Why don't you just start from the beginning?"
Shaking, either from anger or anguish or a little of both, Isabella closed her eyes and told her revelation out loud.
"I'm not one of them. I'm not a Hockley, I'm not fa... that man's daughter." It felt like an increasing weight forcing it's way down onto her stomach as she said it out loud. She was confused about what to call Hockley. 'Father' no longer applied but there was still an awkwardness attached to calling him Cal.
"What? Are you sure?" Darcy was as shocked as she at the news.
"Very sure. He told me everything today." Isabella held her face in her clammy hands. "He took me, he grabbed me in a moment of complete chaos and lied to me about everything. I'm nobody's daughter. I don't have a family now, I don't even know my real name."
She continued her story, recalling as much of Cal's words as she could. As the tale progressed, she found the crushing weight in her body lifting, replaced by a burning intensity. Fury filled her heart, moving outwards around her body. Her sentences became sharp and deliberately hurtful about the Hockleys. Even though she was the eventual messenger of truth on the matter, she held a special malice towards Jocelyn.
"That witch! That woman is evil, there's no other word for it. She's been laughing at me for years behind my back. They all have. I've been made a fool of. I'm not worth being told the truth by them. I don't know anything now, I don't even know who I am!"
Darcy thought about what he'd just heard for a moment. He'd seen no indication whatsoever during his time in the Hockley estate that Isabella was not Caledon's child. A piece of news like that would have spread like wildfire around the servant's quarters. His father had worked for the family for most of his life and he'd... Darcy's thoughts spiralled. His father must have kept the secret for all this time too. He couldn't have not known. He felt sick knowing he was part of this all, part of the pain Isabella was going through.
"Izzy..." He ran out of anything else to say and simply held her. "Oh Izzy. I don't get it either."
"I can't remember any of it. How can you forget something like that? Like your real family?"
"It was a pretty traumatic moment in your life. Apparently your mind tries to block that stuff out as much as it can. You were so young."
"I hate that man." She spat, her head on Darcy's shoulder. "He's a monster!"
"Well... he did lie and that's completely wrong of course. But he saved your life too. He gave you a life. You can't be angry at him for doing that."
"But why keep it a secret? He said he was afraid of losing me. Apparently he had that much faith in me."
"He wanted a daughter. He wanted somebody to love and care for. You can't choose who these things happen to, it's fate."
"But he didn't give me that benefit to choose. Did he not think that I could still love him and think of him as a father without the biological ties? He has done a lot for me, he did save my life and give me those amazing memories. But they're tainted now. It feels dirty knowing I was only saved because it saved his ass at the same time!" She didn't even care that she'd let a curse slip through her lips. "It's all gone now. I'm nobody now."
"Don't say that. You're still you, even if you aren't a Hockley. It's the person that makes the name, not the other way round. You can do whatever you want with your life. Not because of that surname, but because you're a damn great girl. Stop me if I get too cheesy here but you're amazing, and I know it ain't just me that thinks so."
"Thank you Darcy. That's very sweet of you, but I don't really want to hear faint praise right now." Isabella said. She was comfortable with Darcy, free of restraints and deceit. He simply made her feel lighter, less afraid.
"What are you going to do now?" He asked her.
"I can't go back. I can't stand the idea of being in the same room as those people."
"Where are you gonna go?"
"I don't know. Anywhere. I just need to get away. Go anywhere."
Darcy considered the possibilities. He couldn't leave her on her own. She was a socialite, raised to be given the best. As good as her instincts were, and as unusually down-to-earth as she was, he knew she'd be eaten alive by the real world and all it's troubles. Times weren't easy for the regular people of America, especially the city dwellers. He'd seen it, he'd lived it and he had hated every moment of that bitter isolation. Isabella would break so easily. He couldn't let her be hurt anymore.
"Come on," He said, standing up and grabbing her hand.
"I'm not going back!"
"I'm not talking about that. I'm coming with you. We'll just run away, go wherever we want to. You can start something completely new away from here. Come on, we can sneak back and I'll get my dad's car. We could go to Manhattan or Brooklyn or maybe even further away than that. Chicago! You'd love it there. Or maybe south, somewhere warm like Florida. Just say the place and we'll go."
"I can't let you abandon your life because of me."
"Don't worry about it. I don't have a thing tying me to this place. My dad will understand, I'll write to him later. He'll look after Lizzy for me too. This isn't about me anyway. This is about you starting your life again. Me, I've done it countless times. Sometimes it works and other times the shit hits the fan like crazy. But it's an experience I don't regret. You'll understand it yourself. Come on. Whee do you want to go?"
This was it, she thought. The next level was going to be tough. But she couldn't go back to what she once was. That part of her life couldn't exist anymore. She needed a new identity. She didn't want to be tied to that man, or those people anymore. Relaxing her limbs, but still uneasy on her feet, she let Darcy lead the way back into the darkness. They headed back towards the house, a journey that caused Isabella to panic. Her heart thumped against her chest at a quickening pace the closer the lights became. Darcy felt her tighten her grip, enjoying the sweet sensation of her hand in his. They reached the driveway. He dragged Isabella behind his father's car, a modest Ford model with rust on the edges. He needed the keys.
"Just stay here. Don't let yourself be seen. I'll get the keys, and some of your clothes too. Then we'll just go. Okay?"
Isabella nodded, not able to hide her fear. She crouched down into the shadows and watched Darcy run back into the house.
The few servants who had not joined the search were trying to discuss the matter while giving off the impression of doing something useful. Jocelyn sat in the dining room, reading a newspaper as if nothing was wrong. Darcy watched her casually take a drink as her lips curled into a smile under the glass. He had once heard of something called karma, a belief that if you do something bad then it will come back to haunt you. He hoped that would happen to Jocelyn, she deserved everything bad that came her way. He headed towards Isabella's room, looking as non chalant as possible. Grabbing a small bag, he shoved in as many clothes as possible, getting a little embarassed when it came to underwear. As he left the room, he saw a pile of sheet music sitting on a desk. He couldn't let her abandon her music, it was too big a part of her life. He folded the sheets carefully and put them into the bag. They might come in handy, he thought.
The servants' quarters were fortunately empty. Everybody that was able had been sent to search the entire area. They would be gone all night, Hockley wouldn't let them return without Isabella in hand. He didn't know Cal very well but he didn't matter to Darcy. Isabella did, and he knew he sounded impossinly silly when he talked of how much he liked her. His father knew what it meant but chose to ignore it. He knew nothing could come of it. Until now. Isabella was free and he cared for her deeply. He obviously cared more for her than her supposed family. Lies weren't part of his vocabulary anymore. They caused too much pain. He wanted to make sure she would never have to be lied to again. He grabbed the spare set of car keys from his room, along with all the money he had saved, and quickly left. He didn't notice Preston watching from behind.
Preston knew his son too well. He was a stubborn, dim-witted, spontaneous mess. He made decisions without so much as a thought for others. He wasn't adverse to a little gambling and he was as notorious a skirt chaser as Preston had been in his hey day. But he was also full of love. Sometimes he became so full of it that he did stupid things. He knew the signs of Darcy going through such a phase. He also knew that he couldn't tell a lie. If he said something to you, it was 100 the truth. That got him in trouble a lot. But if he felt so strongly about Isabella, like he had seen him look at her, then it was geniune and worth a try. Watching his son, determination in his eyes, he knew that this decision was stupid. But it was right. He didn't stop Darcy from starting up he car and driving away to god knows where. People would get hurt, his employer being the main victim. He hoped that it would be worth it all.
Isabella kept her head down as the car left the driveway and hit solid road. Her mind didn't stop sreaming until Darcy told her to sit up. They were on their way.
"Where to Izzy?" He asked her.
"You choose. I'm happy with wherever you want to go."
"I know the perfect place."
Isabella trusted his judgement. The flickering car lights illuminated the way ahead, as unsure as the passengers.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
A.N. Well this has been a long time coming. I apologise a million times to everyone who wanted this sooner. I've had a crazy life recently - my grandad went into hospital, my family went nuts and I moved to university! But I wanted to write this to thank you all for reading it as much as you all have. This is definately not the end of the story, I know how it ends and I hope you will be satisfied with what I write. Once again thank you to you all.