Disclaimer- I own nothing.
Serena- Keep in mind, THIS IS A SEQUEL. Won't make much sense unless you read Mary first. Thanks for reading, and thanks to anyone who also read Mary. Speaking of Mary Bennet, here's her sister…
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single girl of almost eighteen years not even in possession of a decent pair of shoes must be in want of a prince to randomly fall in love with her and shower her with gems of all sorts and let her drink ice water for the rest of her life.
But since that is not likely to happen, seeing as fairy tales have little in common with real life, a fairly-wealthy man in possession of a decent sized house is what she'd most likely have to settle with. If she ever married at all.
Of course, Catherine Bennet was always expected to be able to find a husband with out much difficulty. Why not? She was fairly fortunate in looks, and her disposition was relatively agreeable… most of the time. When she wasn't flirting with officers, perhaps…
But her flirting days were pretty much done once Lydia ran off. If she even looked at an officer after that, her father roughly reminded her of a monkey throwing poo. Was that not what monkeys did in the wild forests of Africa? She knew not. Kitty read the occasional novel to pass time, but was never very passionate about reading and never got much into the story.
Well, with one exception. Every girl has a certain skeleton in their closet—something embarrassing they hide from the rest of the world. And Kitty's skeleton was in the very form of a book of fairy tales. She had memorized Snow White word for word. She read Repunzel at least a hundred times. Others included Prunella, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and The Magic Swan Geese. But Kitty's favorite by far was Vasilissa the Beautiful.
She had first come across her fairy tale book at the fairly old age of fourteen. Fourteen-year-old girls were not supposed to have such obsessions, but Kitty did anyway. Of course, she'd heard many of them before, but enjoyed reading them often, until she was randomly thumbing through it one day to the beginning page of Vasilissa the Beautiful.
From the beginning Kitty could relate to Vasilissa. Vasilissa had many sisters, most of them older. Her family discouraged any sort of ties with her and young men because it was not considered virtuous. Sound like Catherine Bennet yet?
Of course, then her father remarries the Evil, Horrid, Ugly Stepmother. That isn't quite true to Kitty's life, but it still was a good story. And then Vasilissa comes across Baba Yaga, and asks her to borrow some fire from her hearth, since the last of theirs had gone out. Baba Yaga was on old, old, witch-woman who consents, only by the promise that Vasilissa must perform tasks for the fire or be killed. Vasilissa is so clever that she performs each and every nearly impossible task and shocks Baba Yaga.
The old witch woman sends her home with a skull on a stick with luminescent eyes that provided light. The skull burnt her stepmother to ash and finally Vasilissa was allowed to leave their tiny village to become a cloth-weaver's assistant in the capital city of Russia. She grew so skilled at the loom that the czar himself heard of her and made a special visit to see her. Then he and Vasilissa married and the common, Russian girl became a czarina and lived happily ever after.
Of course, Kitty did not see a czar coming for her in the near future. No, in fact the only thing she did see was Lizzy's constant mutterings on how if Lydia hadn't destroyed the Bennet name before, Mary sure did now by spending over a month in an insane asylum before eloping with an American.
"They do not care at all, do they?" her sister demanded as they took tea in her private sitting room, "People talk, and oh, it's just horrid!"
"Lizzy, I don't think either Lydia nor Mary care very much if people talk of them," Kitty reminded her, "No, obviously not."
"They should. If not for themselves, but for you, myself, and our sister Jane!" Elizabeth pointed out.
"What does it matter to you and Jane?" Kitty asked, "You are married already."
Lizzy then launched herself into a speech how appearances still count even after one is married. The way she spoke, Kitty thought it sounded like they'd never be able to show their faces in public again. She silently drank her tea as her sister lectured on, while she simply daydreamed about czars.
Indeed, two days earlier Kitty had received the following letter:
I suppose I really ought to apologize ahead of time for leaving my dear baby sister in England while I am off to America. Yes, you are not going mad—AMERICA! I write in haste—the sun soon rises and we shall board our ship.
Ah! I speak too fast, I say 'we' and mean James Latimer and I. Do not you recall him? The one I told you about a month ago at Pemberly? I've married him, I write to you now as Mary Latimer, can you believe it?
How is Miss Bingley fairing? Yes, I do write in jest. Send her my love—no, wait, you'd better not. But know I am thinking of her with earnest. I shall miss you more than words can say, but I shall also miss Mr. Ashby a tad more, I think.
Alright, I am sorry—I shall be serious from here forth. I trust you'll send word of this to Lydia. I would myself, but I know not here current address. Tell Lydia I think of her each time I pass someone in a red uniform and the fun you'd have. And the fun I'd have lecturing you like an old woman. Those were fine days.
Do show this letter to darling Lizzy if you wish, although something tells me she shan't be as happy for me as you are. If you don't wish to anger her, I give you full permission to burn this letter upon its arival. Either way, I shall visit you in the next few years, although I might just be coming back to have another go with Miss Bingley.
Write often and tell me of how Miss Bingley's old-maidhood is coming. I care to hear it all.
Yours in Love and Light,
And Kitty was delighted for Mary. She had never met the infamous James Latimer, but knew if he weren't worth much, Mary wouldn't have consented to marry him. He must be wicked smart, and likely rather arrogant, but that was better than someone stupid and backboneless. And she also was delighted to see Lizzy's face of distaste as she showed her the letter.
"She was supposed to have been in London!" she seethed, slapping the letter down on the table.
"What do you mean in London?" Kitty perked her head up, "I never heard anything about Mary being in London!"
"Well, Mother told me not to tell this to you. She said it would upset you too much. But now I don't see the harm in you knowing," Lizzy sighed, "Mother sent Mary to an institution in London to help her with that unnatural phase she was going through. But it doesn't seem to have worked."
"An institution?" Kitty repeated, eyes widening, "You mean an asylum?"
"In foreword terms," she admitted, "She must have gotten out somehow."
"You mean Mother sent Mary to an asylum in London for reading some strange books?" Kitty demanded, standing up from her chair, "How could she have done such a thing? Our poor sister!"
"It was the best sort of care she could have gotten. If a month in a windowless cell doesn't fix her of her absurdity, what wouldn't?"
"Mary is as sane as you or I," Kitty told her, sitting back down again, "Well, all's well that ends well, right?"
Yes, it was no use dwelling on the thought of her sister in a prison when she was no longer even there. Kitty was surprised to see what her own parents were capable of. She knew they never liked Mary much, but never would have guessed they'd resort to such a thing! But Mary was happily married now, so all was indeed well. Lizzy did not think so.
"I doubt even that asylum would have cured her. She is so stubborn she would be content to live there the rest of her life before giving in."
"And that is a bad thing? Mary is very opinionated, that's all. She doesn't give in to her beliefs," Kitty said, "I'm rather proud of her."
"I expected you would be," Lizzy said, "But after Lydia ran off, and all of this mess happened with Mary, I always knew that without the proper guidance you'd follow in their footsteps. That's why I asked you to come to Pemberly last spring. I've determined to keep you from disgracing yourself."
"How would I disgrace myself?" Kitty wanted to know.
"Look at the influence you've got. Eloping with rogues like that Wickham? Vulgar books and asylums? Eloping with an American? Catherine, the odds are against you to turn out respectable."
Kitty was not very used to people belittling her in such a manner. She did not know quite how to argue back. She glanced out the window and longed for Mary to be there who would argue, force her opinions down Lizzy's throat and then win. Kitty could never do such a thing.
She had often wished to have more of Mary's traits. Kitty did not like someone to be upset in her presence, and usually let people walk all over her, if it meant they'd be happy. Mary could care less if people were upset by her.
But there were many other things on her mind of much more importance. She would be eighteen years old by December, and she still was on square on as to finding a husband. Mrs. Bennet wrote her often, hinting at it. And after she received Mary's letter, she saw she would be the fifth and last daughter to get married.
Even Lizzy seemed to hint at such a thing. So she did bring her to Pemberly so she might keep her away from Mary, but it was likely also to find someone for her—perhaps an acquaintance of Mr. Darcy's. Who knows? And Kitty did feel the pressure.
Of course, to say she wasn't excited when she arrived at Pemberly to would be a lie. But before they quite made it, the carriage wheel got stuck in a mud hole. Everybody climbed out, while the driver and another man tried to push the thing out, it didn't seem to budge. Kitty was too excited to be tired, as her chaperone—her aunt complained, and tapped her foot on the cobblestone in anxiety.
"Won't you stop that?" her aunt snapped, "I dare say it is utterly annoying!"
"I am sorry," Kitty sighed, and stilled her foot, but couldn't help but still jump in joy.
"Oh, I do hope they'd hurry and push harder," she said again, "I feel as though I could collapse!"
Indeed, the two men were making little progress with the carriage. It stuck like glue. In what little moonlight they had, Kitty could make out a dark figure running down the street. As it got closer, she saw it was only a boy of about twenty, rather pink in the face from running. The men hailed him over and asked if he might help push.
"I'm only going home, sir, but I suppose I might," he replied, and took a place by the other two and they heaved again. This time it moved halfway out, and on the second push, it was completely free.
"What a delightful young man!" her aunt exclaimed, "We couldn't have continued our journey without him!"
"Yes," Kitty said to the first statement, "Certainly not," she said to the last.
"I do believe thanks are in order," she said, smoothening her skirts, "Come now, Catherine."
Kitty merely followed her aunt who boldly approached the boy and thanked him while introducing herself.
"This is only my niece, just Kitty," she said, waving her hand in her general direction, "And yourself?"
"Taliaferro Stratton," the boy enthused, "At your service," he swept his hat off of his head and made a low bow. Her aunt giggled at his gallantry like a little girl. Kitty just eyed him strangely.
What a little runt he is! she thought, just to have something to ridicule. But really, he was not exceptionally large, but definitely not exceptionally small. Kitty was simply not used to a polite boy.
"Miss Kitty," he acknowledged her with the only name he had been given, "Do forgive me."
"Catherine Bennet," she said shortly.
"Perhaps we shall see each other again," he said with a smile as he disappeared back into the darkness.
And they did see each other again. It seemed that Kitty could not take a walk to the town (Pond-on-Avon, it was called) without happening to chance upon Taliaferro Stratton. It was only a week before they were on regular speaking terms with one another. Kitty swore to herself that she just felt sorry for him. And after that came his nickname of Strat.
And only a few weeks after that he confessed his unending love for her. Of which, Kitty turned him down in the nicest way possible. She did not like others to be upset by her.
And now the gentle reader must know that the story really begins for our heroine on a fairly warm mid-September day. Kitty dressed in a gown of pale blue and wore her bonnet with a matching ribbon. Light sky blue was her favorite color, which had nothing to do with the color of her eyes.
She examined her face in the mirror. She was fairly happy with what she saw. Fair skin with small pink roses on her cheeks. Her face wasn't so defined, but could be considered handsome all the same. Her hair was the darkest of all of her sisters—a dark brown. Rather common.
Kitty was going to town to meet a certain friend of hers. Which Lizzy knew nothing about, by the way. Taliaferro Stratton was a law student, she had found out. He was a nice boy, although she did not even flirt with him. No, she shouldn't be giving people hope that had none. She knew she couldn't marry Strat! The idea was laughable!
Of course, she had resolved to stop seeing him—a friend like Strat always seemed suspicious. Also, there was the fact that she should be more concerned with trying to find a husband. She needed to make sure that he heard her refuse him once and for all. So after she was dressed she quickly left on her walk to the town of Pond-on-Avon—roughly a few miles from Pemberly.
The town was not so pathetically small. Near the size of Meryton, perhaps a little larger. The university was a stately brick building and quite large with a full green yard. The trees were just beginning to turn, and Kitty admired the scenery. Surely, the such a beautiful day could not even be described in the many fairy tales she read.
She saw someone dashing across the yard, his hair in utter disarray, his shirttails too long, and books piled in his hands. She recognized the sandy brown hair as Taliaferro Stratton's. He dropped a few and as he bent to pick them up, dropped two more in the process. Kitty laughed and ran to meet him. His eyes glanced up at her as he picked up the last book and grinned widely.
"Do you need some assistance in carrying those?" she offered to help.
"Not at all," he stood up, "What sort of gentleman lets a lady carry his books, hmm?"
"If you're sure," Kitty sighed, and they began to walk back down the path, "Where are you going with those anyway, Strat?"
"Just dropping them back off at the library on our way," he told her, trying to point ahead with his face, "Can you see it just up that hill?"
"I can," Kitty answered, "Now why did you want to see me, anyhow?"
"Oh, how I must have inconvenienced you, Miss Catherine," he sighed, sarcastically as they began to climb the hill, "What? Does that dastardly sister of yours insist that you're under her nose always?"
"Do not call her dastardly," Kitty intervened, "She may be over-protective, but she is my sister, after all."
Strat was one of the nicest people she'd ever met. Of course, with the exception of when he was talking about Elizabeth. He was rather shy around other people, and not as tough as all of the other men Kitty had encountered. He seemed to be more emotional and sympathetic. Which is likely why she formed an actual friendship with him instead of just trashy flirting. He brought out the best in her.
He returned the books to the library, and they settled in a teashop near the university. Kitty tapped on her glass as she stared at him across the table. How did she put this, anyway? She couldn't marry a law student! And somehow whenever she was around Strat, it wasn't as it described love in any sort of fairy tale.
Not to mention Strat was a law student, not a czar.
"Kitty," he sighed, "I know what you are going to say…"
"Well, then that saves me my breath," she retorted, softly blowing on her tea to cool it.
"But what I am going to say is this: I may be only one-and-twenty, but soon I will have graduated and I'll be a lawyer. And I'd be a successful one too, Kitty! I know it's what I was meant to do. If you married me…" he quickly began, but Kitty quieted him with a raise of her hand.
"I can't marry you, Strat," she said quietly, not bearing to look into her eyes as she said this.
"Why not?" he demanded.
"Because…" she stumbled for the right words, "It's complicated, I…"
"Do you love me?" he asked, firmly.
"I—I don't know," Kitty sighed, and gathered her handbag and stood up, "Good luck with school, Strat." She did not walk, but ran away, unable to bear the scene for much longer.
Why did Strat make her hurt him so much? If he had never even proposed to her, none of this would have happened—their relationship wouldn't be like this. They would just be good friends—as always. She rubbed her forehead, and slowed to a very brisk walk.
She felt rather like her life was based more off of Prunella than Vasalissa the Beautiful. Prunella, who just kept turning down the witch's son, Bensiabel. But Prunella does not end up with a czar in the end, but actually does marry Bensiabel. That made Kitty frown in distaste and then stop walking and laugh at her own folly. Look at her! Living her life by fairy tale terms!
"That is enough," she said aloud, hoping to plant a seed of doubt in her head. Whether or not it worked, she never thought of, because she heard a voice speak from behind her.
"Kitty! Are you talking to yourself?" she whirled around to see that Lizzy was standing in a green day gown and parasol with an old woman wearing an old fashioned gown with elbow-length sleeves. Kitty almost slapped her forehead. And here she was thinking she was sneaking away from Pemberly, but really only following her sister there!
"Yes—I mean, no," Kitty stumbled for worlds.
"No matter, this is my sister, Miss Bennet," she said to the old woman, "She's been at Pemberly with Mr. Darcy and I for over four months now. It is truly a wonder she was not introduced before! Kitty, this is Lady Susan, a rather close neighbor of ours."
"Your Ladyship," Kitty greeted her, furious over how mad she must have sounded speaking to herself in front of the great lady.
Lady Susan was, as I have mentioned, old. Impossibly old. Seventy years perhaps, which was an age not many lived to see in 1811. Her skin was pasty and wrinkled like any old woman's would be. Her eyes were gray and rather tired-looking and her forehead was wide. Her mouth was pursed and her hair pure white. Kitty realized she had likely never seen someone so old. And the way she dressed and carried herself, she would estimate (correctly so) that the woman was quite wealthy indeed. Kitty noted also for this estimate that she had rings donned on her fingers and a beautiful pearl necklace around her neck.
"It is certainly a pleasure to meet such a young woman," Lady Susan nodded at her, "Let us have dinner together, why not?"
"The honor is ours!" Lizzy exclaimed, going on and on. Kitty only bit her lip and went along as she followed them down the street.
"And who spat in your bean curd?" Lady Susan muttered to her, when Lizzy was not looking.
"I am sure I don't know what you mean," Kitty sniffed.
"Humph, what a little brat you are!" Lady Susan turned her head away, "Back when I was your age, girls weren't so defensive."
"I am not being defensive," Kitty seethed, "You are being foreword!" Her voice was much louder than she had intended, and Lizzy turned around, having heard her and bade she apologize at once. Which, Kitty most reluctantly did.
Mary would have never apologized to her, she realized sadly, nor would Lydia.
But unfortunately, that is the disposition of our heroine. But the gentle reader must know, that under her shy, fearful, exterior, Kitty Bennet was mostly selfish. Indeed, her mind was usually on the advancement of herself, was it not? But perhaps such thoughts are necessary for success.
And that is what started the disagreement between her and Lady Susan. Did Lady Susan see the quiet, reserved girl that most people saw? No, she saw the selfish, self-interested Kitty that only she herself was aware of.
The whole meal, no friendly words were exchanged between the two. In fact, they were hardly civil. At any rate, once back in her chamber at Pemberly, Kitty beat the wall with her pillow and muttered profanities under her breath. The day had not gone well.
Poor Strat… And that miserable cur of a woman! Why doesn't she mind her own business! Kitty whacked her pillow extra hard against the wall and then stomped her foot in anger.
Her sock feet slipped on the waxed wooden floor and she landed on her rump rather hardly. She moaned in pain, and punched her abused pillow, before grabbing it and screaming into it for ten whole seconds.
When she pulled her face up, panting for breath she threw it as forcefully as she could against the door and let herself fall back to the floor, staring at the ceiling. As she caught her breath again, she picked herself up and flopped down on the bed, horrible guilt still racked her body when she thought of how the day had passed.
Why does Strat let me hurt him?
She picked up her worn fairy tale book and flipped to the beginning page of Vasalissa the Beautiful and lost herself and each of her troubles in the story. And Baba Yaga was more interesting and fearful each time she reread it. And even as she put the book down and blew out her candle to sleep, she dreamed of czars again, Strat and Lady Susan the farthest thing from her mind.
Serena- Ack. This chapter was all over the place. My alter egos say so, which means it's true. Just so you know, my alter egos are Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte, who wrote very many successful books, so I take their word for it.
Anyway, please review.