FOOLS LIKE US
Disclaimer: Believe me, if I were Jane Austen, her books would be about flying man-eating plants, pies that take over the world - and the like. Well, maybe not that extreme - but be grateful I'm not her!
NOTE: As this is a modern (and rather twisted) version of Austen's masterpiece, be ready to expect some explicit language i.e. shit, bitch, crap, etc. You have two choices from this point onward - jump in with two feet, or turn back. Just don't say I didn't warn you!
Soundtrack: Right Here (Departed) - Brandy
"And when your tears are dry from cryin',
And when the world's turned silent,
So when the clouds above Departed,
You will be right here with me, "
Elizabeth grinned, scanning the group before her. All the faces were eager and happy. Lunchtime! The only thing that stood between the kids and fun was -
"Ring-a-ring of rosies!"
"No, that's a boring game! What about tag?"
"Tag? I want -"
"Let's play cops and robbers!"
"What? That game -"
"Sucks? How dare you say that game sucks, you little -"
"Calm down, will you! Geez, we haven't even started playing…"
And that was the playground at lunchtime. It was a cacophony of little voices yelling their little hearts out, all wanting to be in the spotlight. "Listen to me! Do what I say!" Everyone wants to be a leader, even when they aren't even old enough to understand the difference between reality and fantasy.
"I say we play stuck in the mud!" yelled Elizabeth.
There was a pause, while they eyed each other. Anyone going to offer an alternative? Anyone want to continue the yelling and arguing for a while longer? The tension was almost tangible.
That was suddenly followed by a chorus of "Yeah, let's do it! Who's in?" Everyone breathed a silent sigh of relief; there were days – extremely bad days – where they would never decide on something to do. Then the bell would ring, and they would trudge glumly to class. That never stopped the debates though. It was almost standard procedure for lunchtimes.
"Hey, why do we always listen to Lizzie?" asked a boy.
Elizabeth looked at him with distaste. He was shorter than her, with spiky brown hair that looked like it would never lie straight. A mother's nightmare, she bet. He had dark, blue eyes that were almost black, as well as a straight and commanding posture for a young boy. But he was a newcomer to the school, so he should have no say in such matters - and she was going to teach him that.
There was a slight murmur in the group, as the words sunk in. Go against Lizzie? Was this boy nuts?
Elizabeth's mischievous hazel eyes locked onto his now, and the crowd knew what was going to come next.
"They don't always listen to me." said Elizabeth matter-of-factly.
"Oh really? Then how come, for the past week, we've been playing only your games?" pointed out the boy.
Elizabeth's mouth curved into a smile. It looked innocent, but had such a strong sense of deviousness.
"What's your name?" she asked.
He quickly dropped his eyes from hers, and tweaked his shirt uncomfortably. Oh, this was so easy. He was already giving up, and she hadn't even got to the fun part yet! Perhaps she should ease him along, to have a little more fun.
"Scared of telling me your name?"
"No! My name's Fitzwilliam. Fitzwilliam Darcy, and you better respect it!"
Elizabeth snorted, as did the rest of the group.
"'And you better respect it!' Who do you think you are?"
He looked like he would just crawl up into a ball right then, or run away crying. What a little mummy's boy! Elizabeth nearly turned away in disgust. There was no fun in this type. They only got you into the principal's office, a place where Elizabeth Bennet had been to too often. Sometimes she wondered whether there was another girl out there who had been in the principal's office at least fifteen times at the tender age of nine. She was surprised she hadn't been expelled yet.
To everyone's surprise, "Fitzwilliam" regained his stance, and looked straight into Elizabeth's eyes again. He seemed to grow taller, and then his eyes grew darker. The hair softened to fall in lustrous curls that framed his head perfectly. And his face seemed to waver. What was happening? Elizabeth's eyes widened. Don't look away. Keep eye contact. He was going to listen to her.
"You're such a snob, Darcy." she yelled defiantly.
He took a step closer to her, his eyes flashing. Where were the other kids? Elizabeth broke her own rule, and glanced around frantically. They were there, standing mutely, waiting for the rest. Their faces were a blur, but Elizabeth could feel their expectation. They were waiting, waiting for the final moment. What was going to happen? Wasn't almighty Lizzie going to snap, and tackle that Darcy down?
She flicked her gaze back to Darcy, and laughed mirthlessly.
"What sort of name is Fitzwilliam, anyway?"
He merely smiled, unperturbed, and took more steps towards her. Elizabeth could feel her breath coming out in rasps now. He was too close, far too close. She could see the tiny freckles on his nose, the curve of his lips as he smiled – no, smirked. Elizabeth felt like she couldn't breathe. Why so close? And why did he seem so tall now?
Elizabeth looked away from him in panic. What was he doing? And the crowd was closing in! They were walking towards them, blocking out the rest of the playground. And they were also towering over her. Why was everyone so tall? She couldn't make out any features on the faces anymore. No, no, this was wrong. Something was wrong…
"Lizzie? Look at me."
His voice was no longer the squeaky young child's. It was smooth and deep, almost commanding her to look at him. She daren't, though. He was dangerous. She didn't know why, but she simply couldn't look at him. Not like this. And suddenly she felt tears pool up in her eyes, and splash soundlessly onto the floor. She couldn't take it anymore.
She slapped him. As hard as she could.
The crowd roared, and a ringing sound drilled into her head. And Darcy was falling, falling straight into a dark hole. She felt terror grip her. What had she done? He was calling out urgently, telling her…what?
"Lizzie! Lizzie!" he cried.
And the tears were running down her face, knowing that she could do nothing. He was going to fall by himself; she wasn't going to go down with him…
But the sharp shrill sound crescendoed, and suddenly she was also hurtling into the hole. Smothering darkness tried to choke her, but she breathed in one strangled breath at a time. Her chest hurt, everything hurt. It was unbearable. Where was everyone? Where was Darcy?
The words choked, and she was now falling into light. She could breathe again. Relief flooded through her, and she sighed. But then she frowned. Why was that shrill sound still going? It was still resonating unpleasantly through her ears. She grimaced, and then floundered around, trying to find the origin.
Elizabeth's eyes flew open, and she turned on her side to look at the floor. And there was the source of noise, destroyed on the floor. Elizabeth groaned loudly. This was the third alarm clock she had killed in the past year! All three of them had faced the same fate – death on the bedroom floor. Perhaps she should switch to one of those bizarre running clocks that forced people to get up and switch them off…no; she would probably destroy that one as well. And waste a further $200.
Elizabeth groaned again, rubbing her eyes to ward off sleep. Knowing her, she would fall back to sleep in a second if she didn't get up now. So she mumbled something unintelligible and rolled out of bed. Straight onto the hard, tiled floor.
"Crap! Ow!" she yelled "How many times do I have to tell myself to get carpet?"
It did the trick though. It was cold enough, and hard enough for Elizabeth to get off the floor straight away and run to the bathroom, her teeth chattering from the cold. She stared sleepily at her reflection. Tousled brown hair was falling out of a lopsided pony tail and dark rings were under her hazel eyes. There was also an ugly red mark pressed onto the right side of her face. Great.
"That's what you get for sleeping at four in the morning!" she growled at her reflection.
She grabbed the toothpaste and toothbrush angrily, as if they had done her a gross injustice. And then she tortured her face, scrubbing at it harshly until the red mark blended in. Her hair? She cursed through the whole process of yanking it out of the pony tail, and running the brush through it with stoic perseverance. She prided herself for not yelling out once in pain. Despite having half her head ache after she finished.
When she thought she looked respectable, Elizabeth grabbed a bowl and haphazardly poured cereal into it. What a day! And it was only the beginning. Elizabeth thought that she could probably fall asleep right then, and wake up the day after. Probably at night. Bah, she was already half nocturnal anyway. She was only awake in the morning because…
"Oh shit!" she cried, looking wildly at the fridge door.
And there was the bright notice, stuck proudly on the door. "REMEMBER THIS, LIZZIE!" it said, and there was a date circled, and a big "JOB INTERVIEW, 9:30" written next to it. 6/10/08, and that was today. A Monday. And it was already 8:45.
"Crap! Crap! Crap!"
Breakfast abandoned, she ran to her bedroom and wildly flung clothes onto her queen sized bed (Wow, how did she fall out of that?). She looked at the choices. Autumn, it was autumn. And that meant turtlenecks, skivvies and jeans. Well, jeans went with anything. Elizabeth quickly picked a fawn turtleneck, a beige coat, black skinny jeans and reddish-brown boots. Who cared if it didn't look great? She was doing this in two minutes. Or else she was going to miss the bus. And then it would be good-bye job. And it was a nice job opportunity, at a multi-billion dollar company, and she was going to be their head lawyer (or, at least become their head lawyer in time) and earn big bucks, and buy a bigger apartment which was free of…
"Morning, Eliza. My, you're up early…" yawned a person behind her, "And you look totally ravishing."
Elizabeth froze, blinked twice, and slowly turned around. She plastered a fake smile which she hoped was passable onto her face.
"G'morning to you too, Mr. Collins." she squeaked. "Thanks for the compliment!"
"Tut, how many times must I tell you to call me Howard? And of course, the compliment was from my heart. You can't help being attractive Eliza – I wonder why you don't have a boyfriend already. Just waiting for the right man to come snap you up?"
Elizabeth winced when Howard slapped her shoulder.
"Why…yes! I'm looking so hard for the right guy. But it's just so hard, you know? Especially in this vicinity…"
"Tut, you mustn't be so very pessimistic! I'm sure you'll find the right guy. He might be closer than you think!"
Howard smiled broadly, and placed his hand firmly on Elizabeth's arm.
"Now, dearest Eliza, where are you off to?" he asked, "You seem to be in quite a hurry."
Elizabeth saw her chance, and immediately grabbed it.
"You know what, Mr Collins? I really must be off. I have a job interview, you see. I'll see you later!"
And with that, she literally ran to the door. She pretended not to hear the "It's Howard!" and "I can't wait to see you later!" Gosh, that guy was creepy. What was wrong with him?
Elizabeth sighed in relief, and slowed down to a brisk walk. She checked her watch. It read 9:05. Perhaps she could make it in the end. Despite that run-in with Howard Collins. Oh, that man was a horror. He was the landlord of the apartment block, which apparently gave him permission to walk in on any of his tenants' apartments without prior warning or consent. Heaven forbid if you were caught with a pet – or worse, in an intimate embrace with your boyfriend or husband. Elizabeth had never seen a married couple or family living in the apartment. And no wonder - they had all been scared off by the landlord.
And he had taken a particular fancy in Elizabeth, dropping in on her once, twice – up to ten times per day. Any excuse would do. But it was usually "I desired your company, dearest Eliza. And since I knew you had no boyfriend, I thought you would appreciate my company." Elizabeth had learned to stay out late, party hard, and come home in the early hours of the day - when the landlord would thankfully be asleep. And even then, there were times when he would come in (at 2 o'clock!) and enquire upon "the doubtlessly exotic and fascinating events of the night," therefore forcing Elizabeth to recount the clubbing, drinking…everything. Never mind that usually she was yawning her head off when she came back at that time.
Elizabeth swore that her apartment was bugged, but she had never found them. So she lived, practically in fear of the landlord barging in at any moment. But now there was hope. She would get this job and eventually be free of the obnoxious Mr Collins. That is, if she got the job, which she highly doubted, seeing as how it was already 9:14 and the bus still hadn't come.
"I missed the bus, didn't I?" she groaned, slowly banging her head on the bus pole.
A few people looked at her, and quickly walked away. They didn't want to be associated with this young lady, who was obviously on some sort of drug. Crack? Weed? Ecstasy? They didn't want to know.
"Young lady, are you alright?" asked an elderly lady.
Elizabeth quickly stopped her head banging, and smiled weakly. Obviously, this lady had been brave enough (or crazy enough) to ask her what was wrong. Did she really want to know? Didn't she think Elizabeth was on drugs, or mentally infirm?
"Oh I'm fine. I think I've just missed the bus, and I need to get to a job interview for Perigee Delta and…oh god."
Elizabeth stopped herself from sniffling. It had been such a good opportunity! To get out, start again, and perhaps make it big. Her other jobs had been almost disastrous. The job itself wasn't bad. But the bosses! Most had tried to grab her butt, and whispered in their "sexy" voice "Do me a favour, and I'll do one for you." Sleazy bosses? Most definitely. And it had always ended with a strangled laugh, as Elizabeth put her tae kwon do skills to good use by kicking their balls up their asses. The next day was always filled with whispers and finger pointing, and before long she found herself kicked out of the company. Not that she minded, in the end. She always held her head high, and walked out of the office with the same smile she walked in with.
But she had hoped so badly for a fresh start. One that wouldn't be as disastrous as all the others. And it seemed like it wasn't going to happen. Elizabeth bit down on her lip, willing the tears back. She wasn't going to give in. She still had 15 minutes to make the interview. It was going to be okay, as long as she pulled it together. Oh, who was she kidding?
"Know what dearie? I think you'll be fine." smiled the elderly lady, "Believe it or not, it's not the end of the world if you don't make this interview. Trust me, I've been through it. And I'm still here, happy and living it up."
Elizabeth's smile strengthened slightly, and she thanked the lady.
"Oh, how rude of me. Let me introduce myself. I'm Tanya Whiting. Let me see…ah, yes, I've brought my business cards. There you go!"
Elizabeth took the card (which was peach with silver writing) and examined it curiously. Just who was she? "Tanya Whiting, Chief Executive Officer." Wow, the woman was more than who she seemed to be. But the company? Elizabeth turned the card over, and almost dropped it in surprise.
"Procter and Gamble! Seriously?" cried Elizabeth. People turned around to look at them oddly.
"Well yes, dearie. Oh look, here's the bus. Tell me if you ever need help, okay?"
And then the woman walked off, before Elizabeth could say thank you, or a number of flattering comments that she would probably slap herself for saying later. She was still standing in a daze until the bus driver got mad and yelled a "Lady, are you getting on or not?" at her, to which she secretly gave the finger. She would have done it outright, but she knew that the bus driver would probably kick her off the bus if she did.
Hope. She had hope now.
She was going to go places. She was going to have a crack at fame (well, maybe not) and fortune. It wasn't so bad, after all. But, she was still going to have a shot at Perigee Delta Ltd., because she had that commitment to fulfil. Elizabeth was an honourable person after all.
And the streets of New York whizzed by, a blur of people, cars and buildings. Now that Elizabeth had "accepted" her fate, time seemed to go so much faster, instead of the tedious plod-plod to her career doom. But then a thought struck her – what if Ms Tanya was only joking? She'd better arrive at the interview on time (nine minutes!) and try her best. Because all she would have if she failed was a stranger's promise and promises were so easily broken.
As she knew only too well.
But she wasn't going to think on that, because dwelling on the past was unhealthy. Very unhealthy, she reminded herself. It was best she wasn't racoon-eyed when she finally got to the interview. So Elizabeth sighed, ran her hand through her hair (but not so much that it ruffled it) and waited until her stop arrived.
With a quick "Thank you!" (she always said thank you, no matter what she did to the bus driver, or bus driver did to her) Elizabeth walked off the bus, and looked around. New York never ceased to amaze her, despite having lived there for over two years. The place had a vibe that was almost infectious. Sure, it was sometimes intimidating and unforgiving, but there was no doubt in Elizabeth's mind that New York was vibrant, and alive. Brimming with energy. Brimming with people.
Well, she had lived near Boston for most of her life, which was nothing compared to New York. Really, Elizabeth loved New York. It suited her well to be around so many people, and so much life.
But today wasn't the best day to be admiring the city.
Elizabeth picked up her speed, and nearly jogged to the building she was supposed to arrive at approximately two minutes ago. This was no easy feat with high heeled boots, but she somehow managed. And she also managed to keep her hair and make-up intact, which she was pleased with. Normally she didn't care much for appearance, but an interview wasn't normal. Especially an interview with a multi-billion dollar consumer goods company which probably ranked their potential employees based on appearance. Such was the way of the world.
Amazed that she had arrived without getting lost, Elizabeth walked into a 85 storey office building and breathed a loud sigh of relief. Which she quickly regretted since everyone on the ground floor immediately turned around to look at her. How could she forget the echo properties of big, luxurious office blocks?
Embarrassment lasted for thirty seconds (yes, she timed it) before the people turned around, and continued their own business. And that freed Elizabeth to walk to the front desk, hopefully without drawing attention once more.
"Uhh." breathed Elizabeth.
"Good morning, how may I help you?"
Elizabeth cursed the receptionist silently. Why were they so collected and nonchalant, while she was burning red with humiliation?
"I'm here for an interview…" mumbled Elizabeth, hoping the receptionist would understand.
"Oh, of course. What time was it?" asked the receptionist, causing Elizabeth to blush even more.
She was late. Why did the receptionist have to remind her of this so pointedly? Well, it was unintentional.
"Ah. Then you must be Elizabeth Bennet. I believe Larry has been waiting for you…"
The receptionist smiled, but it looked far too fake for Elizabeth's liking. And why did she know it was her straight away? Was something going on? And who was Larry?
"Thank you. May I ask for your name?"
"Claudia Lewis. Now, if you will proceed to the 68th floor, turn right, go five offices down, turn left and then…"
Elizabeth looked helplessly at Claudia, and finally coughed. She wasn't going to remember the directions.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I'll write down the directions then."
Elizabeth swore that Claudia had been hiding a smile. But, at least it seemed like the interview was still on. Now, all she had to do was breathe, talk like a sane person, and get the job. Hah. Easier said than done. Much easier said than done.
With a final smile at Claudia, she took the piece of paper and headed for the elevators. She nearly shook her head at the extravagance that she was already seeing. Ten elevators! Stainless steel doors! A mosaic floor! This company really was loaded. And the proof of the company's significance almost made Elizabeth choke. But she wasn't going to chicken out. She was going to act this out, and get the job.
Elizabeth followed the directions, hoping that Claudia had written the right ones on the piece of paper, and in the right order. One mistake and Elizabeth would probably find herself…well, she wouldn't know, she would be lost.
Five offices down…check.
Pass the glass door…check.
End of corridor…check.
Open big mahogany door…check.
"Good morning. Elizabeth Bennet, I presume." a deep, masculine voice said.
Elizabeth looked wildly for the speaker. The speaker chuckled, and Elizabeth saw a young man – probably in his late twenties or early thirties – sitting casually in a large leather chair with his feet up on a large glass table. He had blonde hair and blue eyes, with "you can't resist me 'cause I'm so damn handsome" written over all his features. He was a man who was used to bathing in oestrogen. Elizabeth merely smiled at him, and walked tentatively towards the table, which was strangely located on the far left-hand side of the room, opposite the door. (AN: imagine a sort of L-shape office, with a large bookshelf near the entrance, pristine Persian carpets on shining black and white tiles, tinkling chandeliers and vases with real flowers everywhere, with the actual table located behind the official entrance. Complicated? Yeah.)
"Good morning Mr…" started Elizabeth.
"Dear, didn't Claudia tell you to call me Larry?"
"I thought that was a joke."
Larry laughed, a booming sound made three times louder by the resonating office.
"Oh, you're a fine one! I can see why…" Larry paused, shifted, and sat up properly.
"See why what?" asked Elizabeth.
"Oh never mind. It isn't important. Anyway, I'm Laurence Wickham, but please call me Larry. Only my mum calls me Laurence. So, shall we get this over with?"
This Larry sure was a strange fellow. Elizabeth had expected an uptight asshole who would poke and prod and poke and prod until Elizabeth was ready to slap the person ten times. Seriously, did they have to ask her to remember all the details of a court case she had done for her previous employer three years ago? Who did they think she was? Einstein?
"What shall I call you? Just Elizabeth?" he asked pleasantly.
"No, I prefer Eliza…or Lizzie."
"So, Lizzie, you're applying for a job as lawyer, correct?"
"Yes." answered Elizabeth.
"Well, we already have about two…three…I don't really know, they are always – I mean sometimes – really boring people. I'm sure you're much better than them. Anyway, this is a very prosperous company, Lizzie, so we demand the best. What do you think you can contribute to Perigee Delta?" asked Larry.
These were the questions that Elizabeth had prepared for, and she even smiled a little when she answered.
"I can contribute efficiency and accuracy to the legal workings within Perigee Delta, and I believe I can add that little touch of class that it deserves. I will also be able to deal with legal decisions and even court cases quickly, and effectively. Though I prefer that the company does not get sued, because the paper work is horrendous…"
Larry laughed, and put up his hand.
"Don't worry, I'll tell my boss not to get the company sued."
Elizabeth blinked. So Larry wasn't the CEO of the company. That was to be expected though, or else he wouldn't be so carefree and friendly. It would have been interesting if he was – except Elizabeth would have wondered how he headed such a significant company.
Now she watched him write on his pad, waiting for him to ask her more questions. When he didn't say anything further, Elizabeth coughed discreetly to get his attention once more.
"Oh, I'm sorry. You should have stopped me from doodling."
"What?! I thought you were taking notes or something!" Elizabeth yelped.
Larry laughed again, this time louder than both times before.
"I never take notes, darl. Whoops, I'm a bad interviewer, aren't I? Oh, don't look like that. Did I offend you?"
"What if I said yes?" grumbled Elizabeth.
"Well, then I will say, I'm sorry. As my apology, I offer you the job."
"Oh…What? Seriously? You're not kidding, right?"
"Nope. Welcome to Perigee Delta, hon."
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30/12/08: Changes to the formatting, disclaimer - and a bit of editing. Hopefully it's tidied up and looks nicer now.