Author's Note: Normally, I put my final words at the end of the chapter, but I feel like it would ruin the mood and wonderment for this epilogue. But what can I say? You guys are beyond wonderful. Thank you so much for all your kind, sweet words and support. It's been such a fun ride and I enjoyed sharing it with you. :) Those who know me know that I like to close out with one scene, and this is no exception. I hope it's enjoyed and I hope it leaves you with the same, warm-gooey-molasses-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach feeling as I got.
Love you all!
You, Me and the Bourgeoisie
Two Years, Four Months, Three Days
Elizabeth Bennet glanced up in surprise. The cashier had an antsy smile on his face; his eyes darted from behind thick frames, hand outstretched and waiting.
She slipped a couple of bills out and pushed them across the counter. "Thanks." Daydreaming was a little counterproductive now. Especially at Starbucks, with a full line of texting teens and agenda pushing business associates cluttered behind you.
So she hop, skipped and shuffled over to Pick-Up, where she pocketed an iTunes Song of the Week card and straightened the strap of her Marc Jacobs bag. Or Jane's. "Mine now," Lizzy murmured with a smile. A barista filled her cup with foam.
Lady. Elizabeth didn't feel like a lady today. Her hair was wild with curls, bangs poking out from under a beanie with an animal face printed on it. Her scarf had punchy colors. Her jeans were tucked into bright yellow rain boots. She hadn't even bothered much with makeup that Saturday morning; her cheeks were flushed pink, but only from the cold.
Woman Child. That was the affectionate term endured. She looked out the window where remnants of the weekend's snowstorm still coated the sidewalk. Lizzy craned her neck. She only saw his back, what with the bench pressed up against the windows. Saw the green Eagles beanie and his black boots, caked with snow. I wonder if he's cold.
Lizzy turned. "Grace."
Grace Parker smiled and both women did an awkward half hug, half cheek peck. "Haven't seen you in ages."
"Yeah, really," laughed Lizzy. She tucked a strand of hair behind an ear, uncomfortable. "How have you been?"
"Signed on." Grace's smile spread slowly. "Red Punch Label."
"I'mma hug you."
Grace giggled, embraced, and pulled back from the bear hug. She was a gorgeous girl. Willowy and lovely and kind. Always an eye-catcher at every one of Michael's gigs; faces had a natural habit of turning once she wrapped her fingers around a microphone. Michael used to tease and call her Philadelphia's own Corinne Bailey Rae. "We're moving to New York." Well, New York's own.
"Manhattan." Lizzy's smile was genuine. "How is he? I mean, I think it's been a year. At least. I haven't seen him around." She pressed her lips together, well on the verge of babbling.
"Really good." Grace looked down and fiddled with the snaps of her coat, trying to conceal the blush that warmed her face. "Don't get me wrong, it was difficult at first. Seeing as you totally ruined him."
Elizabeth's mouth fell open. Grace winked and Lizzy simpered, "Hey, not funny yet. That boy made me hate myself for a good three months."
"Oh honey, we know." At Lizzy's Bambi stare, Grace touched her arm, "For the record, we're pretty serious now. And you introduced us."
The barista interrupted her reverie. "Two Decaf Tall Cappuccinos. Miss?" Elizabeth swiveled on the heels of her boots and picked up the cardboard carrier. Grace watched her.
Lizzy's smile was apologetic. "Look, as long as he doesn't think of me as some über bitch who stomped on his heart. Then life would be okay."
"Girl, don't worry. He's over you."
"Good." Lizzy cocked her head. "You two look adorable together. Better than we ever did."
"I know. Let's be honest." Grace grinned, reaching over her shoulder for a Caramel Macchiato. "See you around, beautiful. I'm loving the boots, by the way."
"Thanks," Lizzy grinned. "Grace, take care."
She turned and rested one arm against the handle of the glass door. A corner of her mouth quirked up. And just when she thought the mortification had been swept under the carpet. It resurfaces at a corner Starbucks. Elizabeth winced.
Michael Kent's face, for the record, was still pretty much imprinted in her head much like it had been the day Lizzy had come clean. All wounded dark eyes, slack jaw, blazing hurt. It sucked. A potential future life, suddenly crumpled into a ball and pivoted at a waste basket like last week's grocery list.
What also sucked was having to pick up the splintered pieces of Michael's ruined guitar in the dining room. Hello, unexpected (but incredibly deserved) temper flare.
Elizabeth had run into Michael a year later at 30th Street Station, huddled in a line and clasping a ticket for a business trip in Washington DC. He was headed for Penn, a couple stops short of Union, and they agreed to coffee in the café cart, in all its watered down goodness.
"I never meant to hurt you."
"Michael, you're too good of a man."
"I know that, too."
"I did love you."
"Yeah." A flicker of a smile, a sip of coffee. "You just loved him longer."
Lizzy sighed, feeling lighter on the exhalation. Yoga breath. She pushed the door open and a gust of frosty air nipped her nose and ears. Then she squinted against the sunlight and sat down beside Beanie Man.
Will Darcy took his cup from her and let it warm his hands, a copy of The Inquirer unfolded in his lap. "Thanks. Did you get held up in there?"
"Ran into a friend." Elizabeth crossed her legs and propped them over Will's lap. From where Lizzy sat, she had full view of his profile. The tension in his jaw and creased brow, the bright blue eyes squinted in concentration. "Tch," she grinned. "Look at that intensity."
"I take the paper seriously." Will glanced up. "I'm an old man." He flicked a feather off of her boot. "Nice boots, Barney."
"Thanks, dude. Picked them out myself."
Darcy smiled, leaned over, and kissed her. It was slow and affectionate and she smiled against his mouth. Then she pulled away, laughing. "You're so cold," she cupped his chin with a gloved hand. "I know you're an advocate of fresh air and all, but maybe we should get a table inside."
"Nope," Will popped the word on his lips. "Unless you're cold."
"I'm good now," Lizzy said. She closed her eyes and pressed her face into the crook of his neck, breathing in the scent of his leather jacket. Will murmured against her hair and she smiled. "Hey."
"Next snowstorm, can we pay the kid next door with the snow blower to clean out our driveway?"
Darcy arched an eyebrow. "I'm perfectly capable of shoveling the driveway without forking over $70 to some kid who takes like, two hours and does a shitty job anyway."
"Ty does a great job."
"Does not." A beat. "Charlie shovels his own driveway."
"God, you have such a man complex. Next, you're going to be peeing on everything." Lizzy cocked her head. "If that's the case, no asparagus for dinner anymore."
"Real mature," Will ruffled her hair.
"I know," Elizabeth let out a long, winded sigh. "When will she ever grow up?" Darcy smirked and took a sip of his coffee. Lizzy tilted her head, watching him. "You can have my cup, too," she murmured.
"How come?" Will looked over.
"I'm off caffeine for a little while."
At his I don't need elaboration shrug, Lizzy took his hand in hers and slowly unbuttoned her coat. Darcy arched an eyebrow, suddenly all attention. "What are you doing?" he laughed.
Lizzy held his hand gently at her lower abdomen, slipped under her cashmere sweater and pressed against her warm skin. Green eyes flickered up, and her mouth stretched into a big smile.
Will's eyebrows were still furrowed, as if at a total loss. He looked up, and then back down, drew his hand away and placed it back, as if solving some Sesame Street puzzle. Darcy locked eyes with hers. "You're not…"
She was completely engulfed in his arms, Will kissing every inch of her face. Lizzy giggled, ducking her head against the folds of his jacket. "I surrender! Jesus."
"Are you sure?" he breathed.
"Six EPTs later? Yeah, little bit."
"But we used…"
"Yeah, something broke, hon."
"That's…an absolutely awesome fail. Come here."
"I love you so much."
"I love you, too!"
The bell to the entrance of Starbucks jangled and somebody poked their head out. "Uh, hey. 'Scuse me. Don't mean to interrupt the lovefest."
Elizabeth craned her neck over her shoulder, cheeks flushed with embarrassment. The barista from before was holding her wallet. Lizzy gaped, "Oh, I'm such an idiot. Thank you so much." It was tossed into her purse. "So absentminded."
The girl smiled and twirled her hair, fixated on Will; he seemed frozen, too.
"I—" his laugh was short, blue eyes impossibly wide. "You…"
Lizzy's eyebrows lifted.
"Do I know you?" the barista asked, drying her hands on her apron.
Will looked down at his wife. He suddenly smiled. "No," he said softly. "No, you definitely don't."
The girl shrugged, passive.
Elizabeth said, "Thanks, again," she paused to read her nameplate. "Amy."
"Yep," she beamed, her grin impossibly bright. "Ya'll have a nice morning."
The door closed and sealed the heat in the café. The girl smoothed her long blonde braid over one shoulder, watching the couple on the bench. Her lips pulled into a secretive smile. "Cute," she cooed.
"What?" the girl hollered over her shoulder, where the cashier was punching in an order. He glared at her, arms pressed up against the counter, "Amy wants her nameplate back."
The redhead next to him slapped a lid onto a cup. "Yeah, stop stealing identities, Julie. Must you always interfere?"
The girl looked back out the window, where snow was beginning to fall again, slow and windswept. She smiled.