Author's note: This is a new WIP of mine, a modern P&P fic in thirteen parts, rated T for now. Biggest thanks to my betas, Gayle and Matt, any remaining mistakes and inaccuracies are entirely my own:) Any comments you have will be much appreciated!
Oh, and for a disclaimer: This story is based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and the structure of the plot has been inspired by the ridiculously fabulous novel One Day by David Nicholls that tells a much bigger story, stretching over twenty years, by recounting one day of each year:)
Monday, 27th April 2009
The insistent beeping of the alarm brought her out of her dream. And a good thing it was, for it had not been one of those dreams one never wishes to wake from. The floor felt cold under the soles of her feet and she shivered as she made her way to the bathroom. A familiar face greeted her in the mirror, its dark, tangled hair pointing in every which direction, red lines mimicking the wrinkles on her pillowcase adorning one cheek. Absentmindedly, she reached one hand to touch her crumpled cheek. How lovely.
She stayed in the shower far longer than she should have, the warm water untying the knots in her back, soothing the irritation she felt at having to wake up so early after the leisurely late mornings of the weekend. She wondered that no one had ever thought to pass a law prohibiting Monday mornings altogether. She, for one, wouldn't have minded a bit.
By the time she got out of the shower, she realized that she was once again running late. She rushed to the wardrobe, in the process hitting the big toe of her left foot on the doorstep, a profanity so crude that it's best left unmentioned escaping her lips as the pain shot through her body. Exactly fifteen minutes and twenty-seven profanities later, she was running down the street, dressed in a pair of jeans, a t-shirt and a cardigan, one hand clutching her bag and the other waving frantically for the bus driver to stop. He did. A kind man, that bus driver.
On most mornings, she liked to walk to work. She enjoyed watching the town wake up, the bustle in the streets, the vendors opening their doors and the smell of fresh coffee that assaulted her when she walked past Joe's at the corner of Market Street and Park Lane. Monday mornings were not most mornings. On Monday mornings, more often than not, she found herself sitting in a crowded bus full of people whose faces mirrored her own – drowsy and discontent.
Some ten minutes later she was standing at a crossing, waiting for the light to change. Her bag was slung over her shoulder and her hands engaged in a desperate attempt to tie her unruly hair into a bun with a rubber band she'd discovered lying at the bottom of her bag. When the band suddenly snapped, so did she. In an uncharacteristic fit of anger, she hurled the band on the ground with a muttered bloody-fucking-hell to accompany it, earning a few disapproving glances from the people standing around her. How she hated Monday mornings.
Now, had Elizabeth Bennet known that the man she would marry a year later was standing right next to her, she might have acted differently. But she didn't.
William Darcy disliked people who were late. And he hated himself just now, for having suddenly turned into one of those people. His suit was wrinkled and his face unshaven, and in his rush to get out of the door, he had forgot his tie. He was standing at a crossing, waiting for the light to change, visualizing the many different ways in which he could maim his alarm clock once he got back home in the evening, when suddenly a young, unkempt woman next to him threw an unexpected tantrum, throwing something on the ground and letting out a string of curses. He smiled despite himself. It felt good to know that he wasn't the only one having a shitty morning.
Now, had someone told him that a year from now, he would be standing at the altar with that same disheveled young woman, the words I do impatiently waiting at the tip of his tongue, he would have laughed in their face. But no one did. And so he rushed forward when the light changed, not sparing her a second thought.
When he reached the office, he felt much like a schoolboy under the chiding glare of Margaret Reynolds eyeing him from behind the front desk. He muttered an apology – a completely unnecessary one, for he was her boss – and rushed past her towards the conference room where Richard and the clients were already waiting. His cousin and business partner Richard Fitzwilliam gave him a long look when he entered, and he was mortified to see the smile tugging at the corners of his cousin's mouth. How many times had he given Richard lectures on how unprofessional it was to arrive late to meetings? He would never hear the end of this.
At lunchtime, he bore the good-natured jabs of his cousin as best he could, laughing at Richard's disappointment when it turned out that the reason for his lateness was something as mundane as a broken alarm clock. His cousin had apparently had high hopes that William had finally met some girl and had been late because he'd stayed up all night making mind-blowing love to her. No such luck. William had trouble remembering when he'd last looked at a woman twice, let alone dated one.
When they reached the nearby pub they frequented for lunch, Charles was already waiting for them, a steaming plate of fish and chips in front of him. As he had many times before, William wondered if they shouldn't every now and then go somewhere that offered a little healthier fare. His thoughts turned to that place at the corner of Park Lane and Market Street, Joe's was it? He'd never ventured inside, but he'd seen the lunch menu displayed in the window – salads and soups. He wondered how many years would be added to his life expectancy if he ate his lunches there instead of the pub. But it didn't really matter now, did it? In a month he would be in Vienna and would probably spend the rest of the year eating schnitzels and strudels and whatnot.
As soon as they sat down, the conversation from Friday afternoon resumed as if there had been no two day's pause in between. He sighed.
"Darcy, you do realize that you have to come? It's in your bleeding honour, after all!"
The topic had been one and the same for several days now and apparently the weekend had not been enough of an interruption to make Charles forget it. Caroline Bingley was throwing a party four weeks hence, ostensibly to give everyone a chance to say goodbye to William before he left. In truth, William suspected that the fact that he was leaving was just another excuse for Caroline to hang on to his sleeve for one more evening, pretending that she was his girlfriend. She was not. But he had to admit that she'd been clever this time – throwing a party for him made it very difficult for him to avoid said party, especially when she'd already invited all of his friends and acquaintances.
Another sigh and he relented. "Fine, I'll come."
A smile lit up his friend's face. "Excellent! I can't wait to introduce you to my angel!"
At the same time, another lunchtime conversation was being had between two sisters sitting at a corner table by the window at Joe's. Two plates of the soup of the day stood untouched on the table between them, the smell of fresh coriander wafting in the air mostly ignored as Jane Bennet was trying to convince her reluctant sister to come to a party with her.
"Please, Lizzy, I don't know anyone there besides Charles and Caroline, I really need you there."
Elizabeth almost shuddered at the mention of Charles's sister. She'd met her twice and, in her opinion, that was two times too many.
"Trust me, Jane, if you want me to do you a favour, mentioning Caroline Bingley is not how you want to start the conversation."
Jane laughed. "She is a bit scary, isn't she? But I'm sure you'll learn to like her once you get to know her, she's really not that bad."
"Sure." Elizabeth replied, sounding everything but. Her sister really was too forgiving for her own good. Ever since Jane had started seeing Charles Bingley, his sister had been nothing but rude to her.
"Anyway, it's a big party, lots of people, you don't have to hang out with Caroline. And you could be my moral support when I meet his best friend."
"His best friend?"
"Yeah, Darcy something, I've yet to meet him. Apparently, he's like a brother to Charles, so his opinion really means a lot to him."
Elizabeth eyed her sister suspiciously. "What do you mean his opinion means a lot to him? Sounds a bit ominous, if you ask me."
"Well, you know, Caroline told me that Charles really trusts his advice on everything."
Elizabeth raised her eyebrows. "Caroline told you?"
"Well, yeah," Jane replied defensively, "I actually think it was friendly of her to give me a heads up, you know. Meeting him seems to be sort of a big deal. What if he doesn't like me?"
Elizabeth sighed. Poor Jane, to be on the receiving end of Caroline Bingley's friendly advice.
"Oh Jane, I'm sure he'll like you just fine. And so what if he doesn't? Charles can make up his own mind, can't he? But I'm curious, if he's so important, why haven't you met him yet? You've been going out with Charles for what, a month now? I should think you'd have met his best friend by now."
"According to Charles, he's been rather busy lately. He's moving abroad soon."
"Yeah. Let me see... to Australia, I think? Anyway, the party is actually a sort of a send-off for him. And, well, I'll murder you if you mention this to Caroline, but I got the impression that he might be trying to avoid her a little."
Elizabeth couldn't help but laugh at that. Avoiding Caroline Bingley was something she could definitely sympathize with.
"Fine," she said, between bouts of laughter, "if it makes you happy, I'll come face Crocodile Dundee with you."
It was close to eight o'clock when William finally finished work and headed back home. He knew he should have started packing already but instead found himself flopping on the sofa and turning on the telly. Just the idea of being the centre of attention at Caroline Bingley's ridiculous send-off party was making him exhausted. He didn't like attention, it made him uncomfortable. Especially the kind of attention the likes of Caroline liked to pay him. He had many acquaintances, and he supposed it was expected of him to say some sort of goodbyes. He was, after all, going to be away for quite a while. But the only people he would really miss were his sister Georgie, Richard and Charles. Surely he didn't need a party to say goodbye to them?
Now that he was really supposed to start thinking of leaving, William suddenly found that he didn't want to go. He'd only lived in Meryton for a year and the idea of moving again seemed tiring, to say the least. But the position they'd offered him had been too good to turn down. And he'd always said he'd like to live abroad for a while and here was his chance. There was nothing to hold him back, his sister was busy with her studies and Richard and the business could do just fine without him for a while. And Vienna was such a beautiful city, surely ten months there would pass in no time at all. So why wasn't he more excited?
Sighing, he switched off the telly. There was nothing good on. Was there ever? He wandered over to the fridge, but it was almost empty. It always was. He wondered if cooking would be more fun if there was someone else to cook for? And then, he laughed. Someone else to cook for? Richard and his bloody talk of girlfriends was really starting to get to him. Perhaps it was a good thing that he was going away. Changing out of his wrinkled suit and into a pair of jeans and a hoodie, he grabbed his keys. Who needed someone to cook for when Mr. Wong's was just across the street?
When Elizabeth got home there were five messages waiting for her in the answering machine, four from her mother and one from Char Lucas. The ones from her mother were full of her usual complaints: Why couldn't Elizabeth use the mobile her mother had bought her? That way her mother could reach her whenever she wanted, instead of leaving messages on a machine – precisely the reason why the mobile stood untouched in one of the kitchen cupboards. And why had she worn that awful dress to dinner yesterday? And also, could she tell Ed Gardiner that they needed to add more Harlequin Romance to the selection at Extensive Reading Co. – the bookshop Elizabeth co-owned with her uncle – and just who was that cute new boy she had seen there when she last visited? George, was it? Why couldn't Elizabeth date him? Elizabeth deleted her mother's messages, opting against calling her. Maybe tomorrow.
She then moved to the one from Char Lucas, her best friend ever since she'd given Bill Collins a nice kick in the bollocks when he'd tried to force Elizabeth to kiss him after school. Elizabeth had been eight and Char had been ten and Bill Collins, age eleven, had never forgiven either of them. Once, a good ten years later, Char had confessed that she hadn't really kicked him because she'd wanted to help Elizabeth, but because she'd been jealous. The thought of a ten-year-old Char Lucas madly in love with Bill "Snotnose" Collins still made Elizabeth laugh.
Char wanted to know if Elizabeth was still coming over on Wednesday evening? Definitely. They'd rent some no good flick, get some takeaway from Mr. Wong's and then spend the night ignoring the film and gossiping relentlessly. She'd ask Jane, too. Maybe together, she and Char could convince her sister to stop letting Caroline Bingley walk all over her.
Her fridge was nearly empty, but she managed to scrape together a few sandwiches and poured herself a glass of white wine. Settling into a well-worn armchair that stood in the corner of the room that served both as her bedroom and her living room, she took a sip of the wine and picked a book from the pile on the old, dusty television sitting on the floor next to the chair.
When people asked why she had demoted the poor old telly to serve as a table, her answer was always the same: There was never anything good on. Instead, Elizabeth liked to read. The walls of her little flat were covered by bookshelves. A large part of her beloved books had once belonged to her father. Her mother hadn't wanted to keep them when she and Elizabeth's younger sisters had moved away from her childhood home after her father had passed away several years ago. Elizabeth liked to think that her mother had wanted to get rid of them for sentimental reasons. That she didn't want the books because they were a painful reminder of her late husband. In truth, however, she much suspected that her mother had simply thought them a dust-gathering nuisance. In her twenty-six years she'd never understood how her parents had ended up married.
But soon enough all thoughts of her mother, the lousy morning she'd had and the undoubtedly excruciating party she'd agreed to go with Jane were forgot and she was lost in the pages of the novel she had picked. As she snuggled into bed a few hours later, her eyelids drooping, her head still full of the book, she sighed happily. Another Monday defeated. And a whole week ahead before the next one.
A few blocks away someone else fell asleep with much the same thoughts.