A/N: Okay, here it is. Thank you for patiently sticking with me throughout the story, and for your kind words of encouragement along the way. Virtual hugs all around!
And a special thanks to my Beta, the lovely Tinkcook.
Who knew loving someone could be so painful at times?
The past year has shown me that love sometimes hurts you more than you ever thought possible.
Yet here we are.
The news of Charles' death hit William hard, harder than he let on at the time, but after the first few weeks he seemed to go back to his usual, albeit quieter than normal, self. It wasn't until a few weeks later that I discovered he wasn't over it, not at all, he had just decided to internalize his grief so as not to burden me with it … silly, thoughtful, misguided, man.
Finally, after drinking himself into a stupor in his study and never making it to bed for the third night in a row, I finally had enough and set him straight. It wasn't pretty. I had to first get him angry enough to yell and scream back before he would tell me what was really going on.
Turns out the guilt was eating him alive and he was blaming himself for almost everything. He was even blaming himself for the fact that Lydia's husband died, and that was just taking things a little too far.
Once he finally released all those feelings that had been festering for so long he was able to deal with his emotions instead of burying them. We ended up talking long into the night and finally came up with a plan … something tangible … to ease some of his guilt.
He sent his own solicitor to speak to Mr. Martin's solicitor and make sure the farm was being properly managed; in addition, he set up a supplemental annuity for Lydia and her son, and sent two of his own tenant's sons to help manage the farm and help make it more profitable; that way both Lydia and Caroline would always be taken care of.
Louisa and her husband were already doing well financially, so he didn't feel the need to assist them … thankfully.
I personally thought it was unnecessary to do even more for Lydia, but it helped ease his conscience, so I let it be. As my aunt is always telling me … pick your battles … and this one wasn't worth fighting, especially if it afforded him even a modicum of peace.
We later found out that Mr. Palmer had been killed and that Emily had died in the same carriage accident as Lydia's husband … I have my suspicions about that … but frankly I have washed my hands of Lydia, so it's her concern, not mine. My husband has done more than his fair share where my family is concerned, and though I love him dearly for his giving nature and unfailing generosity, enough is enough.
I realize that isn't a very Christian attitude to have, but I have suffered and fretted enough at the hands of my relatives and I refuse to do it any longer. That's not to say I would be adverse to a reconciliation should either of my sisters or parents have a change of heart … but, as they say, I'm not holding my breath.
I am very happy with our 'family' as it stands now.
Mary and Kitty have finally settled into Pemberley as if they had been born and raised here and are barely recognizable as the same ill-mannered, impulsive, and dare I say … annoying … girls from a year ago. School, and being with us, has done wonders for them. They are more self confident, softer spoken, have much better manners, and are developing their own talents; Mary on the pianoforte, and Kitty, who surprisingly has discovered a love of poetry, can recite quite eloquently.
Thankfully, William was able to convince papa to allow the girls to stay with us during the holidays and summers until they are done with school. With mama always with Lydia, and Jane with her new family, he felt it was better for them to be with us.
For once I was very glad for papa's laziness and complacency. He took the easy road, and it benefited someone other than himself.
Needless to say, the girls, and Georgiana, are thrilled.
After William had secured papa's permission to keep Mary and Kitty, William finally seemed to relax and start smiling again … and doing other things in earnest again.
We have had to learn to be more creative and careful when engaging in trysts outside of our bedchambers because of the girls all being home for the summer, but the challenge of it seems to have unleashed a previously undiscovered, and might I just say, much appreciated, mischievous side to my stalwart husband.
His new found playfulness and passionate nature never fail to warm my heart … and other areas as well … and not a day goes by that I don't count my blessings. I have a lovely new sister, his aunt and uncle are wonderful, and every night … and most mornings … still find me blissfully wrapped in my lover's arms.
Lady Catherine, thankfully, has kept her promise and refuses to acknowledge us, which I couldn't be happier about. We have heard from Colonel Fitzwilliam, however, that she has run off yet another overseer, so he predicts she will soon need to liquidate some of her assets to pay off her ever increasing debts.
Couldn't happen to a nicer woman!
They say to forgive is divine … but those who said that have never met Lady Catherine!
I know, I know, that isn't very nice, but I never claimed to be perfect.
William has been trying to teach me to ride, but I much prefer walking … or riding double with him … except that usually leads to other, more … wholesome … pursuits. Not that you will ever hear me complain. My husband is an exceedingly handsome and strapping man, with a very healthy and passionate nature … and I couldn't be happier.
Thanks to Mrs. Reynolds, assuming my role as Mistress of Pemberley has been relatively painless and hassle free. The tenants all adored the previous Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, and have graciously extended that to now include William and myself, for which I am quite thankful. In fact, one of the duties I most look forward to as Mistress each week, is preparing and delivering the food and medicine baskets to the tenant households. Something that evidently hasn't been done since William's mother was alive.
Unfortunately, the neighboring families haven't been as welcoming as the tenants, and at the first Assembly we attended, my reception was almost hostile. Evidently, more than one father had hoped to connect themselves with Pemberley, and more than a few mother's had plans to ensnare the very wealthy and handsome Mr. Darcy for their simpering, overly flirty, and extremely clingy, daughters.
Thankfully, William rarely left my side, and made sure he was always touching me in some fashion or other, to send a clear signal where his affections lie. It took every ounce of my self control not to slap every woman that touched or brushed up against William … the brazen hussies … and I had to struggle against my infantile desire to stick my tongue out at the envious and hostile looks I was receiving behind his back.
I believe I did mention that I wasn't perfect.
I decided instead to take the high ground, and simply held my head high and smiled a serene smile … that may or may not have looked … very slightly … smug. I also remained as close to William's side as humanly possible without appearing scandalous … or smug … just because I could.
And I may or may not have … accidentally … brushed against his manhood … a time or two … while whispering suggestive things in his ear in a blatant attempt to encourage him to cut the evening short.
Have I mentioned what a lucky woman I am?
I can hardly fathom how my life would have turned out had I walked away from William at Rosings. Likely we would have never gotten together, and even the thought of being without him makes me feel ill. He has become the most important person in my life and I cannot fathom existing without him.
But as I said, love is pain … and right now I am in quite a lot of it … but hopefully for not much longer.
Especially as I have been at it since before dawn this morning.
And, to the midwife's extreme displeasure, William is right here with me holding my hand as our first child is making it's way into the world.
Our beautiful, extraordinary son.
Frederick Fitzwilliam Darcy.
I never imagined life could ever be this good, but Lizzy has brought so much joy to my world that I cannot imagine a single day spent apart from her, especially now that she has given me a son.
A beautiful, healthy son.
I am a blessed man, and I give thanks every night for my bounty.
Beautiful, bountiful, Elizabeth.
Speaking of bounty … pregnancy and motherhood have done wonders for Lizzy's bosom … a fact which I exploit to the fullest extent … as often as possible.
Thankfully, she doesn't seem to mind.
Have I mentioned how blessed I am?
I still don't understand why pregnant women are expected to hide themselves away, and cover themselves with the most hideous creations as if in shame when there is nothing more stunning than a woman in full bloom.
Lizzy, whom I already find to be extraordinarily beautiful, was simply exquisite while pregnant. The way her stomach swelled above her glistening womanhood, her full breasts like dollops of fresh cream just begging to be suckled, and her skin practically luminescent … she was a sight to behold. If I had my way, she would have never worn a stitch of clothing for the entire nine months.
Unfortunately, I didn't get to have my way all of the time, but even covered, she fairly glowed with happiness and good health … she was breathtaking!
And now I have a son, and hopefully many more healthy children in the years to come.
Life is good.
Things were a bit hard for me after Charles' death. The guilt I felt was eating away at me, and despite my attempts to spare her my pain, my Lizzy finally knocked some sense into me and set me straight. She is quite a spitfire when riled, and while I'll admit to deliberately provoking her at times just to see her in all her glory, on that particular occasion, it was precisely what I needed to snap me out of my guilt induced stupor.
I have since taken measures to rectify some of my mistakes, even though Lizzy thinks it was unnecessary, and I have finally made peace with myself and with Charles' memory.
I do miss my friend though.
We had some very good times at school, but after my father died, I was no longer able to be the irresponsible and carefree young man Charles had come to know, and the dynamics of our friendship began to change. When Charles' father died a few years later, I think he looked to me to fill that role, because not only had I matured quite a lot since we had last met, but by then I was more of a father than brother to Georgie as well.
I should have seen what was happening and set healthier parameters between us to allow him to grow more on his own, but I was simply hoping to save him from making all of the same mistakes I had made when I first took over my family estate.
In hindsight, it was those hard lessons that made me into the responsible man I am today, so I see now that I really wasn't doing Charles any favors by protecting him.
But as Lizzy tells me, I can't shoulder the burdens of the world and still expect to be happy … so I've chosen to be happy and have decided to let the world take care of it's own problems.
My Elizabeth is a very shrewd woman … and extremely intelligent … and witty … and caring … and kind … and maddeningly stubborn … and even when she is being prickly and argumentative, she takes my breath away.
She is, by far, the best thing that has ever happened to me.
Yes, life is good!
Life is very, very good!