A/N: Hello, lovelies. I know it's been ages, but I finally have your epilogue. For further explanation as to my absence, you can find that information on my profile. In the meantime though, here's the sweet little cupcake of a finale to our story. Go get a glass of milk to wash it down with. Happy fall!
Lizzy sat on the bench with her legs crossed. She had a pumpkin spice latte in one hand and in her lap, Hemingway's A Moveable Feast was open, familiar passages highlighted, though she had been reading the same page at least three times. She glanced up quickly, as she did every 30 seconds, to make sure that the little ginger boy rocketing back and forth on the swingset hadn't broken an ankle yet. Or two.
The toddler had lost momentum, his little legs struggling to hit the ground. Lizzy got up and brushed dirt off of her denim skirt. The leaves crunched under her boots and she inhaled deeply, savoring the crisp air of autumn. The boy wriggled in his seat and Lizzy laughed. "You want a push, Pete?"
He wriggled more and she pushed him lightly on the swing. A giggle tore out into the cool air. "Again!" Lizzy grinned.
God, his hair was so red. It nearly blended in with the fall foliage. Pete Bingley was the spitting image of his father. He had Jane's big blue eyes though—her smile, too.
Lizzy got into a strange little routine of reading and pushing her nephew every two pages. Occasionally, she would stop to slip the highlighter out from behind her ear and make a note of something important. She had finally gotten used to being a student again; at least on the weekends, she could devote herself to her coursework. When the Bingleys didn't need babysitting, that was. It was ambitious of her, and extremely daunting—she wasn't sure that she could do it originally. Teach part-time and work towards her Master's degree in evening and online classes. But if not now, when?
She had six months left. Just six months. She looked down. Hopefully that would be enough.
Her phone buzzed and Lizzy fished for it in the pocket of her leather jacket. "Hello?"
"When are you coming home?" Darcy asked her, affronted.
She grinned. "Why? Miss me already?"
"I always miss you, Lizzy. It's a damn shame that you have so much power over me."
"Fear me," she said casually. She gave Pete another push and he laughed boisterously. "I'm cheating on you with Pete for the morning. But I'll be on the 3 o'clock train out of Trenton, all right? If you can get Chinese takeout for dinner, I will love you forever. I'm in no mood to cook tonight."
"It's done. Is Pete better than me?"
"Well, he's very cute. But I like my men tall," Lizzy teased. She heard Will's warm, deep chuckle from the other end and felt a strong desire to pull him close to her. Be near him always. "Did you drive Georgie back home yet?"
"I did. She has to get ready for her internship in D.C."
"Mm." Pete began to fuss and cry, so Lizzy cradled the phone between her ear and shoulder and scooped him up, jogging him on her hip. "What's the matter, sweet boy? What's got you so down? Are you hungry?"
"I'm okay, actually. The game's on so I've just been watching that, eating chips. I've got a little bit of indigestion—"
"Not you," Elizabeth laughed.
They met Jane at the corner Starbucks down in Newbury. She had finally taken up an appointment to get her haircut. It was shorn to her chin now, sleek and honey blonde. "Very nice," Lizzy grinned, handing Pete over. "Here's your child."
"Oh, thanks. I was wondering where I put him." Jane peppered her boy's face with kisses. "Petey, were you nice for Aunt Lizzy?"
He reached for her dangly earring and deposited it in his mouth.
"If he can't eat your question, he's not interested," Lizzy deadpanned. "You guys heading home?"
"Yeah. Charlie's waiting for us, watching football. He even bought this itty bitty little jersey for Pete. I think he's Skyping his commentary with Will now," Jane raised her eyebrows. "It's really, really sad."
"Those losers—I didn't know they were Skyping."
"Did Will ask you to marry him today?" Jane teased. Lizzy glared at her.
It was becoming a sort of game between them over the past two years. The first time Lizzy turned Will down, it had been devastating for him. They had been on a long romantic walk on the beach at nighttime. He had thrown his jacket over her shoulders when she grew cold, and she found the little black velvet jewelry box in its canvas pocket. No had come out almost immediately.
She loved him. She loved him with all her heart and she didn't want anybody else. But she felt frazzled financially. She felt like she didn't have her professional life in order and wanted to teach at a college level. There was so much that she wanted to accomplish before settling down, and she didn't want his help.
So Will would have to wait.
And wait he did.
Except he did begin to ask half-heartedly every couple of months. And in truly unromantic ways like, through the bathroom door or in the laundromat or when Lizzy's car was in the shop getting an oil change.
"No," Lizzy said patiently.
"I really wish he would hurry up and make that grand gesture again," Jane said. "I finally lost the last five pounds of baby weight and I feel like I would rock that maid of honor dress really, really well." A beat, "Basically, you can see my waist again and I'm excited."
"So this is all about you, then."
"Yeah, of course."
Pete leaned towards Lizzy fussily, crying. She took him into his arms. "Pete! You are so needy."
"You definitely have a way with him," Jane smiled. "You're gonna make an awesome mom someday."
Lizzy looked up, smiled demurely at her sister and handed her nephew back to his mother.
The train from Trenton was relatively empty. Lizzy rested her head on her backpack and curled on the brown leather seat and half dozed. Her arms settled around her lower belly and she pursed her lips, thinking, thinking, thinking.
She took a cab to the apartment from Penn Station. The lobby to the elevator. Pressed "PH" and walked down the hall to her left, fiddling with her keys. Will was at his desk, in front of his laptop. The Eagles versus the Giants was on in the background, but he was working. His black frames were on the tip of his nose. The sleeves of his sweater were rolled up to his elbows. He brightened immediately when he saw her.
"Hello," she dropped a kiss on his mouth, "my hard-working boyfriend."
"I do what I can."
Lizzy pulled off her scarf and shrugged out of her jacket. "Jane told me that you and Charlie were Skyping," she shot him a withering look. "I can't even get you to Skype with me when I'm back home on the weekends."
"I thought this was your home," Will tutted. Lizzy was sitting on the arm of the sofa now and he had gotten up and was standing in front of her now. He fingered the end of her braid.
"Don't pull that shit with me," Lizzy laughed. "You know what I mean."
"When I am I gonna get you out of this apartment and off to Pemberley?" he asked. "That's home."
"When I've gotten my Master's and I can find a job down there," Elizabeth said gently.
"Wait, seriously?" he blinked. "You would consider it?"
"Yes." She slid her hands up his chest. "This is nice. Cashmere? Who bought this?"
"I have really good taste."
"Yes, you do," he murmured, leaning down to kiss her.
She pulled away shortly, leaving Will hovering. "Do you want to go for a walk?"
"Now?" Will looked puzzled. "Chinese food's gonna get cold. It's in the kitchen."
"We'll microwave it. Come on. Please?" she jutted out her lower lip.
They were outside within minutes. Will stood sulking outside the brownstone, his hands stuffed in his coat pockets. "I feel like you have woman sorcery skills and I don't understand how they work."
She tugged him along. They took their usual route, about a mile and a half from where they lived, past their dry cleaners, and their favorite Russian deli. Lizzy had grown used to the nuances of the city. Living here had once been unthinkable. It was so abrasive, so loud and harried and impersonal in New York. But Will loved it, and she loved him. Adding a proper dose of femininity to his apartment had actually been fun. The penthouse had been so clean and zen and minimalist in the past. Now it was cozy. Messy, but cozy.
Of course, they couldn't stay there forever.
"So, what's up?" Will asked. He had been walking faster than her and had slowed now so she could catch up, because he had long legged person problems. "Did you not have a good time with Jane?"
"Oh, of course I did. I missed her a lot."
"You miss Pennsylvania, too," Will said softly.
Lizzy shrugged. "I do and I don't. I like it here with you much better."
"Then what's the problem?"
"No problem, I just... I've been thinking that maybe we need a bigger place," Lizzy said tentatively.
"Bigger." Will stopped walking and raised his eyebrows. "Pemberley bigger? Why now? I've brought it up so many times before but you were never very keen on it."
Lizzy looked up at him earnestly, her green eyes wide. "I miss Nan's cooking."
"That is bullshit," Will said, but he was laughing. Nan Reynolds did cook phenomenally. "Lizzy."
He actually looked stupid now. "What?"
Lizzy mimed orbiting a planet on her abdomen. "You know. Spherical. With child."
"Oh my god," Will ran a hand through his hair.
They were both silent for a good stretch of seconds. Darcy stared at her flat, yet-to-be-inflated abdomen and Lizzy chewed on her lower lip and looked off into the distance. "Your lack of response besides panic is really making me nervous right now," she said quickly.
And then he drew her in in such a wide, tight embrace that he lifted Lizzy off of her feet. "Bigger house?" she began to laugh, tears springing to her eyes.
"Bigger house," he breathed against her hair. "Yeah, yeah, definitely bigger house."
"I'm good with Pemberley if you are."
"We're gonna have a baby," Will said, shocked. He was beaming.
"We are gonna have a baby."
"Are you gonna let me marry you already?" Will demanded, pulling away. He was breathless and his blue eyes were impossibly bright.
Lizzy paused. Then she nodded vigorously. "Yeah."
"I feel like you're shitting me right now. Is this all some twisted joke tonight, because if it is, I will never ever forgive you—"
"I am not shitting you. I am on board," Lizzy hit him on the chest. "I'm marrying you, and we're having a baby. Do you still have the ring in your sock drawer?"
"Yeah, I..." Will's eyes narrowed. "Wait, you knew the ring was in the sock drawer?"
"Well, it was only a little better than your last hiding spot by the mail stack."
"Damn it," he swore.
"And then the month before that, in Richard's dining room cabinet. He told me that one."
"I love you," Lizzy said quietly. She smiled up at him and pulled him down for a kiss.
He pressed his cheek to hers and encircled her in his arms. "I love you back."