Disclaimer: Jane Austen's works are in the Public Domain and no disclaimer is needed. Also, I'm a HUGE geek. Section breaks are useless, I've bolded the start of new sections.
Mrs. Bennet would often say that she was never happier than the day when her eldest, sweetest, most beautiful daughter married the Founder and CEO of Bingley Corporations. Lizzy, however, would argue that Mrs. Bennet had frequently been overcome by nerves, irritable, and a veritable Mother of the Bride-zilla.
While it's true that Mrs. Bennet was a complete pain in the rear to everyone and anyone up to the moment that Jane was walked down the aisle by her father, when her lovely Janey kissed her new husband, she felt a glow of pride and happiness that would last her for years.
Jane woke insanely early on the day of her wedding, much to Lizzy's hungover dismay. The bachelorette party had ended in the wee hours of the morning, but Jane had bowed out at a very reasonable hour and slept the peaceful sleep of an extremely happy bride. Lizzy watched her closely for signs of nerves, but Jane had never been more sure of anything in her life and it showed on her glowing face.
Lizzy and Jane were sharing a bed in Lizzy's condo as Jane had essentially moved in with Charles, Lizzy's place was so close to the bachelorette location and the wedding venue, and the Bennet clan had taken over Jane's house (with the Mrs. and Mr. in separate bedrooms, of course). Lizzy groaned as she heard Jane shifting off the bed.
"Don't worry, I'm just checking on the cake."
"Cake's fine," Lizzy mumbled.
"I need to make sure it hasn't settled and -" Jane stopped talking because her sister had already gone back to sleep. Jane had insisted on making her own wedding cake and the groom's cake. She hadn't trusted any other local baker with this job. Charlie had requested a replica of the Elephant located in the entrance hall of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Jane had protested that he only requested that because she loved it so much, but he insisted that it was also his favorite place in the world and it was really for him. Nothing to do with her. The smile on his face had told Jane what he really meant when he said that. His choice was to make her happy thereby making him happy.
Jane reciprocated by designing a beautiful five-tiered art deco cake in the style and colors that she knew Charlie adored. It was all over his house and she sometimes caught him admiring his artwork when he thought no one was looking. But Jane was always looking. So, essentially, the groom's cake was for the bride and the wedding cake was for the groom. But only the bride, groom, best man, and maid of honor knew this.
Jane made sure there were no cracks in the fondant of the cake and managed to load it on a rolling cart that she borrowed from her bakery. She placed a large plastic box cover over the cake and taped the lid down. Will Darcy's cousin Richard was stopping by in a few hours to take the cake to the venue. She went to the guest bathroom to wash her face and brush her teeth. Her hair stylist and make-up artist would be arriving at the venue roughly four hours before the wedding. When she turned off the tap and packed up her toiletries she could hear the shower running in Lizzy's bathroom.
Poking her head in the bathroom she found Lizzy sitting on the shelf in her shower with her eyes shut and the water streaming over her.
"You're not supposed to wash your hair," Jane cried in dismay.
"I wasn't planning on washing it. It's just getting wet. I'll dry it after, no shampoo."
Jane sighed in relief, "Thank you."
"So you're nervous about some things, but none of them is getting married."
"Right," Jane said before shutting the bathroom door.
Lizzy was happy for her sister, she really was, but she would be ecstatic for her after a hot shower and cup of coffee. She dragged her butt out of the shower and pulled on a pair of capri pants and a button down shirt. She heard Jane moving around outside of her bedroom and thought that even if she was happy to get married today, her perfectionist nature had been put in overdrive by the stress of wedding planning and preparation. Lizzy knew that when she stepped out of her bedroom, her home would be spotless. No evidence of decorating a cake or hosting pre-game drinks last night with the girls. Jane claimed to have showered the night before when she returned to the condo, but there was no evidence of this happening in the guest bathroom.
She was a cleaning machine.
Lizzy walked out and found Jane and Richard talking in the foyer with a giant plastic encased wedding cake between them.
"Slowly," Jane repeated - slowly.
"I've got it Jane, your cake is in good hands."
"Are you sure? Because I can ask my assistant - "
"Jane, would you like to come with me?"
"Oh yes, that would be great!"
Lizzy laughed. "Jane, we've got an appointment at the spa for massages and mani/pedis. Lydia is expecting us!"
"Oh, I'll meet you there. Rich, you can drive me, right?"
"No problem. Today, your wish is my command."
"See, it'll be fine. Then I can make sure the cake arrives in good order."
"Okay," Lizzy sighed.
"Great! Can you bring my bag with you? It's in the living room." Lizzy nodded. "Thanks! Let's go," Jane said as she began pushing the cake cart out the door. She was walking so slowly that Lizzy managed to catch up with them at the elevator with garment bags, Jane's duffle bag, and her own tote bag.
Jane frowned at her and all of the things she was carrying and said, "Can you take the next elevator? I don't want any accidents to happen to the cake or the dresses."
"No problem," Lizzy said wryly. As Rich had said earlier, it was her day.
The elevator took forever. Or maybe that was just because Lizzy couldn't put anything down. When the doors finally dinged, they opened to reveal a bellhop cart with a rack for the dresses and a place for the bags. Lizzy laughed out loud. Her sister was always thoughtful even when she was crazy. Lizzy entered the elevator and hung the dresses up and put the bags down. In the garage below she found her car and loaded it up, careful to lay out the dresses so as not to wrinkle them.
The hotel where the wedding was being held was not far away and Lizzy found a great space in the garage. She located another bellhop cart and brought it back to her car. As she was loading it, she saw Rich's SUV inching towards her with Jane nowhere to be seen. She waved as it crawled by and laughed when she saw Jane's blond hair through the back windows. She was sitting with the cake. Her insanity appeared to have reached new heights. She walked her cart behind the SUV and met them at the door (hell, she almost beat them to the door walking). Rich opened the back doors and Jane climbed out. Together they grabbed the rolling cart and carefully placed it on the ground. Jane unlocked the wheels and began pushing it towards the doors on her own.
"I can take her to the spa myself Rich, since we're both here. You can go make yourself useful to Charlie."
"Yes, thank you Rich!" Jane said as she maneuvered the cake cart over the threshold of the hotel. "Lizzy can you check us in while I take this to the kitchen?"
"Of course, dear. I'll meet you back here."
Lizzy confirmed their reservations and got their card keys. She'd always wanted an excuse to stay at the Grand Bohemian, but had never had a reason until now. She shivered with excitement in anticipation of a rooftop wedding at sunset. She was deep in thought when the elevator doors opened in front of her. Will and Charlie were standing in front of her.
"Oh no," Lizzy groaned. "C'mon, you're both going back up with me."
"She's here? She wasn't going to come here until later," Charlie protested.
"She insisted on accompanying Rich and the cake here. She's gone to the kitchen. Come back up and I'll text you when we're on our way to the spa."
"Is she okay? Is she nervous?" Charlie himself was fidgeting, but I suppose that was to be expected.
"She's insane. Nothing is going to go wrong today."
"But, she's not nervous about getting married, is she?" Charlie's biggest fear was apparently Jane changing her mind.
"Getting married is the one thing she's not nervous about." Lizzy patted him on the back and looked up as the elevator dinged and the doors opened.
Lizzy walked to her room and when they arrived, Will used his key to open the door. Lizzy smiled as she walked past him and dropped off her bag. She then went down to the bridal suite and hung up the dresses and put Jane's bag on the bed. Charlie waved at her and disappeared into the elevator heading to the next floor up where his suite was. Will kissed her when they were alone and they chatted about the weather and the wedding while Will waited for an elevator going up and she waited for an elevator going down. When his elevator arrived, Will kissed her on the cheek and disappeared behind sliding doors.
As Lizzy's elevator sped to the ground floor, she thought about what it would be like to spend the rest of her life with Will. Was she worried that she wasn't ready due to relative inexperience? Or was it that she had finally found someone who was able to distract her from her career? Lord knew that other men had tried, she had been hit on enough at local Bar events. But she had been ambitious and uninterested in distractions. So how did the distraction of Will worm its way into her heart?
And then it hit her. The elevator doors slid open and Jane was waiting for her near the front desk. Lizzy stepped off of the elevator and Jane looked concerned. "Are you okay?"
Lizzy shook her head and sat down on a nearby couch. Jane sat next to her and had the good sense not to look at her watch.
"What happened, Lizzy?"
"I've just realized something," she replied sounding shell-shocked.
"What?" Jane's voice had a tinge of panic rising and Lizzy looked at her sister, taking her hand.
"I'm going to marry Will."
"When?" Jane asked, all thoughts of timetables forgotten.
"I don't know, but I know that he's the only man I'll ever love."
"I'm so confused, when did you finally figure this out?"
"What do you mean 'finally'?" Lizzy asked, her sense returning to her.
"Don't change the subject, what happened to bring you to this realization?"
"The other night, Will told me that no one had ever said no to him. It's why he was so upset when I turned down his proposal. And I just realized, that I've never really heard of a guy thinking...I don't know...poorly of me!"
"Of course not, why would anyone - Oh." Jane's face took on the same stupor that Lizzy's had when she had come off the elevator.
"No one until I overheard Will at the bar."
"You do like a challenge," Jane said.
"I sure do."
"You should propose to him!" Jane nearly shouted.
"Yes! Do it at the end of your toast! I don't mind, I'm giving you permission."
"Permission to steal your spotlight?"
"Oh yes, of course, Lizzy. Nothing would make me happier." Jane hugged her sister hard. "It would be the cherry on top of my perfect day to see you so happy."
Lizzy had tears in her eyes as she pulled back from the hug, but her smile was brilliant. "We'd better get moving, we're going to be late."
The sisters walked back to Lizzy's car arm in arm. They never saw Will step off of the nearby elevator. He had come down to get Charlie a cup of coffee, but had hidden behind a nearby plant when he heard them talking. Sometime in the five minutes since he had last seen Lizzy, she had decided that she would marry him. His mouth turned up with a smile and he seemed to forget what he was doing. The ding of the elevator jarred him back to reality and he walked to the nearby Starbucks in the hotel lobby. He was in such a daze that he nearly forgot to pay for Charlie's decaf (because that man did not need anymore caffeine).
He made the trek back to Charlie's suite and could not believe his good luck to have heard that conversation. He needed to talk to Charlie. And Georgie. Someone who could help him believe his own ears and good fortune.
When he got back to the suite, he handed Charlie his coffee and felt his phone vibrate. He checked it and saw Lizzy's message stating that they were gone. He showed Charlie and sat down on the couch in the suite's common room.
Will looked up at him and blinked. "Yeah?"
"Are we going? I thought we were playing golf."
"Right! We'd better go, we'll miss our tee time." Jarred from his thoughts, he lead the way down to his car. He and Bingley met Rich by the elevators and they all headed down.
"Who's our fourth?" Rich asked.
"Mr. Bennet," Will nearly shouted.
"Wow, okay," Rich looked at him strangely.
"What? I like Mr. Bennet."
"Me too," Charles defended him.
"Good thing," Rich said, "future father-in-law."
Will beamed at his friends as they climbed into Rich's SUV and drove off to Dubsdread golf course.
When they climbed out of Rich's car a short drive later, Mr. Bennet was standing near a golf cart with his rented clubs already strapped in. He looked pointedly at his watch, but said nothing. Charlie looked shamefaced, but explained, "Jane had to accompany the wedding cake to the hotel. I couldn't leave until she did."
The other men confirmed this and Mr. Bennet smiled and shook his head. "I suppose I shouldn't have expected any less from my Janey. She tends to be a perfectionist in moments of stress. You should see her middle school and high school transcripts. Mrs. Bennet and I were rarely happy during those years and only filed for divorce when Jane and Lizzy were old enough to understand. Well, we had better get going. I had the tee time pushed back a bit so as not to back up the first tee."
"Excellent thinking, Mr. Bennet," Charlie enthused.
"Please call me Eddie. No, better yet, call me dad."
"It would be my honor, dad." Charlie tried out the new title.
Will was impressed. Jane must have told Eddie Bennet that Charlie's own parents had passed away nottoo long ago. It meant a lot to Charlie to have someone to call dad. It would mean a lot to Will.
The men teed off and the conversation was normal, but Rich had an unsatisfying report on Jane's condition this morning as she had ridden in the trunk with the cake (at her insistence he had to repeat, three times) and thus had not had a normal conversation with her. Mr. Bennet regaled them of tales of his daughters as young girls and Will began to understand how Lizzy became the woman he knew and loved. He learned that she had watched her parents' marriage dissolve at a time in her life when a girl usually learns to believe in true love. He learned that Lizzy became competitive, throwing herself into sports and the debate club looking to external sources for praise, because after Eddie Bennet moved to California, she received none at home. She was too much like her father.
"I confess that I thought about taking Lizzy with me, I knew that she would not be loved and appreciated in her mother's care, but I could not separate her from her sisters. It was the hardest decision I've ever made, but my work took me out there and I had very little choice in the matter." Eddie Bennet sighed and swung his golf club, launching the white ball neatly at the edge of the green.
"Mr. Bennet, I need to tell you something."
"Go ahead Will."
"I overheard Lizzy and Jane talking in the hotel lobby today before they left. I think Elizabeth is going to propose to me tonight."
"What?" Charlie shouted causing Rich to shank his ball into a water hazard. Charlie looked sheepishly at Rich and said, "Have a mulligan on me. Sorry."
"Jane gave her permission to do it at the end of her maid of honor toast," Will clarified.
"Of course she did," Charlie beamed. "What are you going to say?"
"I don't know," Will said thoughtfully.
"Well, I hope that I one day get the privilege of calling you son as well," Mr. Bennet said as they returned to the carts. Mr. Bennet clapped Will on the back and Will had to look away as a piece of dust came out of nowhere and got into both of his eyes.
Lizzy attempted to ignore the loud, violent sound of her mother's voice having a panic attack in the lobby of the spa. She focused on the woman who was attempting to knead the knots out of her back muscles.
"Wow, what just happened?" The masseur asked.
"Oh, that's just my mother out there raising a ruckus," Lizzy admitted.
"You and your mother don't get along?"
"How could you tell?" Lizzy replied wryly.
"I can ask her to leave."
"Of course, I can," the masseur assured her.
"No, that's okay. I like you. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy."
"If you say so. It's almost like you just laid down. Not like I've been working for an hour."
Lizzy sighed, "this is the natural state of my body when my mother is in town. I'm used to it."
"Well, I'm sorry to say that our time is up."
"Thank you, Karen." Lizzy sat up holding her towel in front of her.
"No problem, Lizzy. You take care."
Karen let herself out and Lizzy could hear her mother's voice increase in volume as the door opened and swung shut. She wrapped the fuzzy robe around herself and left through a different door. She met Jane and Lydia in the back hallway and they went to get their nails done.
"What's mom caterwauling about?"
"Their massage oil made her break out in a rash. Her massage was cut short and she hasn't stopped yelling about it," Lydia sighed.
"How is that anyone's fault?" Lizzy asked.
"You know how she is," Lydia said.
"It's an unfortunate situation," Jane said. "She's going to ask you to sue them, Lizzy."
"Of course she is."
"How are you doing, Lyds," Lizzy asked as they relaxed into their seats with their feet submerged in warm scented water. Their mother's voice had become even more distant with the change of scenery.
"I'm much better after a bit of pampering. Though I'm still a bit sore in places."
Jane and Lizzy exchanged looks. For years, Jane's wedding would be a bit overshadowed by Lydia's rape (her mother would forever refer to it as Lydia's "adventure"), but it would also be punctuated with a sense of pride at the way Lydia blossomed out of the ashes of the horrific event. Lydia had essentially slept away the few days between returning to Jane's house and the morning of Jane's wedding. Nobody bugged her, nobody begrudged her the rest. It gave Lydia plenty of time for reflection and resolution. She looked at her big sisters with a new light. No longer were they perfect and bossy, respectively. She saw Jane as the mother figure she longed for and Lizzy as the protective and loving big sister that she never knew she wanted.
Lydia knew that her mother loved her, but her mother never realized that clinging to her youngest daughter, doting on her and spoiling her, had done more harm than good. Lydia knew that now. She shouldn't have been allowed to get her own way all the time. Her mother had tried to remedy this when Lizzy and Jane had left home, but it was too little, too late. Only a disaster could make her see what was important. She resolved to get into UCF. She wanted to be near her sisters. It was all she would think about for the next year. She hoped it wasn't too late.
Jane watched Lydia in her silent reverie and hoped that she would come out of this okay. She thought about her parents' marriage and wondered how they had felt on their wedding day. Her mother was no doubt a nervous wreck as she always seemed to be. Her father might have had cold feet. They had been young and he had prized beauty above all. And she had been beautiful. Jane had looked at her parents' wedding album and saw how young they were. But they had also looked happy. It would be 13 years before this happiness eroded to reveal the strain that a loveless marriage had on a couple's foundation. She was almost certain that Lydia had been an anchor baby, a last ditch attempt to save the marriage. She felt sorry for Lydia, for never having known what it was like to grow up with their father.
Lizzy saw Jane watching Lydia with a wrinkle between her brow and felt sick with guilt. Despite her father and Will assuring her that it was not her fault, Lizzy couldn't help but feel that a pall had been cast on Jane's special day and it was her fault. Lizzy owed Jane no less than a perfect wedding day. When their father had left them for the West coast and their mother had all but disowned Lizzy, Jane had become Lizzy's mother as well as her sister. She was at every sporting event and every debate cheering her little sister on. Even when Jane was accepted into culinary school she lived at home so that Lizzy would always have a buffer. If anyone deserved a perfect wedding it was Jane. If she thought sedating their mother would help, Lizzy would do it. But it would only upset Jane, so Lizzy opted not to do it. Lizzy would move mountains to give Jane the happiness she deserved, because she knew Jane would do the same for her.
"Girls, I'm going to the ER," Mrs. Bennet announced to them.
"What? Mom, no!" Jane cried.
"I won't be long, I need to get a shot of epinephrine. It won't take long for me to get ready. It's your day after all."
Lizzy misted up at that. It wasn't often that her mother was so selfless and Lizzy had to agree that her mother's allergic reaction looked horrible. Lizzy resolved to look into that lawsuit if her mom wanted her to. Mrs. Bennet kissed her eldest daughter on the cheek and waved by as she swanned out of the spa and headed to the nearest hospital.
"She was my ride," Lydia smiled after her.
"I have room," Lizzy said laughing.
Lizzy was standing at the window of Jane's bridal suite staring out at the city of Orlando. Jane was getting her hair done and Lydia was getting her make-up done which left Elizabeth, dressed and ready to go, with little to do but fret over her proposal.
"Maybe I shouldn't do it," she said nervously.
"No!" Jane replied. "You are definitely doing it."
"She's right, Jane. Men don't like to be proposed to, they do the proposing."
Lizzy and Jane held their tongues on Lydia's knowledge of the opposite sex and Lizzy looked down at her speech. It was neatly typed up and full of gushing about the happy couple and funny stories, but at the bottom in her near illegible scrawl was her proposal. She wasn't sure she was going to make it through without crying. No, make that sobbing. She had cried just writing it. Luckily before her make-up had been completed. The artist had assured her that her mascara was waterproof. Jane moved into the make-up chair and the photographers arrived. They caught some getting ready photos and pictures of Lizzy and Lydia getting Jane's dress out. September means autumn to most parts of the country, but it's still summer in Florida, so Jane had chosen a snow white strapless dress with a heart-shaped neckline, fitted bodice, a single baby blue sash around her waist, and a full ball gown skirt with a train.
Lizzy and Lydia wore baby blue strapless cocktail dresses with a white sash at the waist and a knee-length skirt. They were wearing matching pumps. Jane was wearing vintage white shoes with silver beading on them and teetering heels. In her hair, the hairstylist had worked a white pearl brooch borrowed from Lizzy into her updo. Lizzy had asked that her long red hair be up and down at the same time. The stylist knew exactly what she wanted and pinned most of her hair up into a chignon, but left a long thick strand falling over her shoulder with a single curl at the end.
Mrs. Bennet showed up in time to help them put Jane's veil on. Lizzy noticed that a calmness had fallen over Jane which caused a beatific smile to take up residence on her face that never faltered. Not for a moment. Lizzy could only hope that she was so calm in the face of her own marriage, but she knew she'd be a basket case up to the moment they said the vows.
With everyone ready to go, the wedding planner made sure that Charles had already gone up to the roof and the ladies got on the elevator. Jane clutched her bouquet in one hand and Lizzy's hand in the other. When they arrived at the top of the hotel, they were ushered out of sight to a waiting area. Music began and Mrs. Bennet was whisked off to be escorted to her seat by Will Darcy. Jane whispered in Lizzy's ear urgently, "I thought you should know that Caroline is a groomswoman and will be up there next to Will."
"What?" Lizzy whispered, loudly.
"It's fine, Charles wanted to include her to keep the numbers even."
"Okay, I guess. A little more warning would've been nice," Lizzy whispered as the wedding planner separated them so Lizzy could march down the aisle.
Lizzy tried to mimic the beatific smile that Jane had adopted in her wedding bliss, but could not stop herself from beaming when she saw the groom and his best man at the end of the aisle. Even the sight of Caroline in a form-fitting black cocktail dress with baby blue accents couldn't ruin her elated mood. The men wore baby blue vests and ties under black tuxedos. When Lizzy had reached the altar, she turned and looked back to see Jane and her father standing at the other end and she beamed even more (if that was even possible). Charlie's eyes lit up and Will was smiling like a goofball. Everyone rose and the bride floated down the aisle to meet her groom.
There wasn't a dry eye in the house.
The DJ was well-chosen and introduced the wedding party with class and style. Will could never say he had been embarrassed at his best friend's wedding. Caroline was trying to cling to him, complaining that the wedding had no class and the people attending were barbarians. Will cut her off with praise for everything and went to find Lizzy to take their seats.
Charlie and Jane sat at a sweetheart table by themselves. Lizzy and Will were ushered to the head table by the DJ to give their toasts and Will was introduced first. Lizzy was not paying a lot of attention, because she was so worried about her own speech. But he caught her attention soon enough.
"Charlie has been my best friend since high school and through it all, he has been my rock. I used to think he was prone to flights of fancy and too ready to fall in love, but I realize now that he had never truly been in love. Because I look at you two today and I know that this is Charlie in love and it's a great thing. I can only hope that someday soon I will know the same happiness and love as you two do. In fact, Elizabeth Bennet?" Lizzy's head jerked up and she looked at him. Jane and Charlie were grinning at them. "I believe that I have found the love I've been looking for with you. I believe deeply that I want to spend the rest of my life with you and I want to know if you feel the same way. Lizzy, will you marry me?"
Will dropped to his knee and held open a different ring box than the one before. This was not a whim. It was not a hastily picked ring on a lunch break. He had gone back and deliberated over a ring that truly reminded him of her. A single square cut diamond, not to big, not too flashy, but flawless, like her. He looked up into her face and she was crying and smiling. After an excruciating moment she nodded her answer - YES! Will jumped up and hugged her. Jane and Charlie stood up from their chairs and joined them. Lizzy and Jane cried in each others arms and the room had erupted in applause. When things settled down again, Lizzy took the mike and tried to give her toast, but it was crumpled and she couldn't stop laughing. Finally, she looked at Jane and Charlie and said, "Jane, you're the best sister a girl could ever ask for and no one deserves this happiness more than you do. Charlie, you'd better take care of my sister or I will bury you in lawsuits." To which everyone laughed. Lizzy raised her glass and toasted the happy couple.
After the last guests had finally wandered off and the DJ was long gone for the night, Will and Lizzy were still dancing together to a song heard only by them on the rooftop under the stars.
"How did you know I would say yes?" Lizzy asked dreamily. Exhaustion had overcome her long ago, but Will's strength kept her standing.
"I overheard you and Jane talking this morning, in the lobby."
"You did? You sneak! I can't believe you beat me to it!"
"I can't believe that you were trying to one up me!" He said kissing her hair softly.
"No, not one upping you. Rectifying a terrible mistake."
"Ah, that's much better. But you must tell me, at what point did you come to this realization?"
"It was on the elevator ride down to the lobby."
"That fast?" he teased her.
"Like lightning," she murmured sleepily.
"I think it's time to get you to bed." Lizzy nodded in agreement, but could not let go of him for fear of falling down. Will swept her up into his arms like the hero of a romance novel and walked to the elevator. He managed to take her bridesmaid dress off of her and tuck her into their bed. He removed his own tux and climbed in beside her. The sun was beginning to rise in the east and they were both falling asleep.
"Will?" she murmured in her sleepy state.
"I love you."
"Ditto," he said as he shut his eyes and fell into the best sleep of his life.
Author's Note: I had planned to write the epilogue next as some time in the distant future, but I thought you all might like to attend Lizzy's wedding instead. Or did you want both? Let me know in the comments. Your feedback is always appreciated!