Two Tales, One Destiny

He was always late; a gambler and a playboy and a boxer by night, an aspiring lawyer by day, truly living the life in London.

She was witty but naïve, her spirit shining even in the depths of the wild English countryside.

They immediately disliked each other. She simply couldn't believe his arrogance and insolence- how dare he fall asleep while she was reading! He simply saw a poor country girl with big dreams. Dreams that would undoubtedly be crushed in the near future. But he couldn't help but admit to himself that there was something about her dark, expressive eyes that made him curious to know more. And she couldn't help but remember his flashing smile, even as she ranted about his insufferable character. They were drawn to each other, unsettling as it was.

Fate made them meet again, and again, and again; destiny brought them together. It was their own choices that tore them apart.

She brought out the best in him, Tom mused. He had tried living without her, tried bestowing his affections on someone else. It hadn't worked. Though he was now engaged, he spent his days and nights dreaming about her. The very thought of her marrying someone else repulsed him, but who was he to talk? Hypocritical as ever, Jane would have said with her charming smile.

When she heard that Tom was engaged, Jane thought her heart would explode. It wasn't a sharp piercing pain, no, not the pain of her heart shattering into a millions pieces. Unyielding pressure built inside her chest as the word resonated in her head, "Engaged...engaged...engaged..." Her insides twisted, a fist tightened over her heart. Engaged. "So soon?" she heard herself say. Had he forgotten her so soon?

When he visited his aunt in the country, his whole body tingled with anticipation and dread. Jane was so close, yet so far away... Duty and love battled each other in his heart, but in the end, love won out. He had already given her his heart and soul, and he would sacrifice his family, his profession, anything, for her. There he was, being selfish again. He knew his family depended on him for money, but if Jane was with him, he knew that he could find a way to make ends meet.

Jane wanted to be spontaneous for once. She knew her duty- to stay and marry Mr. Wisley. But that was not what she wanted. She wanted to be with Tom, to have that happy ending she desired for herself, for all her characters. And so she ran away with him.

He knew something was wrong with her. Her face was creased with worry, and though she tried to manage a smile for him, he could tell it wasn't genuine. Did she have second thoughts about this? he wondered uncomfortably. What did I do wrong?

From the moment she read that letter, Jane knew that she couldn't do this to Tom's family. They depended on him for their meager income- it was their only chance of survival. She knew what it was like to be poor, but Tom's family was probably far worse off than she was. Her father's words came back to her: Nothing destroys spirit like poverty. Jane spent rest of the carriage ride in torment. She wanted to be with Tom, to get married and have children. But what of their life? What of their family? She knew this was the one time she couldn't afford to be selfish. By the time they had come to a stop, Jane had made her decision.

His heart pounded with dread as he looked into those dark eyes of hers. They were filled with sorrow and longing, and as she pulled out his mother's letter, he knew what she was about to say. No. No. No. They couldn't be selfless now! They were so close. He was willing to sacrifice his family for her, but she couldn't let him make that sacrifice. Everything she said was true, and that was why he let her go. But as he stood there on the street, watching her carriage draw away, Tom thought that he'd never be happy again.

Tom smiled as he saw Jane's success, smiled as he read Pride and Prejudice, smiled at Darcy's antics, so like his own. But his heart twisted at the ending, the happy ending that he and Jane wanted but would never have. Ah, well, she would live vicariously through her novels, and so would he. He could imagine that they had really eloped, all those years ago, and he'd still be as prosperous as he was now. As he watched his eldest daughter pick up the book that he had laid down on the coffee table and begin to read, completely engrossed in the novel, he smiled again. She was pleased that she shared the same name as Jane Bennett, and of course, the authoress herself. Jane Lefroy would never guess that it was anything more than a coincidence.