A/N: This is only going to be a five-chapter thing, set on the day Elizabeth dies. I know it's been done before, but reading some other examples of this made me think about the five dead people that have most affected Elizabeth's life...and how they would try to help her get free of Purgatory and into Heaven, where she belongs and where her soul mate is waiting. Please review!
That was the first word that Elizabeth spoke when she opened her eyes. She did not know where she was, but a small voice in the back of her mind told her that this was not Heaven, not yet. She wondered if George was here. Oh, please let George be here.
She looked down at herself in disdain. Although her hands had lost their veins and wrinkles and she could tell that she looked young and vital again, she wore the nightdress that she had been wearing just moments ago...moments ago when she slipped away from her three weeping children. What had young George been trying to tell her, she wondered? If only she could have heard it before she slipped away.
She became aware that she was lying down upon some invisible thing that she could not see, and rose unsteadily. The air was grey and powdery around her, and there was a breeze that toyed languidly with her Titian hair, but she was not cold. Her feet were bare. Oh, where was George?
"I am here, my love"
Elizabeth could hear his voice, but even after turning in a full circle, and looking up above and down below, she could not see him.
"George?" She cried, "Where are you? I'm frightened now, I cannot see you"
"There is no need to be frightened" George's voice was calm and measured, but she could hear the passion that he was restraining, "I cannot be with you yet. You must pass a test"
"A test?" Elizabeth's voice was shrill, "Have I not been tested enough?"
"Not like this" George paused, "Look below you again"
Elizabeth did. This time, she could see that she was standing upon a shimmering wisp of cloud, and not far beneath her burned bright red and orange flames – she could suddenly feel their scorching heat and hear their crackle. Her eyes widened and she wrapped her arms around herself, trying not to scream.
"Is that - ?" she whispered.
"Yes. Hell" George replied.
"You're not in Hell, are you?" she asked fearfully, "I couldn't bear that, George"
"No, my love. I am in Heaven. And I had to complete a test much similar to yours. Look above you again"
Elizabeth did so, and above her she could see the much talked of golden gates of Heaven. A slender spiral staircase let to the gates, and up there the clouds were fluffy and white, like little sheep.
"Heaven!" she exclaimed delightedly, "That is where you are! Oh, George, how do I get there? Will it hurt me?"
She could hear the smile in his voice, "No. You just have to be the brave girl that I remember, the girl that I love. You have done so well since I died"
"Thank you" Elizabeth blinked back tears, "What is the test?"
"You will be faced with five people, also dead, people that have shaped your life in some way or another. Some of them you must forgive, for you do not like them, and they have wronged you. Some of them you will be delighted to see, and will follow into Heaven's bounds"
"Will you be one of them?"
"No. I have shaped your life too immeasurably to even need to be included" he laughed, "But I will be here watching you, to make you feel safe. And when you pass this test, you can be here in Heaven with me, and we will be together for eternity, just as we always wished, and can watch our children grow"
"It sounds so wonderful!" Elizabeth cried, "Of course, I shall begin the test! Where do I – oh!"
Her husband was walking towards her. She had heard of his death without regret a few years ago, during the reign of Queen Mary. She had not expected, nor wanted, to see him again.
"Good luck" George's voice came like a whisper in her ear, then fluttered away. Phillip stopped before his wife and bowed sarcastically, his face twisted with something that she could not, or would not, understand.
"Hello, husband" Elizabeth whispered, bobbing a little curtsey. Phillip snorted.
"Not your husband anymore, remember?"
"How could I forget?" Elizabeth murmured, recalling with acute embarrassment the very public divorce ceremony that had taken place the year of George's death, when she had not even turned up to defend herself. The charge was of adultery, and how could she deny it – after her display in court and on the day of the executions, everyone knew, or had at least guessed at, what had passed between she and George.
"Yes. How could you forget" Phillip's voice was bitter and harsh. Elizabeth met his gaze, blue eyes puzzled.
"You sound as though you hate me" she said quietely, "Do you hate me, Phillip?"
Phillip laughed rather wildly, "Of course I hate you, foolish girl! You cuckolded me"
Elizabeth flared up at once, "And? What did you expect, when you never loved me, never showed one smidgen of devotion towards me?"
"Don't think to blame this on me. You were determined not to love me from the moment of our betrothal. You didn't try to love me"
"Can I help it that I was fated to always love another? You were the one who asked for my hand, surely you had seen before how close George and I were? Surely you knew that I could not love you, a man old enough to be my father?"
Phillip looked as though she had slapped him in the face, "I – I thought...I thought that you would grow to love me"
Elizabeth, too, looked startled, "You loved me?"
"God's blood!" Phillip cried, then looked anxiously up at the sky above them. A thunderbolt crackled warningly over his head and he closed his eyes for a moment, composing himself.
"Of course I loved you" he continued quietely, "Well...well, maybe not love. But I wanted you. That's what made me ask for your hand, you were so tempting and young and beautiful. And when you were my wife...I did love you. I didn't show it, I know I didn't, but even if I had, would you have wanted me to love you? Would you have accepted that from me?"
Elizabeth shook her head, deciding truth was the best policy. She was still in shock from his words.
"No" she replied softly, "No. I loved George. I have always loved George and I will always do so"
"I knew that" Phillip mumbled, "I knew that you loved him, I could see it in your eyes. I knew that you loved him in a way that you could never love me. But I fooled myself into hoping that one day you might feel the same. I pretended to myself that those pretty little girls you bore were mine"
"Those pretty little girls that you hated?" I retorted sharply, "You loathed my girls"
"I loathed them because I knew that they were his. I wanted them to be mine and I knew that they were not"
Elizabeth felt a sudden rush of pity for this middle-aged man whom she had been married to for such a short time. She hesitated for a moment before speaking.
"Phillip, I'm sorry" she mumbled, "I'm sorry that I didn't know that you really did love me as your wife. And I'm sorry that my cuckolding you embarrassed you so. I'm sorry I couldn't love you. Maybe, if it had been another life..." she trailed off with a slight shrug and a small smile. Phillip smiled slightly too, and shrugged his own hefty shoulders.
"I suppose you'll get to be with him now" he said slowly. Elizabeth nodded.
"Yes. I'm sorry"
"Don't be. You get your heart's desire at last. You can't be sorry for that" Phillip held out his meaty hand and Elizabeth took it tentatively. They shook hands, awkwardly.
"Did you remarry?" she asked suddenly, just as he turned away.
"Yes" he said, smiling brightly this time, "Yes. She loved me back"
"Is she pretty?"
"She has red hair" Phillip admitted with a chuckle. Elizabeth laughed too.
"And she gave you sons?"
"Two strapping lads. Thomas and Henry"
"I am glad of it"
"Good day. I am sure we will be meet again"
"I shall make sure of it. Good day"
As Phillip walked away, she became aware that it was the first full, honest conversation she had ever had with her husband.