8/1/15 - Just a note: Due to a surge in cases of story theft from fan fiction websites such as this, I will be pulling 'Dance the Tide' and 'Sanctuary' from this site on or around the first of September, 2015. My new story (currently being written), 'An Unexpected Harvest,' will likely not be posted here, but you can find it and my other two stories at The Meryton Assembly, another fan fiction website that I feel is better protected and moderated (I am cat0967 there). Sadly, there are too many who are willing to take what isn't rightfully theirs and claim it as such. Thank you for your support.
"Too many times we stand aside and let the waters slip away
'Til what we put off 'til tomorrow has now become today
So don't you sit upon the shoreline and say you're satisfied
Choose to chance the rapids and dare to dance the tide."
Dance The Tide
Elizabeth Bennet took a deep breath, inhaling the salty air and smiling up into the sun. It was mid-May, and it felt like spring had finally arrived on Cape Cod after a long, rainy April. Here at the beach in New Seabury, though, there was still a slight chill in the air.
Pulling her sweater tighter around her, she turned to the raucous group that had followed her out of the inn and down to the beach. It was obvious that the wedding party hadn't waited until the reception to indulge in some champagne.
She clapped her hands several times to get their attention. "Okay everyone, let's get some pretty photos so you can all get back to the party."
She proceeded to arrange the beautiful bride and her groom, along with their wedding party, into a picture-perfect group pose. She snapped several shots with her digital camera, as well as several with her 35mm. The scenery was perfect; a gorgeous sunny day, white sand, and a calm blue ocean.
After about twenty minutes of moving people this way and that, Elizabeth felt she had what she needed, and let everyone know it was time to head back inside for the festivities. She grabbed her camera bags and headed up the steps toward the inn, following behind the wedding party.
Three hours and many photos and rolls of film later, Elizabeth stepped back outside, down the steps of the inn to the sandy beach. It was close to four p.m. She still had an hour before she was due to meet up with Jane and Charles. The sun had moved a little in the sky and the breeze had picked up, but it was still beautiful out. She kicked off her sandals and dug down into the sand with her toes, looking out at the waves, watching the seagulls dip and float on the wind.
I will never tire of living here, she thought.
She looked around to observe the other people on the beach. An older couple walked arm in arm along the waters' edge, and some teenage boys were playing a game of football, running and showing off for the girls seated nearby on a blanket. She pulled out her 35mm camera, popped in a fresh roll of black and white film, and started taking shots of whatever she could. Sometimes, the best shots came out of nowhere and totally surprised her.
Out on the jetty, she saw a young couple sitting together on the very last rock, staring out at the water. Impulsively, she aimed the lens toward them. The girl was blonde; she sat to the left of the man and rested her head on his shoulder. He had his arm around her, and Elizabeth could see from where she stood that he had dark, wavy hair. She thought she would be capturing a quiet, romantic moment, but instead, she was surprised to see that they both looked...sad. They didn't speak, they just sat and stared out at the waves.
It was a beautiful moment just the same, and although she felt a little like she was intruding, she zoomed back out and snapped a few quick shots, keeping them at the center, but wanting to include as much of the beauty surrounding them as she could. The scenery and the atmosphere of the moment were too good to pass up.
She tucked her 35 mm camera back into her bag, and thought she'd try a few shots with her digital. She snapped some photos of the boys playing football, a few of the gulls and the ocean, then found herself drawn back to the couple on the jetty. She aimed the camera toward them, took a few shots, and was suddenly shocked to see the man staring directly at her. He abruptly stood and started walking off of the jetty, going from rock to rock quickly, and jumped down on to the sand.
"Uh oh," she said quietly. He was coming straight toward her, and he didn't look pleased.
All Fitzwilliam Darcy wanted to do was share some quiet time with his sister. He had finally convinced Georgiana that a walk on the beach would be nice...some fresh air and sunshine would do her good, he thought. She'd been holed up in the house for just about four months, only venturing outside to sit on the deck or walk around the estate, but never leaving the property. She'd finally agreed to head down to the beach with him, and he even talked her into climbing along the jetty and sitting for a while. They had talked for a bit, but not about anything consequential. They didn't need to, really...each was comfortable with the silence.
They sat and gazed at the wide-open expanse of ocean in front of them. Georgie sighed heavily and rested her head on his shoulder, like she used to do when she was a little girl. To Will, she was still a little girl, and he wondered if he would always feel this overwhelming need to protect her, to take on all of her burdens and worries. What a stupid thought. Of course I will.
Everything was fine until he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. He turned slowly to his left, toward the beach, and that's when he saw her...a woman with a camera, a camera that was definitely pointing in their direction. He stood instantly and told Georgiana to head back to the house.
"What's going on?" she asked him...then she followed his gaze and saw what he was looking at. She gasped slightly and quickly looked away from the woman.
"Just give me a minute, Georgie. When I get over to her, I want you to walk off the jetty and head to the house as quickly as you can. I'll take care of this."
Georgiana didn't say a word, she just nodded quietly and kept her head lowered, watching his progress from under her lashes. Once Will reached the woman, she carefully climbed off the jetty and nearly sprinted toward the house.
The man stopped directly in front of Elizabeth, arms folded across his chest.
"Excuse me, but can I ask you what the hell you're doing?" Despite the fact that he was extremely agitated, Will made himself speak very calmly.
"I'm...I'm sorry," Elizabeth stammered, completely embarrassed. "I was just taking some photos...I didn't mean to upset you or invade your privacy."
"And yet, you've managed to do both. Who do you work for?"
"Who do I work for? What do you mean?" Her embarrassment became confusion.
"You know damn well what I mean...who do you work for? Who wants the pictures? Who sent you here?" he asked, still managing to remain calm.
"I don't work for anyone...I told you, I was just taking random photos".
"Fine, then, you won't mind letting me have a look at your camera so that I can make sure you've deleted all the 'random photos' you just took of me." He glanced down. "What about that one?" he asked, nodding toward the other camera tucked away in her bag. "You can just hand over the film to me."
Elizabeth's confusion quickly gave way to annoyance.
"Hold on a second...if you want to watch me delete the photos I took of you from my digital, that's fine, but there's no way I'm handing over the film from that camera."
Will started to reach toward her bag, his intention obvious. Elizabeth grabbed his arm and pulled herself up to her full 5'7" frame.
"Back off!" she warned him, trying to keep her voice down. He was tall...he had to be at least six feet, probably a little more...but she refused to be intimidated by him. They locked eyes, and for a moment, he looked a bit surprised. Then he just stopped and let out a frustrated sigh.
"Look," Elizabeth said, trying to stay calm, convinced he didn't want to cause a scene, "I don't know who you are or why you think someone wants my pictures of you, but I can assure you, that's not what's going on here. I just took photos at a wedding, and was killing time before I have to be somewhere. That's it, I promise. I'm sorry I invaded your privacy. Please accept my apologies, and offer them to the lady that is with you as well."
Elizabeth glanced over to the jetty as she was saying this, and noticed that the young blonde woman was nowhere to be seen.
"How do I know you're telling me the truth?" Will asked her. "How do I know those photos won't show up on the internet?"
He really did look distressed at the thought. She shrugged lightly. "I guess you're just going to have to trust me," she said simply.
A look of disbelief passed over Will's face. In a flat tone of voice, he asked, "Are you serious? You're kidding, right?"
"No, I'm not," Elizabeth replied calmly. "Since I have no idea who you are, I also have no idea who would want your picture, and I'm not in the business of posting pictures of people I don't know on the internet. You're just going to have to believe me. Once again, I'm sorry. That's all I can say. I'll dispose of the photos as soon as they're developed."
"Better yet," he said, "how about you give me your business card. I'm assuming you have one? That way, I'll know exactly who to sue if those pictures show up anywhere they're not supposed to." His voice had taken on a note of sarcasm. "Right now, though, I'd like to watch you delete the photos from your digital. Please."
"Fine." Elizabeth held her camera in front of both of them and deleted the three photos she had snapped of them with her digital.
Trying to play it cool, she glanced up at him and said, "Pity, they were actually quite lovely."
The man just looked at her, arms crossed once again over his chest, no expression on his face. She reached into her bag, pulled out a pen and a piece of paper, and wrote her name and cell number on it.
"Here. I actually don't have a card. If it makes you feel better, you and your friend can be there when I develop the pictures, and I will hand them to you personally. You may then set fire to them, stomp on them, rip them into shreds, or do whatever you want to do with them, I could really care less. Call me tomorrow, and we can get this over with as soon as possible."
The man just kept looking at her, and Elizabeth assumed he was trying to decide if she was trustworthy or not. She very calmly stared back, not wanting to be the first one to break eye contact.
After a moment of staring intently at her, Will agreed to her suggestion. Not that he had much of a choice. They agreed to talk the next day and parted ways. Elizabeth could feel his eyes on her as she walked back toward the inn. What an arrogant man! she thought. She realized it was now almost five o'clock and she was running late for her dinner with Jane & Charles. She headed toward her car, away from the beach and away from him.
Will left the beach feeling drained. He looked at the piece of paper that was almost completely crumpled in his hand. 'Elizabeth Bennet'. Bennet. Hmm. The name seemed to be familiar, but in his agitated state, he couldn't put too much thought into why. He wanted to watch her, to see where she went, see if she made any calls...get her license plate number...he knew he could find out everything about her that he needed to know almost instantly, if he wanted to. All it would take was one phone call.
He walked up the stairs from the beach into the lobby of the inn, but she had already gone out through the front door, down the walk and into the parking lot. He caught sight of her and watched her climb into a black Jeep Wrangler and drive away.
Why hadn't he pushed her a little more, made her give up the roll of film? He was kicking himself now for going so easy on her, but his gut had told him that she wasn't lying. If she was a professional, she wouldn't have been so flustered. If she was lying, she was good at it. Now that she had driven away, he was praying his gut was right.
Elizabeth pulled up in front of the address that Jane had given her. The house was immense; it actually overlooked the same beach that Elizabeth had just been on, but was further down from where the inn was situated.
She rang the doorbell. The door flew open and Elizabeth was instantly pulled into her older sister's arms. Jane, as usual, looked gorgeous, her long blonde hair perfectly straight and shimmery, the total opposite of Elizabeth's mane of dark curls.
"Lizzy! You made it. I thought for sure you'd be sending out a distress call at any moment. These neighborhoods can be incredibly confusing. How are you?"
"I'm fine Jane," Elizabeth replied, plastering a smile on her face. She was still feeling a little rattled from her encounter on the beach. "I almost did call you, after passing the same street sign three times, but I finally found you. How are you?"
"I'm great...I'm so glad you're here! Come in, let's go find Charles, I can't wait for you to meet him."
A deep voice echoed down the hallway. "And I can't wait to meet Elizabeth." A tall, handsome blonde man came striding into the foyer and held out his hand to Elizabeth, a broad smile on his face. His eyes were strikingly blue in color.
"Hi, I'm Charles. Jane has told me so much about you, I'm glad to finally meet you."
"Likewise," Elizabeth answered, shaking his hand and smiling. "You have a beautiful home, thanks for inviting me for dinner." Barbie has met her Ken, she thought, and almost chuckled out loud.
"Our pleasure," Charles said, "but I hope you don't mind waiting a bit to eat. I have a friend joining us, and I'm afraid he's running a bit late. Let's get you something to drink and head out to the deck."
"Sounds great," Elizabeth replied. Turning to Jane, she asked, "would you mind if I changed first? I'd like to get into something more comfy." Jane showed her to a small guest room, where Elizabeth changed into her jeans and a long sleeved green cotton shirt, and let her hair down from its ponytail, brushing it out a bit.
She decided to dispense with the formality of shoes and strolled barefoot down the hall, into a massive kitchen, where Charles poured her a glass of white wine. The three of them walked through the great room, out some sliding glass doors, to a beautiful high deck with a stunning view of the beach and ocean.
"So, Lizzy, how was the wedding today?" Jane asked. "Get hit on by any good-looking ushers?" Jane grinned at her sister knowingly, having been told some of Elizabeth's humorous stories of weddings past.
"No stories to tell today, thankfully. I've had enough run-ins with inebriated best men to last me a lifetime."
"I bet," Charles replied, laughing. "If you ladies will excuse me, I have a date with some steaks."
Jane offered her assistance, which he adamantly refused.
"Will can help me when he gets here. You sit and catch up with Elizabeth, I'll take care of everything." He gave Jane a quick kiss on the top of her head and disappeared inside.
"I'm so glad you're both here for the week," Elizabeth said, smiling at Jane. "Hopefully we can get together a couple of times, so I can get to know him a little better."
The grin that crossed Jane's face was, for lack of a better word, goofy. Elizabeth giggled and looked at her sister.
"So...Jane...is there anything you want to tell me?"
Jane played dumb. "Whatever do you mean, Lizzy?"
"Oh come on...how is everything with the two of you? You look very happy, so I'm assuming it's all good. Out with it!"
"It's more than good," Jane sighed dreamily, "he's...wonderful. He's so open, and caring...he's perfect. I'm just trying to take it slow, not rush things, you know? But so far, so good...so very, very good."
Jane was glowing, and Elizabeth was happy for her. Jane was never the type to get very wrapped up in a relationship, so Charles Bingley must be something special.
"He's also very handsome, which a man should be, if possible," Elizabeth said, and they both laughed. "Seriously, Jane…I'm very happy for you."
Jane smiled at Elizabeth. "I know you are Lizzy. Thanks."
Elizabeth smiled at her softly. "Oh…not to change the subject or anything," she said, "but I have to tell you about what happened to me on the beach today. It was the craziest thing..." She then proceeded to fill Jane in about her encounter with Mr. Arrogant.
"Did you recognize him from anywhere? Was he a celebrity?" Jane asked.
Elizabeth thought about that. Cape Cod does see its share of celebrities. An image of the dark-haired man came into her mind. He certainly was very handsome, handsome enough to be some type of celebrity, but she didn't think he was. He was dressed down, in khaki cargo shorts and a long sleeve navy blue t-shirt, and had bare feet. His dark hair, more curly than wavy, was in need of a cut, and he looked as though he hadn't seen a razor in quite a while as well.
"Earth to Lizzy...helloooooo..."
"Oh, sorry, I was just trying to place his face, trying to think if I've seen him somewhere before, if he is some kind of celebrity or someone important, but I don't think he is. At least, not that I know of. Anyway, he was very handsome, but totally arrogant and obviously a little too self-important. To think that I was purposely following him to get his picture! What a joke."
Elizabeth sipped her wine and thought for another minute, and then it suddenly dawned on her.
"I bet the woman he was with is someone he is not supposed to be with. Maybe he's having an affair, or she is, and he's worried about being caught. They certainly looked cozy on the jetty."
She paused for a moment and shrugged. "That's just a guess. Who knows? In any case, I'll develop the photos, give them to him, and be done with it. I don't want to know anything else about him."
Just then, Charles poked his head outside the slider. "Will just called, he's on his way. Do you ladies need refills?" He grabbed their wine glasses and disappeared back inside.
Elizabeth looked at Jane and narrowed her eyes. "Who's this Will, anyway? This isn't another one of your matchmaking schemes, is it?" Jane was always trying to fix her up with someone, usually someone she worked with. So far, Elizabeth had managed to avoid all of her attempts.
"Oh, Lizzy, relax. Charles and Will have known each other for a long time. I've only met him once, but he and Charles are best friends, so he must be a nice guy. I just thought it would be nice for you two to meet each other. He's staying at his house, a little further down the beach, with his sister."
Jane glanced over the deck, down along the beach. "Here he comes now."
Elizabeth looked over to where Jane was looking and couldn't believe her eyes. Navy blue shirt, khaki shorts, and curly brown hair...walking at a steady pace down the beach. He had put on a pair of sunglasses, but she knew it was him. Oh shit! This is not happening.
Charles stepped back out onto the deck with the refilled wine glasses, and seeing Will making his way down the beach, yelled out to him, "It's about time, Darcy...come on up, grab a beer on the way."
Will grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator and made his way out onto the deck, where Charles, Jane, and Elizabeth were settled comfortably in their chairs.
"Just in time, my friend, you get to be the assistant grill-master tonight," Charles said as he shook Will's hand. "You remember Jane, of course...and this is Jane's sister, Elizabeth Bennet. Elizabeth, this is my good friend, William Darcy."
Oh, you've got to be kidding, Will thought. That's why the name clicked with me.
"Hi Jane, good to see you again." He flashed Jane a quick smile, and then turned to Elizabeth. "Nice to meet you," he said flatly.
Yeah, right, thought Elizabeth. "Nice to meet you too," she said quietly. She forced herself to hold out her hand and waited for him to shake it. She offered a small smile, more like a grimace, in his direction.
Reluctantly, Will reached out to briefly shake her hand. He couldn't let go of it fast enough.
Will turned away from Elizabeth and looked at Charles. "Um, I apologize for being late. Let's get those steaks ready. I'm starving, and I know you've been waiting." He walked back into the house, without so much as a second glance back toward Jane or Elizabeth. Charles shrugged at the girls, and then followed him in.
"What was that all about?" Charles asked him, once they were in the kitchen.
"What was what all about?" Will asked back.
"That," Charles said, nodding his head toward the deck. "You were a little bit rude...Elizabeth is Jane's sister and pretty much her best friend, so I hope you'll at least try to be civil," Charles said pointedly. "She seems very nice".
"I'm sure she's very nice," Will said, a note of sarcasm in his voice.
Charles glared at Will, and crossed his arms over his chest. "What's the matter with you?"
Will shook his head, brushing him off. "For Pete's sake, don't worry about it Charles, I'll be the perfect gentleman."
Out on the deck, Jane looked at Elizabeth. "So, what do you think?"
"What do I think about what?" Elizabeth answered, pretending ignorance.
Jane rolled her eyes. "About William, obviously! He's very handsome, isn't he? Almost too handsome."
Elizabeth shrugged. "I guess….but he doesn't seem to be very pleasant."
"He's probably just shy. He'll loosen up, I'm sure, as the night goes on. Just give him a chance."
"Really Jane, I don't need your help in the dating department. Please, let it be."
"Fine. Come on then," Jane said, "let's go toss together a salad of some sort. We need something to go with the steaks."
The girls walked back into the house, and while Jane headed toward the bathroom, Elizabeth headed to the kitchen. She overheard Will's voice talking to Charles.
"...don't worry about it Charles, I'll be the perfect gentleman. I'm just not interested in getting involved with someone at the moment, especially with one of those 'Cape Cod beach girls' that you've always seemed to be so fond of. Have your fun with Jane, but please don't foist the younger sister on me."
"For Christ's sake, Will, I'm not asking you to "get involved" with her, just be nice to her...don't be such a snob!" Charles said. Lowering his voice, he added, "and leave Jane out of it please, you know she's more than just some "fun" to me."
"Okay, I'm sorry, I take that back." Will instantly regretted the remark about Jane. Charles seemed to feel that "this one was different", although Will had heard that before. "Look, I'll be a polite guest, but that's about it. I have no interest in getting to know Elizabeth Bennet."
Will walked away from Charles with the platter of steaks and headed out of the kitchen.
Elizabeth was rooted to the spot where she stood outside the kitchen doorway. Suddenly, William appeared from around the corner and almost walked right into her. She looked up at him and saw the look of surprise on his face.
"Oh...umm...sorry," he mumbled, "didn't see you there...time to get the steaks on the grill...excuse me." He walked away, heading out to the deck, barely sparing a glance at her.
Elizabeth stood there, unable to move. I thought he was arrogant before! He is insufferable!
Just then, Jane came out of the bathroom and headed toward the kitchen. "What's up, Lizzy? You look like you've seen a ghost. You okay?"
"I'm fine...let's get going on the salad."
They walked into the kitchen as Charles was walking out. He gave Jane a quick peck on the cheek and went to join Will.
Dinner began as the most painful event that Elizabeth had the displeasure of sitting through in a long time. Eventually, though, she became absolutely determined to enjoy herself and get to know Charles better.
She asked Charles about his job, what he liked to do in his free time, and any other topic she could think of. Upon hearing that he was a fellow runner, Elizabeth started telling him about the bike path that she frequently ran on. Charles expressed an interest in seeing it and joining her for a run, and they made plans to try to do so sometime during the week.
They talked about college; his years at Yale, hers at Boston University. She told him about her job, and purposely mentioned that she did a little photography on the side, casting a sideways glance at William as she did so. He was looking down at his food, and his face wore absolutely no expression; she wasn't even sure he was listening.
She was truly enjoying her conversation with Charles though, and decided then and there that he was a good match for Jane.
Will barely glanced up from his plate and didn't talk at all; he just wanted to get through the night and get home to Georgiana. The events at the beach had wreaked havoc on her, and Will couldn't help but blame the woman sitting next to him at the dinner table.
As she spoke more with Charles, he started listening a little more to the conversation, and was slightly surprised to hear that she was the project manager at the local Estuarine Research Reserve. He watched her out of the corner of his eye as she enthusiastically described her job to Charles. His curiosity was beginning to rise, but he forced himself to squash it and once again tune out of the conversation.
For some reason, his sidelong glances kept wandering to her hair, and he suddenly realized why; it hadn't been down when he had seen her earlier. Rolling his eyes and muttering, he mentally chastised himself for being so ridiculous.
Elizabeth thought she heard William say something, but wasn't sure exactly what it was. Some sort of nasty comment about me or my job, I'm sure, she thought. What an ass.
It was quiet for a moment, as everyone continued eating, when all of a sudden Jane spoke up. "Oh, Lizzy, you've got to tell Charles and Will the story you told me, about what happened to you on the beach today, it was absolutely unbelievable!"
Will's head snapped up and he looked at Elizabeth, fairly sure that the "story" was about their encounter.
"Oh, I don't think they'd be interested in hearing about that," Elizabeth said, feeling her cheeks begin to warm, trying very hard not to look at William. She could feel his eyes on her though. "It's long and boring."
"Oh, no it isn't," Jane said, "it's pretty funny, actually. If you won't tell it, I will," she threatened, smiling mischievously at Elizabeth.
"Really, Jane, it's not very entertaining." Elizabeth knew she was fighting a losing battle.
"Now that you've both piqued my curiosity," Charles said, "one of you has to spill the beans."
Jane proceeded to tell Will and Charles the story of the "very rude and arrogant man" that Elizabeth had met up with on the beach. She also made it a point to say that "Lizzy said he was very handsome, so we thought maybe he was a celebrity, but she couldn't place his face".
Inside, Elizabeth was dying a slow death, but she was determined not to let it show. Charles laughed at the story, but not surprisingly, William didn't have much of a reaction.
"We came to the conclusion," Jane went on, "that the man was obviously involved in a sordid affair with the woman he was with and they were worried about getting caught...right Lizzy?"
Out of the corner of her eye, Elizabeth saw William's head suddenly turn in her direction, and she could feel his eyes boring into her.
"Needless to say," Elizabeth said, avoiding Jane's question, "it was not an ideal way to end a lovely day at the beach." Didn't Jane say his sister was staying with him?
"I just think it's funny that someone would think you were some type of stalker. It makes me laugh to think that my little sister would be mistaken for paparazzi." That did make Elizabeth laugh, albeit self-consciously, and Charles joined in. Elizabeth steadfastly refused to even glance in William's direction.
The remaining time at dinner was spent making small talk. Charles eventually made a suggestion.
"Well, Lizzy – can I call you Lizzy? - we can try to end your day at the beach on a better note...how about a walk along the water while the sun sets? Dessert can wait until we get back. Come on, let's walk off some of that dinner."
The four of them got up and walked down the flight of steps from Charles's deck to the yard below. The grass stretched right to the sand, separated only by a low fence. They walked through a gate and were on the beach.
At first the four walked together, but soon, Charles and Jane lagged behind, until they were far enough away to have their own private conversation.
How nice this would be if I was with better company, Elizabeth thought. The sunset really was gorgeous. As it was, she and William walked without saying anything, keeping a wide berth around each other.
Elizabeth rolled up her jeans a few inches and walked a little ways into the water, splashing and wading a bit. It was freezing, but felt invigorating, and gave her something else to think about. She could feel William looking at her.
He finally broke the silence. "Project manager?" he asked quietly.
"Yes," Elizabeth answered, not really wanting to make conversation with him.
"I didn't know," William replied. He was staring intently at the sand as he walked.
Elizabeth looked at him out of the corner of her eye. "Well, how would you?" she said calmly. "You certainly didn't take the time to ask."
"I assumed you were a professional photographer," he stated, still speaking quietly.
"You do know what they say about people who assume, don't you?" Elizabeth asked, raising one eyebrow.
He turned to glare at her.
"Speaking of making assumptions," he said, his voice cold and hard, "you assumed wrong about the woman I was with. She's my sister, not a woman I'm having a...how did Jane put it?...a sordid affair with." He lowered his voice, but his tone didn't change. "I'm glad I was able to be a source of such great amusement for you. I didn't realize I was such a comedian. Nothing like having a laugh at someone else's expense, right?"
Elizabeth stopped where she was, ankle deep in water, her jaw dropping open, hands on her hips.
"Excuse me?" She was trying to stay calm, but there was no mistaking the anger in her voice. "You have no idea what you're talking about. You don't know me, so don't presume to know what I find amusing. I admit, when I relayed the story to Jane, it did seem kind of funny and I could see how she would see it that way, but believe me, when you were accosting me on the beach, I didn't think you were a bit funny at all. You are the most intolerable, arrogant, rude person I have ever met! You are certainly no gentleman."
Elizabeth walked out of the water and immediately headed back toward Charles's house, leaving William standing at the water's edge, mouth slightly agape.
"Lizzy! Wait up!" Jane came jogging up behind her. Elizabeth turned around and saw Charles down by the water, talking to William. "What happened?" Jane asked. "Where are you going?"
"I'm going home, Jane. It's been a long day, and an even longer evening, and I just need to go. I'm sorry. Thank you for dinner, and please tell Charles thanks as well. He really is very nice, although I do wonder at his choice in friends."
"You just have to give Will a chance, Lizzy. I know he seems very standoffish, but he's a nice guy."
"And how would you even begin to know that, Jane?" Elizabeth was getting exasperated by all of Jane's praise for William. "You told me yourself you've only met him one other time. Maybe you only think he's nice because he's Charles friend, and you want to believe that Charles couldn't possibly be friends with someone so rude. I think he's difficult and arrogant, and I don't particularly care to spend any more of my evening with him. I'll show myself out, and I'll call you tomorrow. We'll talk more then."
Jane sighed. "Okay, if that's the way you want it…I know better than to argue with you. Charles and I are going down Cape tomorrow, so why don't we talk tomorrow night, okay?"
"Okay." Elizabeth reached out to give her sister a quick hug.
"Bye Lizzy. Drive safe."
"I will. Bye Jane."
The next morning, Elizabeth was awakened by the incessant ringing of her cell phone, next to her bed. She glanced at her clock...8am! Who is calling me this early on a Sunday? She lifted her head off the pillow and looked at her phone. She didn't recognize the number, so she let it ring...her voice mail could get it. She rolled over and instantly fell back to sleep.
An hour later, Elizabeth was again awakened by the ringing of her phone. When she glanced at the caller ID, she saw it was the same number from earlier, and suddenly, it dawned on her who it must be. She grabbed for her phone and answered it. What came out was more of a croak then a voice, unfortunately.
She cleared her throat and tried again. "Hello?"
"Hello Miss Bennet. It's William Darcy. Did I wake you?"
"Actually, yes, you did," Elizabeth replied. She saw no need for pleasantries.
He ignored her response. "I called earlier, and left a message, but thought I'd try again."
"Yes, you woke me up the first time you called too." She tried to stifle a yawn, unsuccessfully. "Us Cape Cod beach girls need to get our beauty rest, you know." She couldn't keep the sarcasm out of her voice.
Silence. For a good three or four seconds, complete silence.
"I guess you're waiting for an explanation? Or an apology?" William asked her flatly.
"Oh, absolutely not," Elizabeth replied matter of factly, "you owe me nothing. So, let's make a plan to get together and get this whole business over with. Work for you?"
"Fine. Where are we meeting?" he asked.
"I'll develop the roll of film at my house. I live on Surf Drive in Falmouth. After you go past the snack bar at Surf Drive Beach, start counting the beach houses. Mine is the fifth one. Can you be here around one? "
"Fine," William replied curtly, "see you then."
Elizabeth hung up her phone. She flopped back down onto her pillow and stared up at the ceiling. This is not how I want to spend my Sunday.
She hopped out of bed and poked her nose outside to check the weather. Perfect day for a run, she thought.
Thirty minutes later, she had strapped on her iPod and was jogging down Surf Drive, headed toward the Shining Sea Bike Path. The bike path was one of her favorite things about Falmouth; it stretched ten miles, from North Falmouth all the way south to the tiny village of Woods Hole, where she worked. She tried to ride her bike to work as often as she could, unless the weather was bad. The bike path wound its way behind different neighborhoods, through scenic cranberry bogs, acres of woods, and alongside the ocean.
Almost an hour later, she made her way back to her house. She slowed to a walk to let her body cool down, and made her way past all the other beach houses situated on Surf Drive. Most of them had been in the families they belonged to for several generations, including hers. The houses were all built roughly the same way; big squares, sitting up on stilts to prevent water from flooding them during storms.
In 1991, Hurricane Bob had wiped out a few of them, but Elizabeth's family was lucky. They'd only had to have some minor repairs done. Although there had been a fund established by her family years ago for the upkeep of the small house, she didn't want to imagine the difficulties of having to rebuild if anything happened to it.
She had fond childhood memories of spending summers here with her parents and with Jane and Lydia, literally living at the beach. During the 'off-season,' they lived in a small house in the center of town, which her parents had sold last year when they moved to the condo they lived in now. The beach house was small, but perfect for her, and once they'd had it winterized, she decided to live in it year-round. Besides converting the pantry into a darkroom, the only major change she had made was to add an outdoor shower under the wrap-around deck. The views of Vineyard Sound, Nobska Light, and Martha's Vineyard were beautiful. It was her own little slice of paradise.
After sitting on the deck sipping her water for a while, she walked into the kitchen, put on some coffee, got undressed, wrapped herself in a towel, and headed outside. After a hot shower, she threw on her jeans, an old Black Dog sweatshirt, and a pair of flip-flops. She left her hair down to finish drying on its own. The thick chestnut curls cascaded almost to the middle of her back.
She poured herself a cup of coffee and grabbed a banana and a yogurt. After eating, she went into the darkroom to get everything ready. Although the darkroom was small, it was adequate for her needs. She had a very rewarding job and loved what she did, but her passion was photography.
Most of her free time was spent wandering around different parts of the Cape, photographing the wildlife, the scenery, and the people. The 'locals' around here were a breed all their own. Occasionally, she was even asked to do a wedding, or a family portrait, but usually only by people she knew. The bride in yesterday's wedding was the daughter of a co-worker.
She didn't always develop her film, but sometimes she did. She loved watching an image come to life on a previously blank piece of paper. It was like she was seeing the image for the first time, even though she had taken the picture herself.
At precisely one o'clock, she heard the sound of a car idling out front, and knew William had arrived. She heard him coming up the stairs and opened the door before he had a chance to knock.
Wow. For a second, she lost her train of thought. He really is very handsome. She snapped back to reality quickly. Too bad he has such a rotten personality. He had traded in his scruffy shorts and t-shirt for a pair of faded blue jeans and a light gray New England Patriots sweatshirt. Gone were the traces of stubble, he was completely clean shaven.
"Elizabeth," he said, his face completely expressionless.
"William. Come in." As he entered the house, it seemed to shrink in size immediately. He stood there, looking uncomfortable and awkward. He took a quick look around, then looked back at her again, arms folded across his chest.
"Let's get started," Elizabeth said, "I have everything ready to go." She walked to the door of the darkroom.
William looked around the darkroom, trying to see as best as he could in the strange red light coming from the bulb over the counter. He examined the walls, all covered with dozens of black and white photos. The faces of what he assumed were her family and friends looked back at him. He recognized Jane in several. The ocean was obviously a favorite subject of hers. There were dozens of pictures of it, but no two looked the same.
As Elizabeth went about the process of getting the roll of film developed, William remained silent, which was fine with her. She was praying that he would just keep quiet and let her get on with it.
William watched her as she worked intently, measuring chemicals into different tanks, checking the temperatures of some, and then finally unspooling the roll of film from its canister and loading it onto a stainless steel reel. Once the reel was loaded, she dropped it into the first tank and covered it with a lid. At this point, she turned off the red light and turned on a normal bulb.
She set a timer, and eventually William got to watch the whole process...the acid stop bath, the fixer, and ultimately, the drying. She strung the photos up on a line that went from one side of the dark room to the other. The whole process didn't take as long as he thought it would, but it was a lot to remember.
Finally he spoke, his curiosity getting the best of him. "Did you teach yourself how to do all of this?"
Elizabeth jumped at the sound of his voice. "Pretty much."
"It seems rather complicated," William said.
"Not really," Elizabeth replied. She tried to keep her answers short, hoping it would discourage him from asking more questions. It didn't work.
William looked at the photos covering the walls again. "Did you take all of these?"
She nodded. "I did."
"Are they all friends of yours? And family?"
"So it's just a hobby then?" William asked.
"Just a hobby," she said, sighing. She really didn't want to make small talk with him, but she couldn't very well ignore him, he was standing a foot away from her. "I have done weddings and the like for friends, occasionally...like yesterday."
He noticed the emphasis she put on those last two words.
She opened the door, and they left the darkroom and walked back into what now seemed like an intensely bright living room.
"The pictures won't take long to dry, and then you'll be free to leave," Elizabeth said.
William looked around the small but neat living room, and noticed more framed photographs of the ocean on the walls. He walked around, spending a few minutes looking at them, not knowing what else to do with himself. Elizabeth was beginning to feel a little antsy.
"Were all of these pictures taken in Falmouth?" he asked.
"No, but they were all taken on the Cape."
More silence as he looked at the pictures.
"How long have you lived here?" he asked, turning to look at her.
Why do you care? she wanted to say, but she didn't.
"In this house or in Falmouth?"
"Umm, both, I guess."
"In Falmouth, all my life, except for when I was away at college. In this house, since I finished my masters, so about five years. I really couldn't imagine living anywhere else."
"Oh, that's right, you're an oceanographer or something, right? Save the whales, save the seals, and all that?" William asked her, his tone of voice flat and slightly condescending.
Is he for real? Elizabeth thought. He's ignorant, as well as arrogant!
She rolled her eyes, unbeknownst to him, as he had once again turned to look at a picture on the wall.
"I'm afraid I haven't saved many whales or seals lately." Her impatience with him was coming back ten-fold. "Why don't I see if your pictures are ready?"
She disappeared back into the darkroom and reappeared a few minutes later with four black and white pictures of William and his sister.
He looked at the photos, and was amazed to see that they were actually quite good. Elizabeth had captured them both in profile, mostly, and in one shot, Georgiana was resting her head on his shoulder. Something about the picture tugged at his heart, and he could feel his eyes start to mist.
"So, that's it," Elizabeth said, "you have your pictures, so I guess we're finished."
"Yes, I guess we are," William replied. He looked at her then, really looked at her, and she looked back at him. She has pretty eyes, he thought. Hazel...no, green.
"Umm...thanks for the pictures," William said.
She was surprised to see that his expression had softened when he had looked at the images in his hand. She looked away, walked over to the door and held it open. "Oh, sure. You're welcome. Bye...watch your step on the way down the stairs."
"Goodbye Elizabeth," William replied, and walked out the door.
As he drove back to New Seabury, William didn't like the feeling that was poking at him. It was guilt. He was beginning to feel like he had been too quick to judge, and on top of that, had judged too harshly.
He tried to brush off the feeling and forced it to the back of his mind. He had nothing to feel guilty for. He had justifiable reasons for the way he behaved yesterday, and she was the last person he felt obligated to explain anything to. He had his pictures. That was all he needed, and wanted, from Elizabeth Bennet.
The writing within this story is the sole property of the author and any form of plagiarism (for profit or not for profit) will be treated as theft and will result in legal action. This story was written by Cat929 and posted at fanfiction-dot-net beginning March 2012. It has not been published as a book or ebook, nor is it meant for publication.