It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife, or at least my mother seems to think so. With four daughters, half in their twenties, her mind was constantly preoccupied with finding us husbands, but not just any type of husband; rich successful husbands who can keep their wives up. Now don't get me wrong, I like a nice rich doctor type as much as the next girl, but my mother lived and breathed off of this stuff.
I am Elizabeth Bennett, a lit major who's going into her last year of college. I have one older sister and two younger. I am up to my elbows in student loans, and the economy sucks so much that I can't get a job… Does any of this matter to my mother?
Ha-ha. Yes, my mother is very proud of each of her daughters in her own way, but she'll only truly be proud of us when we have a man. Because we really need men. My mother is continually trying to get us married.
In fact, once in her senior year, she forced this guy to write a poem about how pretty Jane was and how he wanted to marry her. Of course that scared him away even though he truly was bewitched by Jane, or should I say that he was bewitched by Jane's virginity. Although my dear older sister would never admit that.
Jane Bennett, the beauty of the county at 24 years of age, is my oldest sister. She couldn't say a bad thing about anyone, in my good opinion. She always wants to give people the benefit of the doubt when it's obvious how they really are. Exhibit A: the boy who wanted to get into her pants senior year.
"He was just consumed by school work and college applications I'm sure, Lizzie. He had so much going on, and I'm sure that when he found out I was planning to wait for something more wholesome than a relationship in high school, he just became intimidated. Besides, he said he loved writing that poem Mom requested. He's going to be an English major you know."
I couldn't help but roll my eyes and sigh at my sister's attitude toward people. Jane was too trusting, but I loved that about her. Jane's innocence to the world around her made her like the helpless little flower (my nickname for her, obviously) you just couldn't help taking an admiration to. You want to keep her pure and not expose her to world's horror, to the trampling beast of the world. Jane was probably the most innocent person I know, and then there are the twins; who aren't.
Make no mistake; I love Lydia and Kitty to the fullest. They are my sisters after all… It's just… I wish they weren't sometimes. They are honestly the two most foolish girls I know. Lydia is the obviously ring leader, but first let me talk about the eldest of the twins: Katherine.
Katherine "Kitty" Bennett is the eldest twin, but you wouldn't know that. Kitty is a follower in life. I love her, and she's sweet as can be, but anything Lydia does she has to do. Why? Dad seems to think it's because they're twins. You know, born together, dress alike, and grow up together. He says it's separation anxiety because it's obvious that Lydia is very popular in their age group, and Kitty feels like Lydia is slipping away from her, so what better way to keep her close than to be her mini me. I think if it wasn't for Lydia, Kitty would be behaved and not as reckless as she is.
Speaking of dear Lydia, I long ago (when she discovered turning thirteen meant a period and boobs) elected Lydia as the most likely of my sisters to become a teenage mother, and with a little less than a year left in that category, she had thus far proved me wrong. I was proud of Lydi for this because it was no secret that she was sort of…. Active. Oh, who am I kidding? Lydia was the equivalent of a whore. She had been with most of the guys in her class when her senior year came along… at least twice. Now, I understand "raging hormones" and "love gone mad" and all of that, but Lydia just loves sex. That's no secret. Even dear Jane doesn't deny our sister seems to "like being physically active more than she should."
I credit my youngest sibling's behavior to my mother, Rosa L. Gardener-Bennett. I've already told you about some of the crazy antics she's pulled for the sake of her daughter's having some form of a "blossoming love." Literally, I think she's one of the most obsessed people I know when it comes to marriage. Then, another interesting fact about my mother is that she loves to panic. In fact just last week, she had a good panic after a wedding because we're all doomed to die alone. How on earth my father and she have stayed married for twenty-odd years, I'll never know.
My dearest father, Benjamin J. Bennett; I can't help but to smile when I speak of him. He's been so supportive of every move I've made. When I decided I wanted to be an author, he was the first one to back me one-hundred percent, even though chances are that I won't make it. He's so calm and well-mannered. Dad is constantly reading, and loves testing my mother's nerves, and today was one of those days…
I was curled up, reading a good book, Jane was filing her nails carefully, and Dad was absorbed in the newspaper when it happened. Kitty and Lydia ran into the room squealing, disrupting the perfect quite atmosphere that surrounded us. They were being their usual giddy self and gushing so quickly that you could only understand every other word, or should I say screams? "Cute… OMG… Single… Five million a year."
Mom came into the room smiling brightly at our father, "Honey, I'm sure you've heard."
Dad looked up from his newspaper, like me, annoyed that the silence was interrupted, "With all of this noise, how can I hear anything?"
Mom blushed a bit before turning to the twins, "Girls, please… I'm talking to your father," She winked at them. I closed my book audibly. I just had to hear what they were scheming.
Obviously, the twins wanted to hear the news over again because their giggling ceased almost immediately. "As I was saying," She glanced around the room before diverting her eyes to the big red chair my father occupied next to the fire place, "I'm sure you've already heard about our new neighbor."
"I haven't, surely," My father's sarcastic tone rang throughout the room. I couldn't help but smile, "Why don't you tell me about our new neighbor, darling?"
My mother exploded into a giddy fit when my father answered her, "Oh Netherfield Park, dear! I'm sure you remember that celebrity, Max Jefferson, who owned it as a summer home! Then again, you probably don't. He never came around," My mother scrunched her face in distaste. She thought this was best place in the world to live. She didn't take time to be grateful that Max Jefferson let people use half of his property as a park, instead she put him down for not living here full time. "Anyway, the mansion that's on the far end of the park has finally been sold." She looked around smiling. After looking around the room several times, her expression changed to exasperation, "Do you all not care about your poor mother?" She screeched looking at me and Jane.
"Of course we do Mama," Jane seemed perplexed by the question. "What would make you ask such a question?"
"You haven't asked who bought Netherfield yet," She huffed out.
Oh my mother and her love for drama…
Jane broke out into a smile, "Who bought Netherfield, Mama? Someone handsome, I'm sure."
Mom grinned at Jane before scowling at me. I knew what she was waiting for. I smiled brightly and put my head in my hands, "Yes, who on Earth bought Netherfield, mother?"
"Elizabeth," She frowned at me, "Do not play curious. If you don't want to know, I just won't talk about it." She crossed her arms and turned her head.
"Mama," Jane swiftly walked over to hug our mother, "I assure you, we want to know. Isn't that right, Lizzie?"
Jane smiled back, forcefully, as if to say, "Do not make things worse Elizabeth Bennett."
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and moved closer to the family circle, in order to take my mother's hand in my own, "Tell us."
And that was all the invitation she needed, "His name is Charles Bingley. He's an Emergency Room doctor, Jane. Surely, you'll meet him tomorrow at work."
Jane blushed a bit at the forwardness of my mother. It was obvious she expected Mr. Charles Bingley to become infatuated with her eldest prettiest daughter, especially since she was a nurse. "Mom, you know I'm busy with so much. I probably won't even have time to work with him. You know how that goes. I'm in the Pediatric department; he's in the E.R." She smiled softly, diverting her eyes to the floor, to avoid everyone's gaze. I smiled an all knowing smile; something told me she had already met him at work today.
"Oh darling, a mother can dream, can't she?" She turned back to our father, "His parents, poor things, passed away when he was only twelve and left him a large sum… Much larger than his two sisters."
"Five million dollars, a year," Lydia interrupted, tossing a grin at us girls. Did I mention I'm pretty sure Lydia is a gold digger too? No? Well then….
"Yearly?" Jane asked shocked.
"Well," Lydia rolled her eyes, "I-" She looked at mom, confused, "Mom?"
"No, my dear Jane, it's his total income from his parents, and not his own yearly income, Lydi dear. It seems as though the majority of his yearly income, according to Hill," Mrs. Hill, the realtor, was the person to go to with all the gossip; as was Mrs. Lucas, "it is very a handsome amount though," she grinned at Father, "And the best part? He's single, Mr. Bennett and undoubtedly handsome!"
"How do you know?" I questioned my mother.
"Of course he's handsome, Lizzie," Kitty added, "How could someone so rich, not be?"
"Mrs. Hill had a picture with him. It is her biggest accomplishment: selling Netherfield Park," My mother answered before continuing her demands, "Darling, surely he must marry one of our girls… Rich, handsome, and single, Darling, this is the chance of a lifetime."
"What would you like me to do darling? Go to Netherfield and introduce myself? The whole family perhaps?"
I smiled, stifling a laugh. I could just see how that would turn out.
"Hello, I'm Benjamin Bennett, your neighbor across the park, and I just wanted to warn you that my wife demands you marry one of our girls since that's what you were born to do."
My father gave me a sneaky smile, knowing I was trying not to laugh.
"Mr. Bennett, of course not! I expect you to invite him to the towns Halloween Masquerade."
"I assure Mrs. Bennett, I see no need to invite him to the party."
"Of course!" Mother cried out, "You don't have any compassion for me or a bit of love for your daughters! You want them to end up as old maids!"
"On the contrary my dear, I love both you and our children deeply," He grinned up from his paper, "That's why I already invited him."
Mom eyes went wide, "Darling! How could you keep this from me?" Her hand fluttered to her chest, "My nerves are a mess. Kitty, go get Mommy some tea please."
Kitty frowned, not wanting to miss a minute of the conversation, and left the room for a few minutes before returning with a tray of sweet tea for us all. Mom sipped at her tea for a few minutes before speaking up again, "I don't understand why you let me make such a fool of myself, telling you about a man you already met."
My father smiled and put down his newspaper. "I just met him this evening. I was on my way inside from the office and he was jogging with a puppy. The poor thing got lose, and I caught her. We had a short chat, and I took it upon myself to invite him to the masquerade since it is an annual town event. As it turned out though, my dear, the Lucas's already invited him," He turned to me, "Lizzie, Charlotte, certainly told you they've been showing him around town this evening?"
I shook my head softly, "No. Char's been taking care of her sister. She's really sick."
Dad nodded his head and shrugged, "That's probably how they meet him. Anyway, fret not Mrs. Bennett, Charles Bingley will be at the dance. I believe he has some friends coming along as well, but I'm not certain."
Later on, amongst my mother's planning for us to go get new dresses for this lovely ball, Lydia informed us her favorite indie band The Militia was expected to be there as well, possibly even stay in town for a good while, and that our cousin Mary was coming to visit for a few days after the masquerade. None of that interested me though. What interested me was what Jane had to say when we were alone. "Yes, I met him today, Lizzie. Don't even ask," She smiled at me brightly. "The Lucas's had little Maria in the E.R. and I, being a pediatric nurse, had to help the doctor on duty."
"The famous Bingley?" I questioned.
Jane giggled, the blush on her face deepening, "Yes. He's quit the gentleman, Lizzie: very sweet, very humble. Not like you'd expect him to be."
"So he's not a pompous whinny know-it-all like all rich people?" I questioned with a grin, not really believing my sister's diagnosis of our new neighbor.
"Oh yes, Lizzie. Just wait until you meet him. You'll believe me," She bit her lip momentarily before continuing, "And he asked the board to make me his permanent nurse. He said he doesn't like working with unfamiliar faces and I seem to be trustworthy." Jane was glowing, my sister… Glowing.
I couldn't help but laugh, "And then once he realizes he can't-"
"Lizzie," Jane cut me off, "Not every guy in this world wants that, okay? Some are looking for something more-" She shrugged, still smiling.
"Wholesome," I finished for her, trying to be happy for my sister, but at the same time, I would be my own judge for one Mr. Charles Bingley.