A/N: I am still working on Grace and a chapter is forthcoming. But I had this done, and an informal poll from my tumblr (ladonnaingenua) revealed that readers would like more to read, even if it is not another chapter of Grace at this exact moment. Remember, the M and M of this story are not the M and M of Grace. Consider this AU just as their kiss shudders to a stop and Lavinia interrupts them. Stylistically, I want it to feel different too. Also, this will not be an adultery story (thought I would throw that out there). And there will be angst galore. But I only write happy endings. Thank you to all the supportive readers, here and on tumblr. Also, thank you to Faeyero. All grammar mistakes in this are my own, but she listened to me on end this Spring when this idea hit me.
Mary watches the wedding dispassionately–or tries to.
The colors are obvious–blue for spring, the wedding delayed a few weeks until Lavina's health improved. The bride's dress is beautiful–typically and unoriginally beautiful–and Lavinia looks typically and unoriginally waif-like and delicate, the tiny waist, the red golden hair. She is smiling so much, with so much feeling and softness, that Mary feels as if she is watching a play and in a minute the curtain will come down. Something is wrong with Mary's eyes; there is no sharpness only pastel softness everywhere she looks. But the wedding is all very real, the vows repeated back–Lavinia's voice shaking a bit in nervousness–and the cloying smell of flowers.
The groom...Well, the groom.
The groom's thick blonde hair is combed back, his morning suit, gray and impeccable. He looks...Mary does not want to examine how he looks. She knows some would say the groom looks happy but they do not know him as she does or did (the words she uses, the tenses, are as messy as her life). Mary especially does not want to examine how he feels. She finds him frowning at odd moments, his lips down turned in seconds that could be ticked off with a loud, annoying watch. Someone else could mistake it for the seriousness an occasion such as this requires. But he keeps looking at her, at Mary, and she wants to scream: Stop looking at me. This is the ending–the bride–you've chosen. You, you, you cannot look at me. You've looked enough and you've chosen. You've danced enough...
Mary wills herself to forget the last time they touched–dancing with him, his whispered "you are my stick," his hand pulling her closer and closer, her own attempt at humor–we were the show that flopped. She forces herself to forget how close they danced (were they dancing by then or just embracing?), how his body was as real to her as her own, how all the parts they were made of matched and fit together. She pushes his apology to the farthest recesses of her brain and then, of course, his admission that however much he wanted to marry her, marry Mary, he just could not (and of course, the kiss, the unmentionable dramatic kiss with furrowed brows and hands that ached to take hold of more, the brevity of it taking her breath away and his hand holding her gloved one, their fingers caressing, never parting...)...and the interruption of his fiancé.
Don't forget the interruption of his fiancé.
She laughs a little, into her dove gray gloves–which truly is inappropriate during the ceremony. Some people look at her. Who cares? She is used to caring but she doesn't anymore. But then he looks at her–Matthew–even as he holds Lavinia's hands in his own and continues on with the ceremony and the vows. Vows, Matthew, vows.
Does he want her to cry? Well, she won't.
It takes all of Mary's strength (not to stand up and stop the wedding, as some people suppose she might) but not to stand up and yell at him: Do not look at me with longing. This is the ending you have chosen! You chose it. Lavinia and I–well, we are just doing what you asked of us.
Finally, the ceremony is over and the new couple–the new Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Crawley–walk back down the aisle from which they came and Matthew glances at her one last time. Mary realizes that not only is this an ending, the one he has so nobly chosen, but it can be a beginning too–her beginning. Goosebumps break out along her neck.
He does not get to choose everything.
If she stays...If she stays, she knows the way the story ends. They will be two magnets pulled towards one another. It will torture them–the desire and the ache. Eventually, it will happen–in an unused room, outside in the trees, in the sitting room at Crawley House when everyone else is at church, all those pieces of themselves will fit together again and one of them (who can guess which of the two of them it will be?) will unbutton the first button, slide the first strap from her shoulder, slide her hand... It will be hurried and rushed. It will be illicit and secretive. And their hands will grasp and they will cover one another's moans with open mouths and gasps. It won't mean anything except that it will mean everything. Later, he will look at her across the dinner table and then away, afraid someone will read it in his eyes. He will touch her hand when no one is looking and name a time, a place. She will go; they are two magnets, after all. All the pieces of themselves match. And it will happen again.
It won't ever be tender or sweet; there will be no love drenched kisses because that would be true adultery. This way they are only two bodies, not even bodies, but magnets. Their kisses will always taste of sadness, of something lost that can never be found again, of misery that cannot be undone, a message lost in a bottle never to reach its intended, a love poem, unfinished.
Then, one day he will grow to blame her. If she wasn't so–and he will fill in the sentence with some hurtful adjective. She will storm off, after coldly stating something like: I never asked for this, Matthew or why don't you save your pithy arguments for your wife? The word wife will sound like a curse because to her, even to him, that's what it is. One night, he will get drunk and call her a whore–or some variation of that. There are so many variations of that word.
She will cry. If she stays...she will cry often. She will taste misery on the tip of her tongue, even after he's gone; the smell of it, of him, will cling to her once he is home with his wife. She will feel unglued, without his pieces fitting into hers. Her shoulders will shake from the weight of it all and one day, Lavinia will see her swollen eyes and smile her tiny smile as she smooths her hands over a swollen belly, the belly with the heir inside it. Lavinia will ask what is wrong but she will know. The wife always knows.
Mary hears Granny's voice in her head: you've read too many novels. But Mary knows that if she stays, if she is here when they return from their honeymoon, her story will already be written. She will be helpless to it, a little boat in storm tossed waves. Mary hates to be helpless. She refuses it, like a particular dish she does not like. No, thank you; I'd prefer to choose my own main course.
Mary is still supposed to marry Sir Richard but they both know that it won't happen–not this summer or the next. They both know she would have rather pushed Matthew's wheelchair around the grounds the rest of her life than married and left him. But now Matthew stands on two feet; Matthew has left her, because he is noble, because he is honorable; only before he left her, he kissed her. He marked her. He cannot stay away from her. They are two magnets. And the story begins again...
It's a music box. And when the song stops, Mary or Matthew set it to rights again and dance to the music coming from the gramophone.
She thinks Sir Richard suspects this. Before the wedding, Sir Richard was called away urgently on business. He sends his regrets. Mary thinks he just wants to avoid her tears because Matthew is marrying someone else and she wants to smirk and poke Sir Richard in the shoulder until he snaps at her. She would like to say: You don't know me at all. Nobody does. Not even him. Just recently, she has thought about pushing Sir Richard, and pushing him, and pushing him until he strikes her. Just to see if she could do it. Just to see if she could win.
Something has to change. She cannot go on like this. Her story cannot be written without her own permission.
The bride and the groom look at one another. The bride is glowing. Mary already knows the way the story will end only...Only she doesn't want to be a part of it anymore. And she doesn't have to be, not if she doesn't want to be.
She wants a new story.
She wants her own story.
This wedding is not just an ending, it can also be her beginning.
All through the toasts, she plots her way to freedom and when she sips her champagne, there is a curl to her smile. She throws her head back and laughs because she is getting out. It's a secret that no one tells–that a young woman from a rich home does have a way out, if she is brave enough, if she is desperate enough, if she wants it badly enough. Sybil knew the secret and now Mary knows it too.
The next time Matthew looks at her, he does not recognize her and a little voice inside of him reminds him: you don't recognize her because you've never made her happy; when was the last time you made her laugh? There is a flood of people offering congratulations. He tries to reach her, but he cannot. They are two magnets, pulled together and pushed apart. But then, she is gone. He tells himself that they will talk when he returns from the honeymoon. The word talk doesn't mean what it should and he knows it, even with his hand on Lavinia's waist. Guilt is just another thing he has grown used to, like the ache in his back after a long day. He is as resigned to the story as Mary is, if a bit more realistic. After all, he will always have one of them–Mary or Lavinia. And for the first time in a very long time, he has no idea what Mary is thinking or planning. None at all.
Up in her room, Mary knows what Matthew is telling himself. It makes her laugh–to know how wrong he is. When he returns, she will be long gone. She does not know if she is coming back. She does not know if she will ever see him again. It makes her sad to know it but it is not sadness enough to keep her for trying for her own happiness. This is a sadness she can bear. Except, at this moment, in her lovely gown, the wedding guests all aflutter downstairs, it does seem like she should give herself at least a moment to mourn, to grieve. And when she cries, she tells herself it is the last time, the final time she will cry a single tear over Matthew Crawley.
A/N: I would LOVE to know what you think. It is very different than my other piece. Let me know if you want more.