LAST CHAPTER! With that said, read on!
Disclaimer: It took me two months and sixteen chapters, but I finally came to terms with the fact that I will never own Lost in Austen.
Chapter 16: Perfect
Darcy and Amanda were in my room when I arrived there a few seconds later, hating myself and my decision and just about everything else - except for George Wickham. I could no longer hate George Wickham, though I suspected that I never really did.
I ignored the hostility she was sending me while I hugged my brother-in-law.
"Let me guess," Amanda said bluntly as we moved to the bathroom. "He loves you and you love him. Am I on the right track?" I didn't answer. "And you're still going back without him. Unbelievable."
"Ignorance is bliss," I muttered.
"Not now, it isn't!" she yelled.
Instead of making me feel guilty, her yells made me angry. Just to spite her, I pulled open the linen closet. There it was: my apartment complex, directly across the dark street. "The door seems to agree with me," I fired back.
She scowled. I knew she was hoping that it wouldn't let me through, that it would only open for me if I brought Wickham back. My choice was supported by whatever strange powers controlled this thing; it still didn't feel right, given the pain in my chest, but I had some sort of ally.
"Amanda," Darcy said lightly. "This choice belongs to your sister."
"I know," she grumbled. She sighed and pulled me into a hug. Over her shoulder, I mouthed my thanks to Darcy, who nodded. "Sorry you have to deal with Mum," she continued. "Come up with something good."
"I'm thinking of telling her you moved to Australia." I turned to the door. "Think she'll believe that?"
She laughed. "Yes, me and the kangaroos."
I turned to smile at her as I stepped through the door, but hers was not the face I saw, and I wasn't smiling.
No, the last name I said was his. The last face I saw was his. And then the door closed.
A chill crept over me, even though I was in my jacket. I was standing on the stoop of the abandoned building, staring at the shabby door and its peeling paint. A light drizzle wet my head, but I hardly noticed. "George," I repeated, stunned. I opened the door, but all I saw was the dusty, dingy space and machines rusted with years of no use.
I tried again and again, opening and closing, opening and closing. Nothing happened. Every time, I saw the inside of the warehouse, a most disappointing sight as I looked for my bathroom at Pemberley. I had a strange feeling of betrayal; this fictional portal was no longer my ally.
I stood there, waiting for the door to open and George to walk through. I couldn't believe I was allowing myself to think it could happen, because it was exactly what I had been trying to avoid: Hoping.
I had no idea how long I stood on the stoop, but by the time the drizzle turned to a solid rain and my jacket was soaked through, there was no hope left in me. I turned and walked across the street, an old streetlamp casting a faint, flickering orange light that just barely lit the way.
I was as pleased as I could be, under the circumstances, to find that my key was still in my pocket. I dazedly wondered what would have happened if I didn't have my key; I would have had to buzz in on the speaker and wait for one of my neighbors to open the door.
I trudged up the stairs to the third floor, and my gaze fell on the fire extinguisher at the top, thinking of Amanda's apartment; maybe it wasn't such a bad place to hide a spare key. Who would lift it up to check underneath? They only reason anyone would pick up that extremely heavy red cylinder was if the building was on fire, and if it was, the key underneath it wouldn't be the biggest concern. I shrugged, deciding to give it more thought when I was capable of thinking better.
I dragged myself to the left, down two doors to 3D, my flat at the end of the hallway. I unlocked the door, and in the warmth and comfort of my own home, registered that I was dripping wet and freezing cold. Shivering, the first thing I did was take a long, hot shower, washing away the cold, but not my thoughts, though they cleared a bit.
What had I been thinking, standing in front of the door? That was exactly what I didn't want, to be thinking about him day and night; to see his face everywhere and do double takes to make sure it wasn't him; to feel my heart jump up into my throat before sinking like lead into my stomach. I was hopeless and pitiful.
I dressed in a baggy t-shirt and sweat pants and turned up the heat. Physically, I felt better, but I had to grudgingly admit to myself that Amanda had been right, as usual: My idea was stupid. In hindsight, I should have known that however sound it may have seemed at the time, my plan would only work if I remained emotionless after arriving back here.
And I didn't. I had waited for him like a love-sick moron when I should have just walked to my building and up the stairs with my head held high.
It was getting late, and I had to be at work by seven tomorrow, as if nothing had ever happened, but there was no way I could get to sleep now. Maybe I could call in for a sick day, or a personal day. I never took either; the hospital practically forced me to use my vacation days because I never missed.
I pushed the idea from my mind; I needed to go to work, to be immersed in the adrenaline and action, to think about anything but the fallout from the last few days. Unfortunately, my current state of mind was the fallout from the last few days.
When I closed my eyes, his was the face that I saw, and that was the sweetest lullaby. But my thoughts flew around, more annoying than mosquitoes, not allowing me to relax. As my track record with good ones was nothing to brag about, the incredibly stupid plan of an all-nighter occurred to me. My brain was on full-power, and that was better at keeping me awake than any amount or combination of sugar, caffeine, or adrenaline.
I replayed those last few seconds in my mind, remembering his confused face - and something else. I grabbed my phone.
"Hey, Mum," I said, leaving a message on the answering machine. "I know I haven't called, so don't freak out on me. Amanda and I just needed some...alone time. She's alive, by the way, and she's really not torn up over Michael. And as for her phone being out of service..." I hesitated, because I really didn't have a good excuse for that one yet. "Don't worry about it, okay? She's fine. I'll talk to you later. Love you."
I clicked the off button and made a mental check list of all the things I needed to cover for Amanda. Then I leaned my head back, letting my thoughts of how stupid I was fill me up. There was nothing I could do about it now, though. Time didn't stop...
I woke to a flash and a deep rumble. I gently raised my head, wincing; having fallen asleep there on the couch with my head back, my neck was aching. I blinked a few times because I hadn't turned out the lights in the room either. The clock told me it was two in the morning, so I had a few more hours before my life went on.
A bolt of lightning flashed, followed by another roll of thunder, drawing my attention to the window. The streetlamp must have gone out sometime in the last few hours; only the lightning illuminated the pavement now. The rain was coming down harder, pelting the window.
I went back to turn off the light, but stopped halfway through. That last roll of thunder had not been accompanied by lightning. It hadn't been tremendously loud, either. I paused, silent, waiting to hear it again: a knock.
Mum. By now, she could've gotten the message and made it all the way over here. Oh, man, I was going to tell her off for this one. Two in the morning? Really?
I wrenched open the door, thinking of all the things I'd yell at her as I walked down the stairs to open the door to the complex. But when I looked up, it wasn't her, and my words got stuck in my throat.
He was soaked, absolutely dripping wet, his black bangs plastered to his forehead. His hazel eyes were wide, and upon seeing me, he let out an enormous sigh of relief. "Sara. Thank God."
"George," I stated, dumbfounded by his presence.
His breathing was slightly labored, like he'd been running, or had been scared out of his wits. "What is this place?"
"London," I told him, "in the twenty-first century." He was absolutely disoriented, so I lead him up the stairs and into my flat, where I made him sit on the couch. He got it all wet, but I really didn't care.
I sat next to him. He cupped my face in his hands, searching my eyes, and begged, "Assure me this is no dream."
I leaned into his touch, covering one of his hands on my face. "It's not a dream."
I shook my head. "Not a hallucination." He relaxed more, but was still rightfully confused. "Amanda told you what the door was?"
"Yes, but her explanation made no sense to me. I stopped listening when it opened for me."
"Wait, you didn't know where it would take you?" He shook his head. "And you went through anyway?"
He answered simply, "You did." He held my hands. "Did you really think a door would stop me if you were on the other side?"
"So if I'd jumped off a bridge, you'd do that too? You said you weren't masochistic!"
He chuckled at my feigned panic, running his thumb soothingly over my hands. "I would jump off a bridge, or a cliff, or one of these colossal buildings. Don't you understand? I would follow you through any door that presented itself, no matter its destination. I would upend the balance of nature, reverse the world's axis, and follow you to the very ends of the earth if that's where you led." He grinned, knowing he left me speechless. "If you go, my white horse and I will follow."
"Why?" was all I could whisper.
He shrugged nonchalantly. "Because with all the trouble you get yourself into, someone needs to be your knight, and I thought I was doing a somewhat decent job." He paused, then added, "And I love you."
"But mostly that first reason?"
"Yes. Mostly that first reason."
I shook my head in amazement. "How are you so perfect?"
Once again, he flashed me his signature look: playful eyes, raised brows, knowing grin. "It appears I was correct after all."
He leaned in close. "You do think I'm perfect."
"Stop talking," I commanded. His flashed that devilish grin as I grabbed his collar and pulled him towards me, mumbling, "Stupid white knight."
Now that it's over, I have to mention my OC inspiration - Sara would be played by Kristen Bell.
Thanks to everyone who followed, favorited (don't think that's a word...), reviewed, and stuck with the story for all 16 chapters. Hope you enjoyed it!