Author's Note: Well Alicia's story had me tossing and turning last night. I just couldn't get it out of my head. Soooooooo....... I'm posting my near ending to Alicia's story. Please note that this too has an ending which is open to interpretation.
"You mean to frighten me, Mr. Darcy, by coming in all this state to hear me? But I will not be alarmed though your sister does play so well. There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me."
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Volume II, Chapter 8
"I have said no such thing. I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me."
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Volume III, Chapter 14
Elizabeth sat at her vanity in her townhouse, staring into the looking glass. How had it come to this that she should be treated so? For 3 days now, she has had to endure the most ungentleman-like behavior imaginable from her husband. After 3 days, Elizabeth felt at the edge of falling into an abyss. Could Darcy break her spirit?
One year later on the anniversary of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy's wedding
"Happy anniversary, dear. I have a surprise for you." With those words, Elizabeth handed to her husband a brightly wrapped box.
Darcy quickly opened the box to find a scrap of paper. It was a ticket for passage to America. "What's this?"
"My thank you to you, Fitzwilliam. You taught me a very valuable lesson one year ago tonight. I have been humbled. I had considered myself a good judge of character and practiced at the art of observation. You opened my eyes, Fitzwilliam, and I thank you for that."
Perplexed Darcy stated, "I still do not understand this present."
Fitzwilliam Darcy was a man in love, at least as much as he could be given his position in society. In a year's time his wife, Elizabeth, had enchanted him. Never had he known what it meant to truly love until now. There were still doubts - doubts about her lowly connections and unsuitable family but he had taken care to resolve those issues. Or so he thought....
"You will find, my dear, that if you do not leave now for that ship, there will be certain men making inquiries here. Men come to collect on your debt of honor, " Elizabeth stated with a cool and clear voice.
Darcy's mind was racing at this point. What does all this mean? What could she be about? "There are no debts of honor. I do not gamble."
"Really? I have these documents signed by you acknowledging your transgressions. The gentlemen coming to call have additional documents. Men in high ranks of the ton have sworn to your propensity for a wager."
Becoming enraged, Darcy grabbed the documents and stared open-mouthed at the writing. How could this be? Darcy never gambled and certainly never wrote nor signed these documents. But yet that did look like his handwriting. "It must be a fake. But how? Who?"
Elizabeth began laughing. "Did you like my performance?"
Darcy heaved a sigh of relief, "Elizabeth, my love, jokes on our anniversary are not appropriate. A joke of this magnitude should never be played. I nearly believed..."
"'Tis no joke. There will be men here shortly to see you and to collect on the debt. Did you take care to note the amounts of your debt? 500,000 pounds. I believe you will have to give up Pemberley to cover this debt."
Darcy was shaking. Disbelief was evident on his face. "NO! Stop this now. Elizabeth, I love you and you love me. There will be no talk of losing Pemberley. My heir - our child soon to be - will live here, love here, and pass it on to his heir. There have been Darcys at Pemberley for hundreds of years and will be for a hundred more."
"There is no child. I merely told you that to get you out of my bed. That is, after I wooed you and gained your confidence."
Elizabeth continued to tell her side to a dumbfounded Darcy.
"Do you really think I could love a man who forced himself upon me? Who showed me so little respect? How could I love one who has ruined all my family's chances for happiness? Are you that much a fool? You killed my love for you and now there is only hatred."
Darcy felt as if he were on a horse out of control. "But when? I can't believe this. I refuse to believe this tale you tell."
"When? My hatred of you formed the third night after our wedding. You thought you had broken me, molded me into a complacent wife. You were wrong. On that night, my humiliation complete, I chose to fight back in a way that would cause you grief for all your remaining days.
"Do you remember what you told me one year ago about your letter? How the letter was the start of your plan? Your letter has proven instrumental again as it too was the start of my plan. I used the letter to practice my penmanship. You have a lovely hand, Fitzwilliam, a bit difficult to copy but not impossible.
"After you ruined so many people over the years and more than just my family, did you really think no one would seek revenge? So many lives, one would think you believe yourself to be better than even the Prince Regent himself. But now you shall be humbled before even me, a country gentleman's daughter.
"Gaining allies for my plan was easy. Gaining your confidence more difficult. Once gained though you stopped reading my correspondence. You stopped watching my every move. I believe I played the meek wife well, don't you?"
Darcy stumbled over his words, "I... that is... but how? My seal is always locked away when I am not using it. Without a seal, these documents are worthless."
Elizabeth chuckled, "Look closely at the broken seal, Fitzwilliam. Look familiar? It should as I used yours for all correspondence in your hand. Did you know that my father would lock away novels he did not want me to see? I developed quite a knack for unlocking that which is kept away from me. I see by the look on your face that you are having difficulty with all this. Look closely at those papers and think back on this last year. Did you not notice anything amiss?"
Darcy took a moment to think back, looking for anything that was not quite right. "Well yes I did. Once I found bits of sealing wax on my desk but assumed it was not cleaned from my use the previous day. Oh no....."
"Oh yes. And as I hear footsteps in the hall, I believe your time is up. I did care for you once, so I have left you with a means to avoid debtors prison and total disgrace. Your horse is waiting around back. Go now and leave this country. Otherwise, face the consequences."
There was a rapping on the door....
Darcy raised his head from the desk. He must have been asleep but the nightmare seemed so real.
Elizabeth entered the study and asked, "Fitzwilliam, are you awake dear?"
"What? I must have dozed off. Forgive me, my love."
"Would you like some tea? Good." Elizabeth put the tray down on a side table and fixed a cup for her husband. She carried the cup to Darcy and placed it in front of him. From behind her back, Elizabeth brought out a brightly wrapped box and handed it to him. "Happy anniversary, dear. I have a surprise for you."
*cue sinister music*
All the color drained visibly from his face as Darcy stared at the box. Words would not come. He couldn't breathe. He needed to get away but couldn't move. Get a grip on yourself, man!
Elizabeth dropped the box and rushed around the desk to her husband's side. "Fitzwilliam, what is the matter? Can I get you something?"
Darcy recoiled from her touch. A moment. A moment. All I need is a moment. "No. No. Please give me a moment. I need to collect my thoughts and then we should talk."
"Very well." Never had Elizabeth seen her husband in such a state. Does he know? How could he? I don't believe I let it slip. His reaction is so unexpected though.. perhaps... no I shall wait to see the outcome.
Darcy moved to the fireplace and began poking at the fire while he calmed his thoughts. With time came an easing of his mind and clearer thoughts took over.
The nightmare was vivid but Darcy knew it was baseless. Recollections of the past year confirmed this. Memories now flooded in bringing warmth and comfort to him. Stealing kisses from his wife. Making snow angels (when had he last romped in the snow?) Singing Christmas songs with family and friends. Picnics by the pond. Dancing in the moonlight. Elizabeth's smiles meant only for him. It had been a very good year. What brought on this nightmare? "Ahhh....."
"Elizabeth, my love, will you join me on the settee?"
Concern lined her face as Elizabeth sat beside her husband.
Taking his wife's hand, Darcy gently asked, "Do you remember your dream on our wedding day?"
"Please. I had hoped to forget that nightmare. Why do you ask?"
"I found the novel tucked away in a drawer, that dreaded book which seemed to have been the foundation for your dream. As that nightmare caused some tension between us so early in the marriage, I felt that I needed to read the story to better understand why you had such a violent reaction. I could not believe that a simple novel could invoke such a reaction. Now I do. I finished reading the story this morning. It is quite intriguing and I'm ashamed to say it kept me up most of the night. Lack of sleep caught up with me and I nodded off here in the study. My nightmare felt so real. When you entered the room, I could not control my emotions after waking. I know I have no cause for concern and I know it was a dream. Yet... it was disturbing."
"Oh my dear. I am so sorry. I should have destroyed that book so no other could be similarly tortured. Where it is? Let us burn the pages which have brought us grief."
Darcy brought the book out of a drawer in his desk. Together they tossed it into the fireplace and watched the dreaded pages burn.
Darcy turned to his wife, "Now Elizabeth about that surprise..."
Delighted, Elizabeth retrieved the box and handed it to her husband. Eagerly he pulled the ribbon, removed the top, and looked inside to find a beautiful christening gown. Darcy looked up with a question in his eyes.
There was a glow about Elizabeth. Her smile radiant and her eyes sparkled. "Yes, my dear, by midsummer we shall have a babe of our own. Perhaps an heir with your handsome features and fine sensibility."
"Or perhaps a beautiful girl to spoil. Oh Elizabeth, the joy and happiness you bring to me knows no bounds. I love you."
"I love you, Fitzwilliam."
AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER
*cue lovely, happy, mushy, romantic music*