This is a story based on Annie's Maybe This Time.
Section I, Next Section
hat are we giving thanks for?" Alexander Darcy asked his wife of four months when she told him about the holiday. He was sitting at the kitchen table, watching her as she prepared a sandwich for her daughter Emma's lunch and kept an eye on the soup warming on the stove.
"It's when the Indians and the Pilgrims ate together and were thankful that they were alive," Emma said cheerfully. She was supposed to be eating the bowl of oatmeal in front of her but seemed more content to swirl her spoon around in it.
"It's a bit more complex than that, sweetheart." Kelsey smiled at Emma. "Start eating that."
"Yes, Mommy. But that's what Miss Prummer said."
"And we have a holiday celebrating this?" Alexander was confused about the holiday, but then, he'd had to do quite a bit of adjusting to the world he'd found himself in. He'd said the same thing about Labor Day ("celebrating working by not working?") and Columbus Day ("technically, Columbus didn't discover America."), and the idea of Halloween had downright scared him to death. However, he had thought Veterans Day a capital idea.
In the almost seven months since he'd stumbled into Kelsey Chandler's life, Alexander had seen and experienced a great many things he'd never thought possible. It was not merely the plane ride on their honeymoon, string bikinis, strange hair, and modern technology that astounded him. It was Kelsey herself, mostly. Her beautiful dark honey hair and dove gray eyes, her shy smile and her innocence and playfulness and...
He had wondered often if he would ever find someone to love. He thanked God every day for his wife.
"Yes, we do. I think these days we just have the holiday to reflect on and be thankful for things in our own lives."
"It seems like a strange holiday to me."
"It's just a bump in the road compared to Christmas."
"Oh? You celebrate Christmas here?"
"You mean you didn't? You never had a Christmas tree or presents or Santa Claus or anything of that sort?"
"Well, my family would gather together for the occasion, but I'm betting it was nothing on the scale of what this world celebrates."
Kelsey smiled. "Then this is going to be a very interesting holiday season indeed."
The sound of a knock at the door reminded Kelsey that it was her day for the carpool, and so she finished packing Emma's lunch, bundled her up in her jacket, and led her to the car.
Alexander watched her go from the window, then walked into the living room to find a book to read. He gave the hated computer a nasty glance as he passed it by, not forgetting the last time he had tried to use it and it had shut down on him completely. He decided that sometimes, this modern world wasn't as good as it seemed.
Chapter 1--Some Things Never Change
Kelsey returned from running children to school to find Alexander sitting in a chair reading a book. When she looked at the title, she nearly laughed out loud.
Scruples by Judith Krantz.
"Enjoying that?" she asked.
"I'd like to know what it was doing on your bookshelf," Alexander said. "Literature such as this should not be displayed for any and all to read."
"That's pretty tame compared to some things."
Alexander's face got red when he remembered the time a month or so ago when he'd stumbled onto a copy of Playboy at a bookstore. Kelsey had found him and had laughed at his horrified expression.
"In private settings," he said upon remembering, "I don't think something such as that would be bad."
"There are a lot of men who enjoy that sort of thing today," Kelsey replied. "As there would've been in your time."
"But we bring Emma in there. What if she were to see..."
"That's why they're on the top shelf, covered up with paper. So little kids can't reach them--or see them."
"You say a lot of men enjoy this sort of thing, and I cannot see why. I don't think I ever could."
"You say that because you're a happily married man," Kelsey said, snatching the book out of his hands and seating herself in his lap.
"Yes, that I am." He kissed her gently. "And now that we have sent the child off to school, what shall we do with ourselves?"
"I can think of half a dozen things, all of them requiring a trip to the bedroom."
"Mrs. Darcy! What a scandalous thought."
"I think that for all your prudery about certain magazines, you actually like the scandalous things we do."
"I don't deny it." He kissed her again, more forceful and passionate than before. "And I think you're right. It's time we headed for a more secluded place."
Kelsey climbed out of his lap, pulled him up from the chair, and slowly started to lead him to their bedroom...
And then the phone rang.
Alexander groaned aloud. "Oh, Lord," he grumbled. "Who could that be?"
"Well, Emma was fine this morning, and Maddie's out of town until day after tomorrow at a conference, so that leaves only one person who it's likely to be."
"My mother." Kelsey sighed as the phone rang again. "And she knows I'm home."
Alexander sat back in his chair as Kelsey went to answer the phone. Kelsey could just take the phone off the hook, but Laura Madison had broken her leg in a car wreck the previous month and laid terrible guilt trips on Kelsey when she finally got a hold of her.
"Hello, Kelsey." It was indeed her mother.
"I hope I wasn't interrupting anything."
"Uh, no...not exactly."
"Kelsey, I needed to ask you for a favor."
"What is it you need?" Kelsey was reluctant to agree to do it before she heard what her mother wanted. The last time she'd done that, she'd gotten stuck cooking Thanksgiving dinner four years ago.
"Well, I know that you were...a bit resentful of me when I asked you to cook Thanksgiving dinner."
She should've known. "Oh, no. There is no way I'm going to try to cook a turkey again. Everyone got sick the last time I did that."
"If you had followed my directions, no one would've gotten sick."
"You told me--"
"I said that you should start cooking the turkey at five-thirty and you thought--"
"You said seven-thirty and...oh, what's the point? Why do you need me to make dinner? Why not ask Maddie to do it? She'd do a better job than I would."
"Because she won't get back from her conference until late Wednesday night, and to ask her to get up at five-thirty would be barbaric. And you know that I'm in no condition to do any cooking. I've been living off of Maddie's generosity since the accident."
"And mine." How easily she forgets.
"Yes, yours too."
"You know, I was thinking that maybe we should just forget about Thanksgiving this year--since Maddie's going to be tired, and you're still hobbling around and I can't cook turkey."
"No Thanksgiving? Kelsey Angelica, what can you be thinking? Of course we're going to have Thanksgiving dinner. There's nothing wrong with your cooking. Just make sure you follow my directions this time."
Kelsey wanted to remind her mother that she hadn't agreed to cook lunch, and furthermore, it was rude of her to put off asking her until two days before the holiday.
"All right," she said. "I'll do it."
"Good. Your turkey should be big enough for all of us. Including Carl."
Kelsey nearly groaned at the mention of her mother's new boyfriend. "I'm inviting Dad," she said abruptly. "I don't think it would be comfortable to invite Carl as well."
"I've already invited Carl, so uninvite your father."
"I have to run, Kelsey dear. Bye." Mrs. Madison hung up the phone. Kelsey slammed the receiver down. "Not even a thank you."
"We're having lunch over here for that holiday?" he asked.
"Mm-hmm. She'd better be able to walk soon, because I don't think I can take any more of these phone calls when she's bored or needs a favor."
Kelsey sat down on the couch, thinking of what she'd need for lunch. A minute later, she stood up. "I have to go to the store," she said. 'I need to get things for Thursday. You want to come along, or is Judith Krantz got too strong a hold on your imagination?"
"My book and your shopping can wait." Alexander walked over to the couch and sat her back down beside him, keeping her in his arms.
"Not really. The turkey will be frozen and will need defrosted, and then I have to prepare everything for..." Alexander nuzzled her neck. "Come on, Alexander, this is serious...I...I need..." His lips traveled to hers, and stopped all conversation for the time being. Not that it really mattered, because all she needed was him.
Chapter 2. Family Get-Togethers Are So Heartwarming.
Kelsey's alarm clock went off at five. Reaching out a hand to smack the snooze button, she was about to drift back to sleep when she remembered that she had to make Thanksgiving dinner and unless she wanted half a dozen cases of food poisoning, she'd better get up.
With a low groan, she disentangled herself from Alexander's warm arms and got out of bed, pulling on a bathrobe. Alexander grunted, but did not stir from his slumber. She gave him a kiss, brushing that stubborn dark curl from his forehead. Slipping on a pair of slippers in the shape of lions (Emma's Christmas gift for her last year--picked out by her personally), she padded downstairs and into the kitchen.
It took Kelsey's sleep-fogged mind a few seconds to realize that the light was already on, and someone was in her kitchen, humming cheerfully and stuffing the turkey as though she got up every day at five in the morning without complaint.
"Your neighbor next door--Wallace, isn't that it? She stopped by to borrow some flour. I hope you don't mind that I told her she could," the woman said.
"It's only flour." Kelsey sat down at the table, cradling her head in her hands. "Did she think you were me?"
Madeline Madison Geiger plunked down a cup of coffee in front of her twin sister. "Yep."
Kelsey took a long gulp of coffee, hoping that the sudden infusion of caffeine would wake her up. "What are you doing here? Mom insisted that it would be barbaric to have you--"
"It would be barbaric to end up in the hospital again," Maddie replied. "I love you, Kelsey, but you should stick to cooking things you know. Turkey isn't one of them."
"You and Mom make me feel like the most incompetent cook ever to walk the face of the Earth."
"You're not. After all, who always makes the best lemon merengue pie at family reunions? And the bread pudding, and the chocolate soufflé..."
"Thank you." Kelsey took another drink of coffee. "Not only for the compliment, but for sacrificing precious sleep in order to cook a decent Thanksgiving meal."
"I slept on the plane, which didn't get in until two-thirty."
"You slept on the plane? You used to complain that you couldn't sleep on a plane even after taking Valium or cold medicine."
"It was kind of strange, but I slept through the entire journey. Ben was practically asleep the minute we walked through the door, but I was still awake. So I figured that I should get over here and rescue my poor big sister. If you'd like, you can go back to sleep."
"No, that's all right. I think I'm awake for good." Kelsey finished off the coffee and got up to get herself another cup. "I'm going to need at least two pots of this to completely wake up. You want some?"
"No, thanks. I'm awake enough." Maddie finished with the turkey and prepared to set it in the oven to cook. "When you're ready, you can get started on peeling potatoes."
"What's the final head count again?"
"You and me, Alex and Ben, Emma, Mom, Dad, and Carl. Does Dad know Carl's going to be there?"
"Yeah, I warned him. I didn't tell him what Mom said."
"He probably could've guessed, anyway. Something along the lines of not inviting Dad since she was bringing Carl."
"Has Dad been seeing anyone lately?"
"I don't think so. If he has, he hasn't told me." Kelsey looked outside, glancing at the backyard, her thoughts suddenly drifting to the morning when she'd seen Alexander walking into her yard.
The maze which had led him to her was closed for the day. It hadn't opened since October on what turned out to be Alexander's birthday. Kelsey knew that both Emma and Alexander were hoping it would open for Christmas, but Kelsey couldn't be certain that it was. She herself wouldn't mind spending some time with the Darcy family, although how would you explain the change in centuries to Emma? It had been difficult enough to explain the strange clothes they wore when the visited in October.
And anyway, there was no guarantee that the maze would open even if they wanted it to. It hadn't opened for Emma's sixth birthday, which they'd been hoping for.
Kelsey set her coffee cup aside, determined not to let uncertain Christmas plans get her down. She dug through a drawer, searching for a paring knife, and reached for the sack of potatoes on the counter.
It was just after one when everyone sat down to lunch. Alexander and Joshua Madison were talking about football (Alexander had very quickly developed a passion for sports of all kinds), with Ben occasionally saying something to them but mostly keeping a close eye on Maddie. Kelsey observed the way he treated her and was rather confused about the whole thing. It seemed as though she were made of glass to Ben, and Kelsey knew her sister too well to think that she enjoyed being pampered and fussed over.
Mrs. Madison and Carl Villardi sat together directly across the table from her husband, speaking privately to each other and essentially snubbing the man across from them. Kelsey felt that her mother was being excessively rude to her ex-husband, but when she'd asked her father about it, all he'd said was, "Who cares? Besides your mother. If she's found some other sucker to make miserable, my pity's all for him."
Emma sat next to her grandfather, trying to get his attention by tugging on his sleeve and talking about things that she was doing at school. He talked to her as much as he talked to Alexander, pleasing the little girl. Alexander chuckled occasionally at Emma's obvious bids for attention, and decided to get away from his topic of conversation and turn to his daughter.
Kelsey didn't sit down until lunch was halfway finished, making sure everyone had enough food and drink. Alexander tried to get her to sit, especially after all the time she'd spent slaving in the kitchen, but she was wired on all the caffeine she'd had that morning. Remembering his own bout with too much coffee, suffered when his mother had nearly died in May, he decided not to trouble her much about it.
"Wonderful job, Kelsey," Mr. Madison said.
"Thank you," she said.
"The turkey could've been a little juicier," Mrs. Madison said. "It's a bit dry. I remember last year's dinner, the turkey was absolutely heaven."
Kelsey ground her teeth. Last year, Maddie had cooked the turkey. She had this year, too, but neither sister had seen any point to mentioning that to their mother.
"I don't think the turkey's dry," Ben said.
"Me, either," Maddie added.
"I don't like juicy turkey," Emma said. "It made me sick last year."
"You were sick last year because you ate too much," Kelsey reminded her. "I told you not to have a piece of apple cake and then a piece of pumpkin pie."
Alexander looked at Emma. "Where did she put it all?" he asked. "She looks like she would barely manage to get through a small piece of turkey."
The other adults chuckled after Emma said, "I put it in my shoe, where else?"
"All the same, the turkey is a bit dry," Mrs. Madison repeated. "And the stuffing...well, Kelsey, I suppose it's all right."
"I made the stuffing," Maddie said. "And I cooked the turkey."
"You...you did?" Mrs. Madison looked shocked.
"Yes. And if you were about to complain about the corn casserole, I made that too."
Seeming distraught at the fact that she'd been criticizing the cooking of her favorite daughter, Mrs. Madison kept quiet for a moment, then said, "Why did you cook? I distinctly recall telling you not to call your sister, Kelsey."
"I thought it would be best if I cooked," Maddie said. "And I wouldn't take no for an answer. I was here before Kelsey woke up."
Kelsey felt her face burning, the memories of Thanksgivings and Christmases and Easters past when she'd been the bad girl, and Maddie the good. The only good Christmas she could remember was when she and Maddie had deliberately switched places, and her mother had spent an entire day praising Kelsey and condemning Madeline. But that single day wasn't real. Their mother hadn't known the truth, and if she had, Kelsey would've been in more trouble.
Trying to get away from the problem, Kelsey brought out the two pies she'd made--one of lemon merengue and the other, pumpkin. Emma rushed over to grab a jar full of spice cookies that she'd made herself (with a lot of help from her mother), and wouldn't be satisfied until everyone had had a cookie and complimented her on being a wonderful baker.
Maddie and Ben talked about something for a minute before she stood up and said, "I think that maybe this is the right time to tell all of you something, so here goes. Ben and I are having a baby."
Mrs. Madison practically screamed with joy, taking her daughter in her arms and hugging her fiercely. "Oh, my dear, sweet Madeline! A baby! Oh, when?"
"Sometime in June, the doctor said."
Mrs. Madison continued talking in excited sentences to her younger daughter. Mr. Madison, after shaking Ben's hand and giving his daughter a hug, did nothing more. Carl gave a rather banal congratulations.
Kelsey felt her heart drop to her feet. On one hand, she was extremely happy for her sister, because Maddie wanted to have a baby. She would be a wonderful mother. But the moment Kelsey had warned Alexander of had arrived. Maddie was going to have a baby, and Emma was going to be left out in her grandmother's affection. She looked at her daughter. Maddie had captured Emma's hand and placed it on her stomach, but a moment later, Mrs. Madison shooed the little girl away and told her not to bother her aunt, then insisted that Maddie sit down.
Alexander's eyes were focused on his wife and the reaction that the slight had given her. Emma didn't recognize it for what it was, but everyone else at the table--with the possible exception of Carl--did. Kelsey's gray eyes narrowed on her mother as she continued to fuss over Maddie.
Maddie's eyes met her sister's. Only instead of anger, hers were filled with sympathy...and frustration. Kelsey knew what the look signified. Maddie wished for all the world that things were different, that their mother had never heard the stupid rhyme about identical twins...
That she loved both of her daughters equally.
I stopping wishing for things like that long ago, Kelsey thought as she began clearing the table, not bothering to try choking down the lemon merengue pie which was her favorite.
No one saving Alexander bothered to help her in her task.
Later that evening, after the guests had left and all of the dishes had been washed, Kelsey slipped into her jacket and walked out onto her back porch. She sat on the swing and stared out at the dark sky. It was cold, but she took little notice of the weather.
"Kelsey?" Alexander opened the door and found his wife. "Emma's asleep."
"Thanks for putting her to bed," Kelsey replied.
Alexander shut the door and took a seat on the swing beside his wife. "You looked so upset today. Why did you not say anything to your mother?"
"I don't know. It would be a futile gesture."
"You once told me that you feared any child of Madeline's would take Emma's place." He sighed. "You were right."
"The baby's not even born and it's already pushed her aside. I wonder how long it's going to take Emma to realize that."
"For her sake, I hope never."
"It's too much to hope for. Emma's too bright not to notice such things. How do you think she was able to figure out that John didn't love her any more?"
"But she does not see John as often as she sees your mother."
"She sees your parents about as often as she sees John, but she knows they adore her."
"Is that all that is bothering you about today, darling?"
Kelsey leaned her head on Alexander's shoulder. "No."
"Then what else is wrong?"
"It was...seeing Mom with Maddie. Seeing how thrilled she was that Maddie was going to have a baby. If it had been me..."
"You still want your mother's love."
"No. I've given up on that."
"No, you have not. You still want her to love you as much as she does Maddie."
"I like to believe that she does love me. She just doesn't like me much. There's a difference." Kelsey sighed. "I remember being pregnant with Emma, and how Mom didn't even care until she was born. She didn't fuss over me like she did..."
"I know, sweetheart." He put an arm around her.
Kelsey snuggled closer, sighing, "I think, just once, I'd kind of like to have that. I wouldn't have minded having her fuss over me...just once."
Chapter 3. A Most Unpleasant Surprise.
If Jane Austen had ever had the chance to write about Thanksgiving, Kelsey thought that she might start her story, "It is a truth universally acknowledged that the day after Thanksgiving must be a day fraught with tension and frustration in the search for good bargains."
Kelsey had hoped that leaving early would enable her to reach the Galleria quickly and get a good parking space. No such luck. She had been driving around the parking lot for about half an hour with a cranky Emma and a somewhat perturbed Alexander in search of a space.
"This is ridiculous!" Kelsey shouted for the sixth time as yet another car sped by her and into the parking spot she'd wanted. She noticed the driver smirking at her, so she flipped him the bird.
"What did you do that for?" Alexander asked.
"Because he's a rotten son of...an unnamed goat," Kelsey finished with a glance in her rearview mirror at Emma, who stuck out her tongue--whether at the driver who had cost them the space or at her mother, Kelsey wasn't sure. All the same, she growled, "Emma Caroline, cut that out."
Kelsey's face became grim as her sharp eyes canvassed the area for any available space. She was tempted to let her passengers out to roam the mall while she found a spot, but even after four months Alexander was still a little hesitant about malls...even though if Kelsey did let him out, she would be sure to find him playing pinball in the video arcade.
Finally, she noticed a spot all the way down at the end of a row. Nearly mowing down two teenagers in her zeal for the spot, Kelsey pulled in before another car could get there. The other driver honked his horn and flipped her off, but Kelsey just smirked. She had her spot--let the rest of them suffer.
"Everybody out," Kelsey said, shutting off the car.
Alexander's idea of the Christmas holiday was limited to intimate family get-togethers (much better than the one they'd had just the day before) and sometimes family trips to visit his maternal grandparents.
Gifts that were exchanged were bought in a discreet and decidedly civilized fashion.
And so when Kelsey led him through the hoard of shoppers taking advantage of the day after Thanksgiving, Alexander couldn't help but wonder if the entire world had gone mad.
"What is the point? Can they not shop at any other time between now and the holiday?" Alexander asked.
"The sales are usually the best today," Kelsey replied. "Now, here's the system. You and I are going to keep a good hold on Emma, because God help us if we lose her today in this crowd."
"Mommy, can we go to F.A.O. Schwartz?" Emma asked.
"No, not now." Kelsey was beginning to question the wisdom of bringing her daughter along to shop, but with her mother incapacitated and every other possible baby-sitter out shopping as well, she'd had no choice in the matter.
"Then what am I doing here?" Emma asked.
"You're here...to help me pick out gifts for Aunt Maddie and Uncle Ben...and their baby."
"But their baby isn't here yet."
"Well, we can still get it something. If we don't, your grandmother will have a fit." Kelsey sighed. "Now hold onto Mommy and Daddy and don't let go, okay?"
Kelsey led them through the streams of people and into one of her favorite stores--The Store of Knowledge. There were several people wandering through the store, but it was, at least, far less crowded than the walkway outside. At the entrance stood a young man playing with some of the merchandise. Emma stood transfixed.
"Keep an eye on her," Kelsey said to Alexander. "I'm going to get Dad's gift."
Alexander watched as Kelsey made her way to computer games. She looked for the one her father wanted, picked it up, and headed for the register.
"Daddy?" Emma suddenly gripped his hand with a surprising strength. "Look who it is."
Emma pointed at someone in the crowd. Alexander wasn't sure who she meant for a second before he saw a most familiar face, and not a pleasant one.
The man stood directly across from the store, looking at Emma with a small smile on his face. Alexander instinctively put a protective hand on Emma's small shoulder, but no even that could protect her from the man standing there. He walked over to them, that smile still on his face.
"Hello, Emma," he said. "It's been a long time."
Emma snuggled closer to Alexander and didn't say anything to the man.
"Don't you have a hug for your father?" John Chandler's smile didn't fade, but it didn't widen with any genuine emotion, either.
"No," Emma said.
"What are you doing here?" Alexander asked coldly.
"The same thing you and my ex-wife are doing. Shopping. And you should see some of the things I've picked up for you, Emma."
"I don't see any bags," Emma replied.
John didn't reply. "Where is darling Kelsey, anyway?" he asked.
Alexander crossed his arms. "What should you care?"
"Well, I did want to have a chat with her, but she's been ducking my calls all week."
"A chat? About what?"
"I wanted to tell her that I got married again." John looked down at Emma. "You have a new mother, Emma."
"Don't want a new mother. I like the one I have."
"I shall be sure to pass your message along, but I somehow do not think Kelsey will be congratulating you," Alexander said.
"It's more than that. I also took a new job within the company, one that will keep me in St. Louis permanently. And since I have a stable environment, with a loving wife, I was thinking that perhaps it was time we made a few...new arrangements as far as custody of Emma goes."
"What are you talking about?" Alexander asked, having little patience with innuendo and not really understanding the arrangement Kelsey and John currently had. All he cared about was that John didn't see much of Emma.
"I'm talking about perhaps having Emma with me full time. And you and Kelsey only getting to see her every other weekend, one month out of the summer, and every other holiday." John smiled--a cold, empty smile. "I'm suing you, and my wife, for custody of Emma. I want her to come live with me."
"Over my dead body," Alexander said. "I would rather be dead than allow an innocent child into your life on a permanent basis."
"But in this case, Alex, the child happens to be my daughter. Remember that."
"What makes you think that any reasonably sane person would consider giving you custody of Emma?" Alexander asked. "You have nothing she needs or wants."
"I have everything she needs. I'm her father. And now that I'm married, I have a mother for her. What do the two of you have?"
"Love," Alexander said simply. "Which is all any child needs."
"In this instance, a judge is more likely to give custody to the person who can support her well. Who has money and social position and who doesn't have a past that was invented."
Alexander felt a cold hand squeeze his heart. How on earth did he discover that?
"You look surprised. It took a fairly competent private investigator to discover that you didn't exist as Alexander Darcy until June, but he found out. What are you running from, Alexander? Murder charges? Espionage? Something that a judge will want to know about, no doubt. And when you tell him, I have no doubt that I'll get custody of Emma."
It was the look on John's face that caused Alexander to lose his temper. Alexander had once regretted that he'd never had the chance to punch the man at Madeline's wedding.
Now he was glad he'd waited. He drew his fist back and landed a good punch.
A woman screamed as John lurched back. He was momentarily stunned, but quickly stood up and threw a roundhouse punch that missed by mere inches. John's next punch didn't miss, sending Alexander back into the store and almost into a rack of movies.
Kelsey heard the scream and turned to see what was happening. She was shocked to see her husband stumbling through the store, his lip bleeding. But when she saw who had thrown the punch, she dropped the bag with her father's Christmas gift in it and ran to the front of the store.
"What are you doing here!" she shouted as the manager called for security. "Leave my husband alone!"
"He threw the first punch," John replied, a grim smile on his face. "Thanks for obliging me, Alex. Just one more log on the fire of my custody case."
"Your what?" Kelsey's world turned on its axis as John's words impacted.
"Congratulate me, my dear. I've gotten married, and I'm suing you for full custody of Emma. This display of aggression, combined with your husband's shady past, ought to make a judge think twice about leaving 'an innocent child' in your dubious household. Hell, he may not even give you visitation rights." He played his last card. "And in case you were wondering, I married Sharisse."
"Shari?" Kelsey whispered, not hearing her voice.
"Yes. You remember her? She can't wait to be a full-time mother to Emma."
Kelsey put a hand to her head, but it had no effect. Just as Alexander punched John again, this time sending him to the floor, Kelsey fainted.
Chapter 4. Panic.
When Kelsey regained consciousness moments later, she was sitting on the floor propped up against a wall. Someone had been able to restrain both John and Alexander. Emma was standing over her mother, frightened by all the shouting and fighting. She kept saying, "Mommy? Mommy?"
It made Kelsey feel like crying. Especially when she remembered John's threat.
He can't take my baby away, no matter how many women he marries. No judge would ever...even consider taking Emma out of a loving environment to live with him!
But then John's words about Alexander rang in her ears. "Your husband's shady past..."
Shady past? Alexander didn't have a shady past...he didn't have a past at all.
Oh, God! John must have found out! Oh, God!
Kelsey felt herself getting woozy again, but Emma noticed that she'd opened her eyes and she cried out, "Mommy! Don't make me go live with him!"
"You don't have to, sweetie," Kelsey murmured softly, taking Emma in her arms. A shadow fell across them. Kelsey looked up to see one of the employees standing over her.
"Ma'am, I'm Jim Thomason. I'm the manager here. I take it you're married to one of these gentlemen.
"And...ah, I have heard that this is a...uh, domestic dispute?"
"The other...man is my ex-husband."
"Yes, well...I think that we can avoid pressing charges as long as you and your husband leave and not come back. I have no idea if the other gentleman intends to..."
"He won't--not if he's smart." Kelsey stood up, but her legs were barely able to support her and so she was forced to hold onto the wall. "But we're leaving now. Come on, Emma."
Kelsey held onto her daughter as they walked over to John and Alexander. Mall security stood, taking names and other pertinent facts.
"You'll be hearing from my lawyers on Monday, Kelsey," John said coldly. "We're starting proceedings immediately. I also expect to see Emma next weekend. She needs to start getting used to having another family, one she'll be seeing on a permanent basis."
"I think you're being overconfident," Kelsey replied with as much ice in her voice as she'd heard in his. "You haven't won anything yet. And you don't have a great track record. Would you like me to send you another copy of the list of women you'd slept with during the course of our marriage? Better yet--should I send that to Sharisse? But then, she probably has already seen it. She's on it, after all."
"You do what you feel like doing," John said. "I've got affidavits from three people who were involved in getting your husband an identity here in America. The judge should be more interested in talking to them than he would be in talking to a bunch of women who I rejected while we were married."
"And your darling wife? What about her?"
"Shari agrees with me that you made the whole thing up."
"That should be very interesting to tell a judge since she gave a deposition at our divorce hearing in which she confessed to having an affair with you." Kelsey's eyes darkened at the memory of finding Emma's nanny in bed with her husband that terrible day a little over a year ago.
"Folks, please, do this somewhere else. Not here," the manager pleaded.
"We'll do it like this, Thomason. We'll let the British guy go, since he's apparently married to the woman. When they're gone, we'll let the other one go. That way they don't continue this on your property," the officer said, motioning to the person holding Alexander. He was let go.
Alexander was tempted to go at John again, but the last thing he needed was to be in jail when Kelsey needed him most. He scooped Emma into his arms, shot a nasty glance at John, then put an arm around Kelsey and left.
Kelsey put Emma down for a nap even though she wasn't tired, then collapsed into tears on the couch. Alexander held her as she sobbed and trembled and ranted.
"What are we going to do?" Kelsey whispered. "Oh, God. We have to call my father. If John knows the truth then he knows who arranged it...oh, GOD!"
Kelsey pulled away from Alexander and ran for the phone, dialing the number she knew automatically. Fifteen minutes later, Josh Madison was sitting in his elder daughter's living room, pacing back and forth as Kelsey sat curled up in a lonely ball on a chair and Alexander sat on the couch, looking at his hands.
"This is all my fault," Alexander said softly. "If I had never come here, you would..."
"Don't say that!" Kelsey cried. "Elizabeth would've died and I wouldn't have you. And you wouldn't have me. If we have nothing else, at least we have each other."
Alexander sighed. "But now John is asking for Emma, and we have no way of stopping him. How could you explain me to a judge?"
Kelsey could just picture herself saying, "Yes, your Honor, my husband isn't a wanted criminal or anything. He just lived a hundred and fifty years ago. Only most people don't think he really exists, since he's the son of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy." They'd send her to Bedlam.
And she wouldn't even get to see Emma.
"You're right about that," Mr. Madison said. "I blame myself. I should've taken the time to double check the people I trusted with my daughter's and granddaughter's futures. I should've made sure I could trust them."
"You can never completely trust anyone outside of your family," Kelsey said. "And sometimes, you can't even trust them."
Alexander looked outside. A car went by, slowly. The leaves had fallen from the trees, and the weather was supposed to get colder within the week and start snowing. As he sat at the window thinking, an idea hit.
"Excuse me for a moment," he said, walking into the kitchen, praying that what he wanted to appear would be there. He took a quick look out the window...
...and it was there.
Slowly, deliberately, Alexander began to make his way back to his wife. What he was about to ask her was the most difficult thing in the world...
But they had no choice. It was this or it was losing Emma, possibly forever. He and Kelsey had talked about it so many times, the pros and cons of living at Pemberley. She had insisted that she wouldn't mind, but he couldn't stop thinking about Emma and his lack of employment in his time. In this time, he'd had to do very little, and he'd enjoyed having the leisure to write comical stories for his wife and daughter. But if they were to return, he would have to find an occupation to support his family. There would be no money.
He couldn't ask her. He couldn't even suggest it, for she would take the opportunity to leave the twentieth century--and John--behind to protect Emma. Yet how could he not?
Is this the right decision? he thought. But he knew that that wasn't the correct question. Is there any other decision possible?
And he knew in his heart that there wasn't. They had to go to Pemberley. When he walked back into the room, two pairs of eyes looked up at him.
"The maze is open," he said softly.
Chapter 5. There's Only One Place To Go.
Neither Kelsey nor her father spoke in the minutes following Alexander's quiet announcement. The ramifications of the maze even being open, when it seemed least likely to happen, were not lost on either of them.
It was finally Mr. Madison who spoke. "You have to go," he said.
"We don't really have to do anything," Alexander replied. "We can stay here."
"And let John get custody of Emma? Do you honestly want to put Emma--and yourselves--through that?" Mr. Madison sighed. "No. You have to go, and you have to do it tonight. There's no other choice."
"There has to be another choice," Alexander snapped.
"Why don't you want to go back?" Mr. Madison rose from his chair. "What is it about going back to Pemberley that bothers you so much?"
"There is nothing more in the world I would like than to see my family again. I have missed them greatly in the past several months. However, if we go there now, it would undoubtedly be permanent. I cannot let that happen."
"What would be wrong? For one thing, no one would have a legal claim on Emma. There wouldn't be nearly as many people questioning Kelsey's existence as there were yours. All you would have to say is that Kelsey's an American widow you met and married."
"We aren't legally married in my time," Alexander said.
"Then you get married! Then Emma legally becomes your daughter and she'll no doubt be thrilled to discover that she can call herself Emma Darcy."
"But there are so many things that she would have to adjust to...and I cannot subject her to them."
"Emma has a great deal of freedom here. She can do so much more here than she could at Pemberley. She'll grow up to be a British lady, which means being subjected to many things that...she wouldn't like. And how could she accept not having the advantages of the twentieth century anymore?"
Mr. Madison didn't have an answer for his son-in-law.
"And as for myself...if we return to Pemberley, I still have no money. No inheritance. No estate. We would have to live off of charity."
"You could get a job."
"As what? I never studied to do anything."
"Stop it! Both of you!" Kelsey hadn't spoken at all since the debate started, and finally, she'd had enough. "This isn't going to get us anywhere. There's only one place left for us to go. If we go anywhere in the world, John can track us down and haul us into court. He might even be able to have us arrested for keeping Emma away from him, and I have no doubt that he would do it. We have to go back to Pemberley. We have to stay there."
"I have...been thinking, while you two sat there arguing. Dad, I want you to take over my finances. You can have the money we got from Alexander's father."
"Honey, I don't want--"
"I want you to take some of it and buy jewelry."
"Jewelry? You're thinking of jewelry at a time like this?"
"I'm not thinking about much of anything, except that this might not be legal. And what if he forces a court to take our money?"
"He wouldn't be able to find most of it. You put a good chunk of it in Switzerland. Anyway, John doesn't know that you have it, anyway."
"Then you take what's not in the Swiss account and buy jewelry with it. Good stuff, expensive. You take over the house. I always believed that the maze would open at Christmas to let us visit, but...now I'm just praying that it opens for you to see us."
"What do you intend to do with this jewelry?" Alexander asked, confused.
"We'll do the same thing we did with the money your father gave us. We'll sell it and hopefully make some money. If we're careful, we should be able to live off the proceeds. Especially if what you can get us is valuable, Dad."
Mr. Madison chuckled. "My dear, I wouldn't have thought of that in a million years."
"This way, we're not charity cases to your parents or your brothers or sisters. We may not be able to afford an estate quite like Pemberley, but we could probably live comfortably in London, if you wished. Or we could stay somewhere near your parents, if there's somewhere in the neighborhood."
"But what about Emma, Kelsey? This scheme of yours might clear up our financial trouble, but do you want your daughter to spend her life in the nineteenth century?"
"She may not have to stay long." Kelsey turned to her father. "I presume that you'll work to stop John from succeeding?"
"I can try, but if you disappear, Kelsey, he'll probably win. The only way you'll be able to return is if John dies."
"Maybe I should save the trouble and have him killed," Kelsey mumbled under her breath.
"You'd be suspect number one, with Alexander a close second," Mr. Madison said. "Don't be ridiculous. You have a good idea, stay with it."
Kelsey nodded slowly. "If we can never return...Emma will grow up at Pemberley. She'll be surrounded by a family that loves her. She's only six. She may remember things about this time, but she'll probably forget most of it."
"What if she gets sick?"
"Then she visits a doctor. If it's serious enough, then...the maze will open and we'll take her to the hospital. It opened for your mother. It's open now. It seems to know when we need it most."
"You are willing to take that chance?"
"Yes, I am. She's not going back to John. I'd rather die than permit that."
Mr. Madison sighed. "Then let's get started on the arrangements."
It took the better part of three hours to get everything into place. Kelsey and her father made most of the arrangements while Alexander kept a window vigil in the kitchen, praying that the maze wouldn't disappear. Kelsey loaded up her purse with the jewels she'd been able to buy in the short amount of time (and limited money) she'd had. She'd transferred all her money over to her father and left a letter to Maddie, asking for her forgiveness in leaving so suddenly. She told Mr. Madison, "Just tell Mom that..." Kelsey sighed. "Don't tell her anything. She'll probably just tell John."
One thing remained for them to do. Kelsey had said that she believed it would be better if they told her together rather than one of them doing the explaining, so Kelsey and Alexander made the trip up the stairs to wake up Emma.
Emma blinked a few times but woke up almost the moment Kelsey touched her shoulder gently.
"Mommy? Is naptime over?"
"Yes, baby. Naptime is over. We have...we have to go somewhere." Kelsey had agonized over how she had to say this. Like Alexander, she had her reseverations about taking Emma into the nineteenth century. Emma would be at a great disadvantage there. But what choice did she have? Leaving her in the twentieth century at John's mercy? To face John's empty promises and lies?
Of course not.
"Where're we going?" Emma asked, yawning.
"We're...going to see Alexander's parents."
"And Grandpa Darcy, too." Alexander smiled, but he feared that Emma might see the nervousness behind it, so he looked away.
"What about school?"
"Oh...honey. There are some things that are going to happen and...you aren't going to go back to school. At least, not now."
"Well...see, your father...John. He's trying to take you away from Alexander and me. He wants you to live with him and Shari."
"I don't like Shari no more. Don't want to live with her."
"That's what we're going to get away from. Some...some things happened when Alexander came back to us this summer, and we're afraid that your father's...John is going to use them to get you."
Emma's eyes were suddenly very wise. "We're not gonna come back, are we?"
Alexander gripped Kelsey's hand firmly. "We hope we shall, one day," he said. "But if we cannot..."
"Do you mean we get to stay with Grandma and Grandpa all the time?"
"We'll probably find a place to live not too far away," Alexander replied. "But you'll get to see them often."
"The thing is, sweetie, that you probably won't get to see much of Grandma Madison...or Grandpa."
Emma looked down. "I don't think I'll miss Grandma too much. She was mean to me yesterday, when Aunt Maddie said she was gonna have a baby. She's been like that a lot since you married Daddy."
Kelsey took a deep breath, willing herself not to get angry.
"Grandpa will come and visit, though."
"Absolutely," Kelsey replied. "You've got my word on that. The thing is...Emma, there are going to be a lot of changes when we go live with Alexander's parents."
"Like...there won't be any television, or movies, or radio. Things are going to be a lot more formal and...well, strict. You won't be able to run around like you used to. You probably won't like it for a while, but I hope you'll get used to it."
Emma didn't say anything.
"I'm sorry, sweetie." Kelsey felt two tears trickle down her cheeks. "If there were any other way..."
"It's okay, Mommy. I'll go with you."
Kelsey nodded slowly. "Okay, then."
They had some personal things packed up and ready to go within the hour. Kelsey hadn't been sure what she should--or really could--bring with her. She'd brought a good number of Emma's favorite books, and several stuffed animals and of course, Emma's favorite dolls. She'd packed a few outfits that she thought Emma might get away with at Pemberley, including a pair of blue jeans.
For herself, she packed all of her Jane Austen books, then added a few other favorites she'd collected over the years. She didn't know if she'd be able to tolerate this without some of the familiar around her. She added a few things of Alexander's, a few mementos from years gone by, and finally, she felt she was ready.
They stood at the edge of the maze. Mr. Madison stood with them, saying his good-byes to his daughter. "I promise to bring anything else I think you might need," he said. "And of course, the jewelry and things."
"I love you, Dad," she said quietly, hugging him.
"I love you too, kiddo. If there were any other way out of this..."
"I know. We'd take it. Everything else is too risky. This is the only completely sure way out of this."
Mr. Madison hugged Emma for five minutes, finally letting her go and saying, "Go. Before something happens and it's too late."
Kelsey took Emma's right hand, while Alexander took her left. Slowly, he led them through the maze. Just before they turned the first corner, Kelsey looked back at her father...just as he faded from sight.
They were at Pemberley.
Chapter 6. Too Late For Second Thoughts.
It had to have been the unfamiliar bed which kept Kelsey up most of the night. Or maybe it was the fact that even though Emma was just down the hall, as she would've been back home, Kelsey couldn't hear her soft snoring. She couldn't help but fear that Emma might wake up sometime in the night and cry out, and she wouldn't hear her. Whatever the reason, she wasn't sleeping. She'd tossed and turned and poked Alexander a couple of times on accident, and finally given up. She lay on her back, staring up at the ceiling and thinking of everything that had happened since she'd awakened the day before in a different century.
Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam had been more than pleased to see their son and his family. The servants had immediately taken their few pitiful belongings to Alexander's room, making arrangements for Emma to sleep in the nursery which was just down the hall from them. Escorting Kelsey to their new room, Alexander had then left her at the mercy of a maid, who informed Kelsey that her name was Libby and she was there to see to whatever she needed. Since all Kelsey felt she needed was a bottle of aspirin and a hot water bottle, she asked to be alone. But the persnickety maid returned an hour later, stating that the elder Mrs. Darcy had sent a variety of outfits belonging to her two daughters that she thought Kelsey would like to try on.
"Miss Victoria...er, Mrs. Knightley, only married about a year ago, and I do not believe that these styles have gone out of fashion."
Kelsey took one look at the gowns Libby held out and groaned. Dear God, hoop skirts!
Libby faltered a moment. "Or, if you don't like them..."
"It's not that I don't like them, Libby. They're beautiful. But...in my...part of the country, we're not much for hoop skirts. They get in the way and are a general...nuisance."
"If you don't mind my asking, then, what do they wear?"
"Well..." Kelsey looked down. She'd deliberately changed into the longest skirt she could find in her closet at home, which was still only about ankle-length. When Pride and Prejudice had been written, she might've gotten away with it, but not now. "This is okay, for the most part."
Libby tsked and said, "Well, then America is about thirty years out of fashion. But then, I always suspected that to be the case."
Kelsey dearly wanted to say something to this woman, but no one outside the family knew the truth about the situation. So she supposed she would have to put up with it...or else find another maid.
What do I need a maid for, anyway? I've been dressing myself for twenty-seven years just fine!
Libby smiled. "I am sorry, ma'am. I shouldn't have said that about your home country. You must miss it sorely."
"More than you can imagine."
Libby was insistent that Kelsey dress up for dinner that evening, but Kelsey drew the line at the corset Libby brought out to begin stuffing her into.
"Forget it," she said. "I prefer all my inner organs where they are, thank you."
"But this is healthful," Libby retorted. "It supports your back, ma'am. And it keeps you looking slim and pretty."
"I am already slim and pretty. I also happen to be married, and if Alexander likes me in this shape, I'll stay this shape."
Kelsey was a bit startled at the maid's immediate acquiescence the moment she mentioned Alexander. If I'd said something else in argument, we'd still be arguing.
Kelsey soon saw why she needed a maid--with everything she was expected to get into, she was amazed when she was still able to stand upright at the end. Even without the corset, Kelsey was able to fit into Victoria's gown with little trouble, except in the bust. She flushed a bit when Libby had noticed.
"Of course, you've had a child and Miss Victoria--Mrs. Knightley--hadn't, when she wore this. Most likely the reason for that problem."
Although Kelsey had wanted to protest that she was the same bra size as she'd been in college, meaning the difference was natural, she thought that she'd been embarrassed enough for one day. The buttons still reached, anyway.
When Kelsey joined the rest of them for dinner, Alexander's jaw had practically dropped. "You look absolutely stunning," he murmured in her ear as he led her into the dining room. Kelsey had smiled at the compliment, deciding that all the trouble had been worth it.
Over dinner, Alexander had explained to his parents that the move was more than likely permanent.
"We shall be looking for a place to rent soon," Alexander said, "but for the time being, I feel that Pemberley is truly the best place for the three of us."
"I agree," Elizabeth replied with a smile at her youngest son. "Christmas is fast approaching, and there shall be plenty of time in the new year to find a home."
"There is also the matter of money," Kelsey felt she had to say. For a moment, she worried that she had spoken out of turn, since money talk probably wasn't awfully polite, but neither Darcy nor Elizabeth looked askance at her.
Of course, they're probably making a great deal of allowances for me.
"Son, if you need anything--"
"We...well, Kelsey has a most unusual plan that I believe shall solve any financial troubles."
Alexander then told them Kelsey's idea to raise money in the nineteenth century. Darcy beamed at his daughter-in-law's ingenuity, proclaiming her to be a gem. The topic soon turned to events coming up in the shire.
"We shall have to give a ball for you," Elizabeth said. "To properly introduce Kelsey to Derbyshire society."
"Oh, Elizabeth, I don't really think that I'm ready for Derbyshire society, and--"
"Mama, perhaps Kelsey is right. This is a major adjustment for her. We should give both her and Emma time to settle in."
All eyes turned to the small figure sitting between Kelsey and Alexander. Emma had been allowed at the table, to the dismay of several of the servants, but had behaved herself very well and hadn't spilled anything.
Elizabeth nodded. "I should have thought of that. Forgive me, Kelsey. I'm just so pleased to have my son home that I wish to express my pleasure to everyone."
It was that phrase that kept turning over and over in Kelsey's mind, laying there beside Alexander in the overlarge bed. Everyone here had been so overjoyed to see Alexander, and of course, she and Emma. And even though he worried a good deal about what might happen to any one of them physically, or spiritually, Kelsey had noticed all throughout the afternoon and evening that he was as happy to be home as they were to have him.
At least one of us is happy to be here.
Kelsey chastised herself for thinking that. She was happy to be at Pemberley, really she was. It was a century and a half away from John. And after all, it had been her words which had been the deciding factor in going. But now that she was there...
She wasn't technically married to Alexander as they had been married in her time, which wasn't likely to be legal here. Her daughter wasn't happy having left everything she knew and loved behind. Her father and pregnant sister were in the future. And Kelsey couldn't help but miss everything herself. Most of all, she missed her bed, which was large enough of two but not the size of this monstrosity she was laying in now.
Kelsey raised herself out of bed, the nightgown Libby had given her floating around her ankles. Kelsey hadn't worn a nightgown since she'd been married, or at least she hadn't slept in one until tonight. But Alexander had fallen asleep before Kelsey had even entered the room, and she hadn't had the heart to wake him up.
Standing in front of her bedroom window, she looked out at Pemberley. There was frost covering the ground, and Darcy had remarked that it would probably snow within the next week or so.
Why can't I just enjoy this place? Why can't I be happy that I've outwitted my ex? Why can't I see myself being content here?
Kelsey leaned her head against the cold windowpane. A dog barked in the distance, and she heard a shuffling from downstairs. Kelsey checked the clock standing along one side of the room--two-thirty. She figured it was one of the servants.
Kelsey turned to see that Alexander was sitting up in bed, his hair mushed from where he'd slept on it. Kelsey always loved seeing him like this.
"What is the matter, darling?"
"You are still awake at this early hour of the morning. Something must be troubling you."
Kelsey thought about telling him her fears, but then she remembered the happiness in his eyes when he'd seen the house from the exit of the maze. And the tone of his voice when he'd talked to his mother and father, and to the servants he'd known most of his life.
How could she ruin his happiness? How could she think that life would be unbearable here without giving it a chance?
Kelsey smiled. "It's the bed. It's too big."
Alexander's eyes twinkled with mirth. "You believe so, madam?"
"I do indeed. Two people could sleep in there without knowing the other was with them." Kelsey walked over and sat back on the bed.
"Then I shall make sure you know of my presence, Mrs. Darcy, for I have been lying awake here for the past hour, thinking much the same thing."
Kelsey chuckled as she embraced her husband. Alexander will never know that I had any doubts at all about coming here. Not if I have anything to do about it.
Chapter 7. Such A Sweet Surprise.
Kelsey awoke the following morning and immediately turned to look at Alexander, but he wasn't there. Strange for Alexander to be up so early, she thought sleepily. She looked up at the clock.
"Oh, God!" she gasped, sitting up suddenly. It was already after eleven. She hadn't slept so late since the night she'd poured out her life story to Alexander.
Libby seemed to be on autopilot, because she appeared as soon as Kelsey's feet had hit the floor.
"Good morning, Mrs. Darcy," the woman said. "Or should I say good afternoon?"
"Good morning, Libby," Kelsey replied. "Could you tell me where Alexander's run off to?"
"Most certainly. He is Lambton."
"Oh? Doing what?"
"He wouldn't tell me, ma'am. He was in the library with his father for most of the morning, then the two of them left for Lambton."
"I see." I don't see at all. This is my first morning of what is likely to be the rest of my life in a strange place and Alexander goes and leaves me alone. But Kelsey remembered what she'd promised herself in the middle of the night, and put the thought out of her mind. Anyway, it was her own fault, sleeping so late. "And what about my daughter?"
"Miss Emma? She is with Mrs. Darcy, in the garden." Libby entered a small closet-room and came out with a dove gray gown. "I thought this would be nice for this morning. It goes nice with your eyes."
Kelsey nodded absentmindedly, allowing herself to be dressed by the maid. Libby pulled her thick honey brown hair into a soft bun at the top of her head, smiling as she did so. "You were right yesterday, Mrs. Darcy. You are quite pretty. I can see why Mr. Alexander is so happy."
"Are your parents still alive?"
Kelsey was hesitant to answer the question. What was the right answer? Yes, they were? No, they haven't been born yet?
"My father is," Kelsey finally said.
"Ah. Is he still in America?"
"Yes. He's a lawyer there."
"Any family other than him?"
"I have an identical twin sister, Madeline."
"She looks like you? Truly?"
"Mirror image." Kelsey smiled wistfully. "She's going to have a baby in the summer."
Libby flushed slightly, and Kelsey almost immediately realized her blunder. One didn't speak so openly about pregnancy, not here.
Libby had apparently decided to put it aside for the moment. "Shall you and Mr. Darcy be traveling to see her?"
I wish. "Much as I might like to, we're probably not going to be able to. There's a lot to adjust to here, especially for my daughter."
"Yes. Miss Emma seems a lively young girl."
"She is. I don't want anyone to change her."
"Pardon my liberty, ma'am, but Pemberley was the best place to bring her."
Kelsey caught Libby's eyes in the mirror, wondering how much of her story she knew, if the remark had more than just the surface meaning.
"I--I mean, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are not your conventional society...oh, dear. I fear I am not saying this properly. I sound as though I'm criticizing."
Kelsey smiled. "What you're trying to say is that while many a family would try to smother the spirit of a child like Emma, here at Pemberley, under the guide of her adopted grandparents, she'll be nurtured and encouraged and happy. Because Mr. and Mrs. Darcy...are not conventional."
Kelsey hadn't been sure before if she was going to like this woman, but now she had her answer. "You can call me Kelsey, you know."
"Oh, I do not--"
"If you go around calling me Mrs. Darcy, everyone will think you're talking about Elizabeth."
"I had not thought of it that way. I suppose it makes sense."
"I think so."
Libby finished with her hair just as there was a sudden knock at the door, followed by a flurry of white dress and pigtails. "Mommy! You're awake!" Emma flew into her mother's arms.
"Good morning to you, too," Kelsey replied, hugging her daughter tightly. "Did you sleep okay?"
"Yeah. But I woke up in the middle of the night and you weren't there."
"Oh, honey, I'm sorry. If I'd heard you--"
"It was okay. I walked downstairs and found Gramps. He was in the kitchen having something to eat."
Fitzwilliam Darcy having a midnight snack? Kelsey couldn't quite picture it.
"We had some blueberry biscuits and then he brought me back to sleep. I asked him to read me a story."
"And did he?"
"Well, he didn't know any that I knew. So he started to tell me about this girl who was poor but pretty and how she was noticed by a cute boy who was stuck-up."
"And what happened?" Kelsey had a pretty good idea that she knew already.
"I don't know. He'd only tell me the beginning, because he said it was a long story, but he promised to keep telling me more every night."
"Listen to Gramps' story, okay? It's a very good one."
"Daddy and Gramps are back," Emma announced suddenly. "And there's a man with them. Daddy told me to go get you."
"Do I look all right?" Kelsey asked.
"You look good, Mommy. You always do."
"Listen to the child," Libby said. "She's a bright one."
"Then take me to him." Kelsey took Emma's small hand in hers and allowed the child to lead her downstairs.
"Thank you for arranging things so quickly, Father," Alexander said. He was very calm, surprising since he'd been so nervous the last time. "It seems as though I am thanking you for a great number of things these days."
"You need not thank me," Darcy replied. "You are my son. I would do anything to make you happy."
"This isn't a matter of making me happy. It's a matter of putting one of Kelsey's fears to rest."
"You think she is not happy here?"
"I am not certain. At times, I believe her to be relieved, if nothing else. She had her worries, the same as mine, and all about Emma. Yet I fear for her as well."
"Yes. I fear for her safety should she get with child." Alexander sighed. "She has told me...that giving birth to Emma was difficult for her. Suppose that should happen again? She shall be without..." Alexander trailed off, remembering the other man in the room with them. The gentleman smiled, then turned away discreetly.
"Do you have reason to believe that she might be expecting?"
Alexander frowned, thinking. "No...I do not. I am sure she would have told me."
"Would you like to have children with Kelsey someday?"
Alexander's eyes told the story to his father before he answered. "I do, but not at the risk of her life."
A tap at the door ended the conversation. All three men turned to see the young woman coming in, holding onto her daughter. "Don't I look cute, Daddy?" Emma called. "Here she is!"
Kelsey's eyes widened when she saw the third man with them. "Alexander..."
"I knew you were worried," he said.
"But I didn't--"
"You did not have to tell me." He walked over to her, gently cupping her chin in his hands. "And I should be excessively upset with you, my love, for thinking such a thing of me."
"I wasn't worried about you, I was thinking about the rest of the world. How it would look. What people would think seeing you with Emma and me."
"Then we shall end it all here by renewing our vows," he said quietly. "In my world and yours, we shall be husband and wife."
"And I get to be Emma Darcy!" Emma shouted. "Will everyone call me Miss Darcy?"
"I believe they will, honey," Kelsey replied.
She's doing so well, Kelsey thought. She turned to the reverend. "I'm Kelsey Darcy."
"It is good to meet you, Mrs. Darcy. Your husband has explained the trouble to me...that you were married in America and wish to renew your vows here."
Kelsey smiled. "Exactly." She looked down at her dress and her smile faded. "I can't be married in this dress! It's not even--"
"It's all right."
"You look just fine, Kelsey. Believe me."
"This is...so wonderful, Alexander. Thank you."
"Do not thank me. I do this because I love you."
"Good thing, because I happen to love you, too." Kelsey kissed him, causing the reverend to look away. Kelsey noticed. "Oh...sorry."
"It's all right. He's a relative," Alexander said. "He understands about my family."
Kelsey laughed, turning serious a few moments later when the reverend--whose name, she found out later, happened to be Collins--began the ceremony.
Chapter 8. Reflections on a Future Life.
After the wedding, Alexander set out to send inquiries about a place to let. Emma was trailing after Elizabeth, who was taking her through the portraits of Darcy ancestors. From what Kelsey could hear, her daughter had a number of opinions on how these people were posed, each of which sent her grandmother into laughing fits.
Alexander had promised to give Kelsey the grand tour upon his return, but she was a bit too impatient to wait so she went exploring on her own.
In her wildest dreams, no matter how many times she'd read Pride and Prejudice, she had never expected Pemberley to be quite so...grand. She'd been to several grand homes over the years, but nothing quite on the scale of this estate. She wandered throughout the drawing room, touching the piano that a young Elizabeth Bennet had played for Mr. Darcy. She sat on the sofa that he had undoubtedly sat on that day, for it had the best open view of the piano. She walked through the library, which contained a fair number of books, but nothing quite on the scale of a college library's.
No wonder Alexander was so shocked to see all those books.
She ended up in the kitchen, where several of the maids were startled to see the younger Mrs. Darcy in a place where none of the family ever thought to set foot. Kelsey was disappointed at being shooed out a few moments later, for she actually did enjoy cooking, and thought that perhaps one day she would make her special lemon merengue pie for Alexander.
After leaving the kitchen, she went outside in spite of the cold. Doing her best to keep her eyes from the maze which had brought her to this place, she took a walk along the grounds, marveling at all the wondrous paths there were to choose from and how beautiful everything would be in the spring, when the trees had leaves and the flowers bloomed. She almost didn't want to admit it, but she was looking forward to seeing the coming spring.
I think I could get used to living here. Things seem so much more leisurely than they were in the nineties. Here there's no cooking to do, or cleaning, or washing. Besides, what did life in the future ever give me except massive heartache? First Mom, then Maddie when I married John, then John when he cheated on me, then Mom again when I left John. The only good things that ever happened to me were Emma and Alexander, and they're both here. And here I can do almost anything...except vote, or hold office, or be considered a man's equal.
Kelsey frowned at that thought. Finding a particularly lovely elm tree which provided a spectacular view of Pemberley, she sat down and slipped off her shoes. She sighed with relief, for she had been walking so long her legs and feet were hurting her.
She thought about equality for a good long time. Was I really so equal in my time? Are women really equal in the future? John never treated me as though I were his equal. To him, I was the perfect wife and mother, just what every man really wants, whether it be 1998 or 1848. Men will probably never accept women as equals, no matter what the time or place.
Then she thought of Alexander, who had at first had the same attitude. He believed she shouldn't drive, or be the head of a household, or just about anything...and yet he had changed because he had seen her do everything. And she'd done it well.
So maybe it all depends on the man. And maybe, as long as I have Alexander, I'll be happy no matter where we have to live.
"Such deep thoughts, madam, that you do not hear me clomping?"
Kelsey startled at the voice, but she quickly recognized it as Alexander.
"I was just thinking about women's lib."
"Equality of the sexes. Whether we've really attained it in the twentieth century."
Alexander dismounted from his horse and walked toward her. "Did you arrive at an answer?"
"I believe I did. Women may have come a long way, but they've got a lot farther to go."
"And just what caused this reflection, may I ask?" He sat down beside her.
"I was just...thinking."
"You were missing home."
"I was, but now that I've had a chance to think about it, I don't miss it as much as I did yesterday."
"I think it will do you good to see your father soon. I hope he is able to enter the maze and see us."
"So do I. You know..." Kelsey sighed, then continued. "I miss Maddie."
"I suspected you would."
"Unlike what a lot of people think, we don't have a weird twin connection. I can't sense what she's thinking any more than she can sense what I'm thinking. I wish we did. At least that would be a little comfort."
"I understand how hard this is for you."
Kelsey almost said that he didn't, until she remembered that he knew exactly how hard it was. "I know you do."
Alexander took her in his arms. Kelsey leaned into his warmth and strength.
"We should probably return to the house, before we catch pneumonia."
"Right," she said. He let her go and they both stood up. She started walking.
"Your shoes." He pointed to the slippers which were still lying on the ground where she'd taken them off. She hadn't even noticed.
Ignoring his discreet chuckle, she put her shoes back on and accepted his offer of a ride back to the house.
"What do you intend to do now?" he asked.
"You have all the time in the world. What would you like to do in my time?"
"Besides learn to dance properly so I don't embarrass you at this ball your mother keeps talking about?" Kelsey smiled. "I think I'd like to...learn to play the piano, and take long walks in the fresh air, and maybe even write something."
"You are a writer?"
"I was, once. A long time ago. John told me that I didn't need to write since we had his income, and after Emma was born, I never had time for it. Now that she's a little older and...I have more time on my hands, I think maybe I'll try to write something."
"You will be competing with me for bedtime stories, will you?"
"No. You write stories for Emma. I think I'd like to write about the future...but how would I ever be able to describe it in full detail?"
"I believe you could do a masterful job, my love."
Kelsey smiled. "Thank you."