A Christmas vacation short.
One- The best laid travel plans of mice and men…
“Jane, are you really sure about this?” asked Elizabeth Bennet as she carefully filled her TSA-approved 3 ounce bottles with her favorite shampoo and conditioner.
“Yes. Absolutely! It’s like that movie we were watching the other night. Remember?” Jane Bennet began to sing off-key. “I’m going to wash that man right out of my hair!”
Lizzy groaned. “If I pretend to remember, will you stop singing?”
“Only if you keep packing! Paradise, here we come!”
William Darcy was pacing back and forth nervously, quizzing his sister about her readiness for her trip. “Are you sure you have everything? Sunscreen? Phone charger? Phone? Credit card? I just don’t know about this…”
“Will! Cut it out!” Georgiana Darcy protested. “I have everything I’m supposed to and you’re following me out there tomorrow, so even if I did forget something, you’ll be able to rescue me once again, like you always do.”
Will crossed his arms and plainly stated, “I’m your brother, that’s my job.”
She wished more than anything that he would quit hovering about and just drive her to school to meet the marching band already. There was a sharp tone in her voice Georgie hadn’t intended when she shot back, “Well, I think it’s about time you get a family of your own and change jobs!”
Immediately Will’s entire countenance changed. His arms dropped to his side, his head hung low and shoulders slumped. He was a defeated man. For a moment he appeared as though he might reprimand her, but instead he quietly picked up his keys and said, “Let’s get you to school then.”
“I think that we’d better plan on taking up residence in Honolulu, because I can’t go through security like that again!” Lizzy, with a great deal of her trademark sarcasm, said, “And he didn’t even have the decency to buy me a drink before he felt me up and I just know that he’s never going to call. All is lost.”
Jane tried to soothe her rankled sister. “Now, you know that you aren’t serious. They are only doing their jobs. Thankless jobs at that!”
“Yeah, well, until proven otherwise, I reserve the right to assume they’re all perverts.”
Charles Bingley had maintained possession of a key to Darcy’s apartment since they’d graduated from college. Without any family nearby excepting his much-younger sister, Charlie was Will’s ‘in case of emergency’ friend. In all the years they’d been friends, Charlie had never once abused his key privileges, always gaining permission before entering Darcy’s place. But now Charlie stood outside in the cold, knowing that Will was inside, refusing to answer the door. After five minutes of waiting, he’d finally had enough.
“Grow up Will!” Charlie called out as he let himself in the apartment. “You had to let her go sometime.”
Will, lying face down on the couch with his head under a pillow, responded dully, “I suppose so. It’s just so hard. How do you get over something like this?”
Charlie sat himself in the nearby armchair. He tried to give his friend a pep talk. “Georgie had to grow up sometime. I know it’s tough, you’ve been more like her father than a brother, but she’s a senior this year and will be off to college before you know it.”
Will sat up and looked at his guileless best friend. It seemed his secret was still safe. “Yes, it’s tough to let my sister go. That’s the problem.”
When Lizzy and Jane disembarked in Hawaii, it was a far cry from the frigid weather they’d left behind in Baltimore. Winters weren’t normally so harsh in Maryland, but this one had seemed especially brutal. Lizzy had often thought that the way Old Man Winter had battered the land paralled how battered and bruised her emotions felt lately, as if her tumultuous personal life had somehow mystically influenced the weather. When Jane had suggested throwing over their family and enjoying the sunshiny promise of better days in Honolulu, Lizzy couldn’t resist. Even if she hadn’t felt a need to escape her overbearing family, Jane’s own spirits had been so hopelessly depressed that Lizzy would have willingly gone anywhere that her sister wanted. Luck just had it that Jane picked paradise.
The travel-weary sisters eventually were settled into the resort that Jane had booked using her travel agent connections. Lizzy was duly impressed and told Jane so. “Whew,” she whistled, “you didn’t tell me we were going to be rock stars this week! This place is bigger than my apartment.”
Jane was emptying her bags, making use of the dresser and hanging up her clothes as she teased, “Yeah, and this place costs tons more than your apartment.”
Lizzy didn’t bother hanging anything up, intending just to live out of the suitcase. “Then all’s fair. What should we do first? Your vacay, your call.”
“If it’s my call, you have to promise to not make fun. Promise?”
“Yeah, I promise.”
“It’s kinda too late for it tonight, but I know what I want to do tomorrow! A luau. A real, genuine Hawaiian luau! With a pig roast and leis and hula dancing and everything!”
Lizzy flopped on her bed, grabbing a pillow to scream into so she wouldn’t break her promise.
“Are you sure you don’t mind coming with me? I know Georgie would love to see you and could use all the support she can get, but I don’t want your sisters to hate me for taking you away for the holidays.”
Charlie scrunched his brow in amused disbelief as he waited to Will to realize what he’d just said.
“Ignore me. I’d love it if I could make your sisters hate me. Are you sure you don’t need anything? We have a little time and we can stop by your place so you can actually pack a bag.”
“Nah. I like doing things by the seat of my pants. I haven’t done enough of that lately. And I could use a little bit of my sister’s hating me right now, too.”
“Thanks, Charlie. I really appreciate this.”
Thinking of how good it would be to get away from the constant parade of ‘acceptable’ women his sisters kept bringing home for him, Charles Bingley was the one who was grateful. “No, Pal, thank you!”
Two- Sun, surf and Dramamine
Lizzy lifted her head up from the lounge chair and had a sudden urge to pinch herself to verify that this wasn’t a dream. Instead, she poked her sister, rousing her from a slumber causing the normally serene Jane to swear. “Ow! Damn! You’ve got my attention, Lizzy, what do you want?”
“Is this real? We’re really here, in Hawaii, and not shoveling out from a foot of snow, freezing our asses off?”
Jane glanced at the clock near the cabana and noted it was time to turn over. “Yes, Lizzy, this is real and we’re about as far from freezing as we can be. Now, can I go back to sleep? I’m resting up for the luau tonight.”
“Go back to sleep.” Lizzy looked towards the surf and noted all the activity. “I think I’m going to sight-see.”
Jane muttered a reply and waved a hand before dozing off again.
Lizzy adjusted her chair so she could have a better view of the people, and more specifically the men, on the beach. Lately, Lizzy had found that she was comparing every man she saw to a certain infuriating man of her acquaintance that she was determined to spend no more time thinking about, even if he was the most handsome man she had ever known and he had professed his love for her and begged her to marry him. Surely here, of all places, she could find a piece of man-candy to take her mind off of that man who was undoubtedly still freezing his butt, his very cute, tight butt off in Washington. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
It was. What is wrong with me? I’m having some kind of mental breakdown… yeah, that has to be it! Making comparisons only led her to find fault with every man on the beach. That guy’s not as tall as him. That one isn’t as broad-chested. Not trim enough. Way too trim. No dimples. Ugh! Too much body hair. No hair at all! That blonde might do for Jane…no! No men! We’re washing men right out of our hair! Lizzy gave up people watching and turned over to soak up some more of the afternoon sun.
William Darcy wanted nothing more than a receptacle to throw up in.
“We’re here! Isn’t it beautiful?!” exclaimed Charlie.
Will was just glad the flight was over and they were done moving. Having always suffered from motion sickness, he was just beginning to wonder what had possessed him to come to an island in the middle of the ocean. The he remembered: he needed to get away from home and, more importantly, support his sister as her marching band played in the halftime show at the whatever-the-heck- the-sponsor-is-this-year Hawai’i Bowl. He almost smiled when he realized that, again, uncomfortable and hare-brained decisions had women as the driving force behind them.
When Will didn’t respond, Charlie finally noticed how green his friend looked. “Sunshine, Will. You need some sunshine. It’s the sure-fire kill for those wintertime blues you’ve got!”
Since he couldn’t guarantee that if he opened his mouth he wouldn’t throw up, Will allowed himself to be led to their rooms. Will eventually found his equilibrium and checked in by phone with Georgie, who assured her big brother all was well, it was fine he’d brought Charlie along and that she would see them both later on.
Jane was feeling relaxed for the first time in months. No one was there to look down on her or think she wasn’t good enough for their brother. None of these men would convince her there was no one else in the world but her and then abandon her- right before Valentine’s no less! -leaving her heartbroken and unable to trust anyone like a certain man that Jane was trying very hard to forget ever existed. Except that Jane kept seeing him everywhere. Maybe I’m mad, she thought.
Lizzy was just conscious enough to ask, “What’re you mad about?”
Jane was mortified, “I’m not. Mad, that is. I guess I was just thinking aloud.” In Jane’s opinion, Lizzy usually had the best insights and she felt she really could use one now. “Lizzy?”
Jane was uncertain how to ask. “Do you ever think…”
Lizzy never could resist being a smartass and said, “All the time. You see, I have this thing called a brain…”
“You didn’t let me finish!” Jane cried in exasperation. “Lizzy, be serious!” Her sister sat up and nodded she would cooperate. “Have you ever wanted something so much, or thought about it to the point where… you’re gonna think I’m nuts, but you want it so bad that you start actually seeing it? Like your mind is playing tricks on you and you start visualizing what you want?”
As much as Lizzy wanted to accuse Jane of being crazy, she knew it would be the very same as the pot calling the kettle black. The only fair thing to do would be to confess her own neurosis, or at least part of them. “Yep, all the time.” Seeing the relief on Jane’s face made her take it a step farther. “Let me guess: you’re seeing blondie-boy’s face in the crowd?”
“I hate that you can do that. Can I never have any secrets from you?”
“No.” Lizzy felt no triumph over being right, just guilt that while Jane was an open book to her, she remained an impenetrable vault, a regular Fort Knox, to her sister. Jane could have no secrets because Lizzy had the market cornered on them. She believed her sister was miserable enough without adding her own laments onto the pile of woes. The adage ‘a load shared is a load halved’ never once crossed Lizzy’s mind. The same mind which told her Jane was too fragile to handle any more troubles.
“I wish I could just get over this.” Jane’s lip trembled as she pushed away the urge to cry. She would shed no more tears, if she could help it. “He didn’t love me. Or if he did, it wasn’t enough. A man should be willing to overcome everything to be with the woman he loves. He shouldn’t just walk away.”
Lizzy was silent. There was nothing she could say. She turned Jane’s words over in her mind. A man should be willing to overcome everything to be with the woman he loves. He shouldn’t just walk away. At first, she felt ashamed. Will hadn’t walked away; she had shoved him out the door! Then she singled out the word ‘willing’. He had not been willing and he had said as much. Will had long struggled against his feelings; he hadn’t wanted to love her and confessed he loved her against his will and even against his character. Who wants to be holding someone hostage in a relationship? Who wants to be loved by someone that didn’t even want them in the first place? It was remembering this that allowed her to remain angry and release her guilt for her treatment of him.
Jane startled Lizzy from her thoughts by gasping and wagging her pointed finger towards a spot down the beach a little ways.
Lizzy looked but didn’t see anything that should have excited her sister so thoroughly. “What, Jane? I don’t see anything.”
“There, next to the lifeguard station… see? In the blue floral trunks? It’s Charlie! Do you see?”
Lizzy searched, but didn’t see anything except a family building a sandcastle. “No. There’s no one in blue trunks over there, floral or otherwise. I think maybe it’s time you out of this heat and get ready for the luau.”
Disturbed, Jane was still staring off towards the guard tower. “I swear… I thought I saw…”
Charlie was out of breath, having just run to the bar and back to fetch Will a bottle of water to rinse his mouth after having been sick. “So, maybe surf-jumping wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever talked you into.”
After a long swig of cool water, Will wiped his mouth and laughed for the first time since he couldn’t remember when.
“I take it from your hilarity, you’re feeling better?” hoped Charlie.
Sitting cross-legged on the sand with one arm propped on his knee and the other clutching his stomach, Will shook his head. “No, I still feel horrible.”
“Then what’s so funny? And if you say watching me run or something like that, I swear I’ll kick sand in your face. Consider yourself warned.”
Charlie’s appearance of seriousness drew another laugh from Will. “Yep. I’m terrified.” Charlie glared until Will explained, “Fine. Yes, surf-jumping was one of the worst ideas you’ve ever had. But what’s funny is that I listened to you. I always listen to you and I always seem to regret it.” And the one time you actually listen to me, it was an even bigger disaster.
“No one made you get that stupid tat.” Charlie laughed. “You always drag that piece of old news out! Well, I’m not gonna listen to you whine about it anymore because we both know that you made that mistake all on your own, my friend.”
“Yes, I did,” he admitted before turning melancholy. “My mistakes are definitely all my own doing.”
“Gah! None of that. I thought we were supposed to be leaving depression back in DC.”
“What do you know about depression?”
“More than you do, I bet. You didn’t fall in love with a girl who didn’t love you back! Carrie and Louisa have been dragging me to every society and charity shindig they can find in the hopes that I’ll finally fall out of love with Jane. Neither one of them have a clue just how difficult it is when you find the right person only to find out that you’re the wrong one.”
Another wave of nausea hit Will as brutally as Charlie’s words had. “Sounds terrible, Charlie. You still love Jane?”
“How do you stop loving an angel? It’s not like it matters… she didn’t love me.”
The combination of his nagging conscious, his roiling stomach and the salt water he’d accidentally swallowed proved too much and Will was sick again.
“What can I do for you, Will? You look like hell…”
“A fresh towel would be good. In a minute, I’ll try to get up and I’ll meet you by the cabana.”
Charlie nodded and as he was leaving, said, “Take your time, don’t rush and feel worse. Just sit there and sip your water. I’ll come find you in a minute.”
Out loud, Will said to no one in particular, “I don’t think it’s possible to feel worse.”
As he leaned forward to shift his weight to his knees, Will groaned. “Why did I agree to come to the beach? I should have stayed in my room. Damn Charlie!” He used his arms to steady himself as he brought one leg forward and slowly stood up. He brushed as much sand off as he could and as he tilted his head to the side to let the water out of his ear, he swore he was hallucinating. Straightening up, he focused on the line of lounge chairs by the walkway and knew he was seeing things. It wasn’t possible, it couldn’t be her! As sure as he knew his own name, Will knew that Lizzy was home in Baltimore hating his guts, not here in Honolulu sunbathing!
“Hey! You’re standing!” Charlie clapped him on the shoulder, drawing his attention away from the lounge chairs. “That’s a good start. I’ve got your clean towel here, Will.”
When Will looked back a moment later, he knew he was delusional, for she was no longer there.
Three- Company: March!
Georgiana Darcy was doing her very best not to lose her temper with her overprotective brother. She understood that most kids had to deal with two overbearing parents and she should really be glad that she had Will on her side, but when he got into ‘you’re my little girl’ mode and tried to smother her, it was hard to feel grateful.
“Sunscreen? Are you wearing enough sunscreen? Anything less than SPF 45 and you’re begging for skin cancer.”
“I have 50.” She turned to his friend for help. “Charlie, can’t you do something about him?”
“Sorry to disappoint you, Georgie-girl,” he chuckled, “but I’ve been trying for years!”
Will sulked. “I’m right here. You can quit speaking as if I’m not.” He had been feeling better, but he knew it wouldn’t last long if they ganged up on him, as they often did.
“You’re not being here… I like the sound of that. Please, go find something else to do! Jill’s coming right back with Mandy and Ashley to head to the stadium for rehearsal, I don’t have time for your whole ‘big brother’ routine right now!”
“Are Jill, Mandy and Ashley the kind of girls you should be hanging around with? Are they nice young ladies? Maybe I should stay and meet these girls.”
“My God, Will! You are so unbelievably frustrating! You have met these girls, many times! Go…” she shoved him towards the door, “go out and do something touristy. Go whale-watch or hike a volcano. Take a chopper ride or do a luau… just go!”
Charlie was excited by what she’d said. “A luau? Just the thing! Thanks, Georgie! I’ll take care of grumpy-pants here for you!”
She gave him a brotherly peck on the cheek. “Thanks! You’re a life-saver, Charlie!”
“No problem, Georgie-girl! Have a good practice and make sure you call this big lug when you’re done or I’m sure he’ll be right back over here checking up on you.”
Will was now a bit testy. “It’s my prerogative to do so as her brother! What is this? Pick on Will day?”
Georgie kissed Will on the cheek and gave him a hug. “Nah, that’s every day. Seriously, I love you, but you’re driving me crazy. Go, have a good time! I’ll be safe and sound, I promise.”
Only with more assurances that she would call did he finally, and with great reluctance, leave. Charlie headed to see the concierge about attending a luau while Will took some more anti-nausea medication and took a short nap.
Georgie and her friends were lining up with the rest of the band members in the lobby when she heard a sound she was certain must be in her imagination. She strained to peer over her classmates but was not quite tall enough to find what she was looking for, if it had even been there in the first place! Thinking it must have been wishful thinking, she turned her attention back to her friends. Jill and Mandy were arguing over which section had the cutest boys while Ashley couldn’t make up her mind about who to agree with. Georgie laughed at them all and was about to declare the lot of them insane when she heard the sound again. Whipping her head around to the musical laughter that she knew belonged to Lizzy Bennet, Georgie frantically began to weave through the crowd in an attempt to find the one woman she knew who could stop her brother’s misery. When she was finally managed to cut through the brass section, Georgie was too late. The lady was nowhere to be found.
Feeling foolish, Georgie decided her mind was playing tricks on her and she was seeing only what she wanted to see. Will had been so down lately and she hoped Lizzy could help. Lizzy was one of those rare people that always seemed to make everything better. If there was one thing Georgie wanted above everything else, it was for her dear, pain-in-the-butt brother to be happy and she was certain that Lizzy Bennet was the right person for the job. If only Will had gone to Baltimore instead of following me here! Georgie sighed. Oh well, maybe I can twist his arm and get him to make a New Year’s resolution to not rest until he fixes whatever it is he screwed up.
Mr. Larimore, the band director, announced it was time to head out to the bus for rehearsal. The band filed out and in a well-practiced manner found their assigned seats quickly and quietly, exactly as they were supposed to. As Georgie stood to lower the window by her seat for fresh air, a commotion just a few feet away from the bus was taking place. A cyclist, in order to avoid a small boy who wasn’t watching where he was going, had crashed into a luggage cart just outside the hotel. The little boy was crying and his parent or guardian didn’t seem to be anywhere nearby and Georgie was feeling dreadfully sorry for him since the cyclist and bellboy had completely forgotten him as they argued over whose fault the accident was. Just as Georgie was about to ask one of the band’s chaperones if she could be excused to help the boy, a woman stepped forward to comfort the boy. Georgie couldn’t see the lady clearly, but she seemed to have a calming effect on the child. She had knelt down so as not to intimidate him, then offered her hand in friendship. The boy nodded his head, presumably in response to something she said and then she took his hand and stood up. It appeared she and the boy were heading into the hotel but then she halted and turned to scold the still feuding bellboy and cyclist. They had the decency to look shame-faced for frightening, then forgetting the boy. As she led the boy around to have a word with the men, Georgie could finally see clearly the woman.
It only came as a small surprise that the Good Samaritan turned out to be the one and only Elizabeth Bennet. Georgie sat down and felt something she hadn’t felt for a very long time- hope for Will. Georgiana Darcy felt like everything was going to, for once, be all right and work out for the best. It’s going to be a very good Christmas after all!
In the cab on their way to the luau, Jane had been listening to Lizzy’s tale with rapt attention. “Then what happened?”
“The two managed to quit bickering for a moment and when they saw the little angel’s sweet face, they felt ridiculously stupid that they had forgotten all about the poor little imp. Once they apologized, I led him into the lobby where his mother was frantically searching for him. I can’t imagine how scary it would be to lose sight of your child somewhere like that!”
Jane agreed but Lizzy didn’t hear what she said. Instead, Lizzy was thinking about someone else entirely. The band she had passed in the lobby reminded her of Will’s sister and, of course, thinking about the teenager made her think of the brother- no matter how much she wished it weren’t so. Will had taken over sole custody and guardianship of his sister from the time the girl was just a toddler and had raised him on his own since he was nineteen. How many times had Georgie frightened Will? Lizzy knew about what had happened with the girl last summer… but how many other terrifying parenting moments had he endured? And why was she thinking about him now, especially when she was determined to forget him?
Jane had concluded whatever she had just said with, “Don’t you agree?”
Noncommittally, Lizzy replied, “What do you think?”
Assuming her sister felt the same as she, Jane said, “Right, that’s what I thought. I’m so glad he was okay! What a day we’ve had… I’m so excited about tonight! I hear there are fire eaters at this one!”
“I’ll try to contain my joy.”
“No, it’s just the idea of seeing someone eat fire… talk about heart burn!”
“Ha-ha-ha. Aren’t you hilarious? Please, try to relax and have fun tonight. I know something’s been bugging you and you, being you, won’t share what it is with me and that’s fine… you’ve always been like that. As for tonight… tonight I want you to forget about whatever it is that’s made you so sad lately and just enjoy the moment. Please? For me?”
Lizzy blew an errant curl off her forehead and gave in, to both her unruly hair and Jane. “Fine. You win. I’ll behave and dance and eat poi and pineapple and whatever else it is you’re supposed to do at one of these things. But tomorrow I retain my right to be grumpy again.”
Jane rolled her eyes and before she could say another word, they had arrived.
Will had seen his friend wear some outrageous things before, but this was by far the worst. “Really? You’re wearing that?”
Charlie checked his image in the mirror and didn’t see whatever problem Will saw. “Yeah. So? What ‘s wrong with it?”
“Isn’t that a bit…oh, I don’t know… outlandish?”
Charlie’s red shirt had a repeating picture of Santa, dressed in board shorts, surfing with a hula girl holding on tight while he held tight to a beer as reindeer were flying overhead hauling a sled. As if those images didn’t crowd the shirt enough, there were also images of flamingos, whales and dolphins jumping in the surf, as well as motorcycles and convertible cars in random places all over the background.
“What? This is a genuine Hawaiian shirt, bought in Hawaii! And look…” he pointed to a surfing, beer-laden, girl-chasing Santa that was on his pocket, “it’s a holiday one to boot!”
Will could see that his friend was tickled by his absurd tourist shirt but thought he’d ask nonetheless. “You really are going to wear that?”
“Every chance I get! Imagine how much this’ll piss off my sisters.”
Seeing how the shirt had some previously unrealized merits, Will asked, “Do they have it in tall sizes?”
Four- Tiny Bubbles
Lizzy was on her third Mai Tai and found she no longer felt the least bit silly in participating in the luau activities. Making her own lei was fun, and she felt she showed remarkable restraint and maturity when she chose not to make a joke about leis. Then she realized for Jane to be proud, she would have to share this insight and then she would no longer be mature for keeping the remark to herself. It was then she knew she was on a fair way to being drunk. When she thought about it, Lizzy was certain that being a bit drunk was the only thing that was keeping her from strangling her sister.
Jane had insisted that they try everything, no matter how much Lizzy protested. When she tried to pass on the hula lessons, Jane made Lizzy remember her promise to try to have fun and, apparently, that meant joining in and shaking her hips to Don Ho. Once she was able to get over her initial embarrassment, Lizzy found her groove and began to enjoy herself. She was able to dance a passable hula to a slow song, but a moment later was laughing as she fell while trying to imitate some more intricate footwork on a hula with a faster rhythm. As several of the dancers helped her up, she practiced expressing her thanks with her new favorite Hawaiian word: mahalo. Just as she was beginning to feel hungry- for all that dancing had worked up her appetite- it was time for the feast to begin.
It was their table’s turn to go through the buffet line and Lizzy was determined to try a little bit of everything. She piled her plate with Kialua roast pork, Pulehu sirloin, some Mahi Mahi, a bit of poke, a taste of haupia and some lomi lomi salmon. Lizzy was famished and at ninety-five dollars a head, she wasn’t about to be shy! Another Mai Tai was awaiting her at the table and she was a very happy woman. The food was delicious and plentiful and Lizzy had very nearly been able to exorcise William Darcy from her thoughts. Very nearly.
Charlie had a difficult time getting Will up and out of his room. The man slept like the dead. “Will! Come on, we’re going to miss all the best parts!”
Will groaned when he realized Charlie wouldn’t simply just disappear. “Go on without me. Please, if you’ve ever been my friend, you’ll just let me lie here and sleep some more.”
“Nonsense. I am your friend, I always have been and that is why I know the best thing for you is to get out of this damned room and eat. All that queasiness from earlier must have left you at least a bit hungry. Come on, Will, come with me and let’s just go and have a good time.”
Will pulled the covers up over his head. “No.”
“There’ll be girls.”
“Hate to argue, especially since you know I’m right; but yes, there will be girls. And hula dancing.”
“Hula dancing! Come on, man! You’re not dead yet, though I may just do the world a favor and kill you if you don’t get a move on. Its hula dancing, Darcy!”
“Fine. I don’t understand how anyone could not be interested in hula dancing, but you do always like to be difficult.” Charlie snapped his fingers as he thought of another point to entice Will with. “I know! There’s supposed to be a fire eater!”
Will knew Charlie wasn’t leaving anytime soon. He was irritatingly persistent like that. “Why on earth would anyone wish to eat fire?”
“No clue! Come on with me and maybe we’ll find out. We’re a bit late, but it’ll still be fun!”
“Fine,” Will gave in. “But you owe me for this.”
Charlie waved off any notion of indebtedness. “Uh-huh. Just add it to my bill. Now, let’s go hula!”
Lizzy threw down her napkin and sighed. “I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much food in my entire life!”
“I know I haven’t!” Jane agreed.
“That, my dear sister, is because you eat like a bird.”
“I do not. I eat balanced meals that provide me with everything I need. Some of us can’t eat just whatever we want and have it go nowhere. I like my thighs as they are, thank you.”
“I’d almost believe there was a criticism in there, but my dear, sweet sister never criticizes! You make it sound I eat a bunch of junk or something instead of just eating more. What can I say? It goes with the job.”
“Yeah, I suppose if I was working out at least fourteen hours a week I could eat more carbs too.”
“Well, vacation calories don’t count.”
Jane rolled her eyes and wondered if Lizzy gave this advice to all her clients. “Right.”
“No, seriously! Vacations should be a time of relaxation and renewal. Plus, if your itinerary includes non-sedentary activities like ours does, there’s really no need to be worried.” Lizzy began counting off on her fingers. “One, we swam today; excellent aerobic activity, the best. Two, tomorrow we’re hiking up the side of a volcano. Couple of miles of aerobic walking right there, and that’s great. Three, we’re doing that bicycle tour thingy, again, that’s hard to beat for aerobic activity. See, Jane? You can relax and eat up because these are all things that aren’t normal features in life. On any given day you go to work and go home or out, but aren’t exercising like that. So, no worries, okay? I promise your amazing figure will still be amazing when we get home… just a little more tan.”
Jane laughed. “I had no idea when I suggested Hawaii, I was actually suggesting a low-level cardio boot-camp.”
It was Lizzy’s turn to roll her eyes. “Hardly.”
Jane wasn’t done teasing. “You can take the girl out of the gym, but not the gym out of the girl.”
“Ha.” Lizzy slapped her knee. “That’s a good one! I’ve never heard that before.”
Jane offered an olive branch. “Did you notice there’s an open yoga class on the beach in the morning?”
Lizzy’s eyes lit up. “Really? We’re so going.” Jane and Lizzy made plans to attend before breakfast and began discussing what other things they wished to see and do while on the island.
“I thought you said there’d be food?” Will groused.
“There was… but for some inexplicable reason,” Charlie elbowed Will as they piled their plates with the remainders, “we were late. There’s still plenty here. It’s just not all fancy to look at now.”
They were shown to a table way in the back. Will complained again, “Next time, if we’re late, let’s just skip it. We’re never going to be able to see anything from back here.”
“You’re determined to be miserable, aren’t you? I can see just fine and as you’ve got- what? five inches on me- I know you can see just fine. Now, will you please stop being a jerk and just shut your mouth so you can have a good time?”
They sat down at their table and as Charlie took a bite, Will asked, “What if I say no?”
“Then I’ll rat you out to Georgie and tell her we need to commit you to an asylum.” Charlie grinned and held up his fork. “Or I could just stab you with this.”
Ignoring the eating utensil threat, Will asked, “So I’m mad now, is that it?”
“If you persist in being miserable in this paradise, then yes! Mad as a hatter. Look at me, my life back home right now just really sucks. I can’t think straight at work, my sisters are driving me up a wall, I miss Jane every single day and I don’t know if I’m ever going to find a way to be happy again… but, right now, for these few days, I don’t have to think about any of that! All I have to do is enjoy the sunshine and the company of my best friend, who is usually a great deal more fun than this. You need to think of it like that one Bill Murray movie and take baby-steps.”
Will listened to Charlie and felt even worse. He really needed to snap out of it and try harder. Charlie was right; all the problems that existed before they left would still be waiting upon their return. Will wracked his brain thinking through Bill Murray movies until he recalled What About Bob? Will prayed he didn’t come across half so neurotic as Bob had been in the film. “So, you’re saying I need a vacation from my problems?”
“Precisely. Though if you ever actually wanted to share what those problems were, that’d probably help a lot.” Will attempted to deny he was troubled but Charlie held up his hand and continued, “And please, spare me your denial. Anyone who knows you knows that William Darcy is wound up tighter than a drum at all times. I suggest you, radical thought alert, use this vacation to actually unwind like normal people do.”
Will sighed, knowing Charlie was right about everything. After a moment, he said, “I can’t promise that I’ll be successful at it, but I will promise to try.”
Charlie waggled a crooked finger at Will and said in a scratchy, high-pitched voice, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
Will managed a smile as he said, “I’ll agree to almost anything if you stop doing that Yoda voice.”
Charlie slapped the table and laughed. “Hoo-boy. You’ve got yourself a deal!”
A burly Samoan-looking man had just finished telling a story about King Kamehameha’s rule and now it was time for a dance troop to perform traditional island dances. Lizzy and Jane watched, spellbound, as the performers twirled and glided about gracefully, bending this way and that like acrobats. After the dances were done, the musicians stepped forward and another man announced it was time to put what everyone had earlier learned about hula to good use. The music began and girls scattered through the audience to ensure everyone would participate.
“God, Lizzy, you’ve so got the hang of this!” Jane said with admiration. Lizzy had taken to hula much easier than Jane had. “I can’t get my hips to roll quite like yours.”
Lizzy laughed. “Come to my Pilates and yoga classes and we’ll fix that.” She hiccupped and blushed. “I think the booze helps, too.”
Jane watched as Lizzy weaved on her feet, nearly losing her balance. “Just how many Mai Tais have you had?”
Lizzy began to count off on her right hand, then grew confused when she needed to begin on her left. “I’m not sure. You know what, Janey?” Lizzy stopped moving and began to laugh. “I think I’m drunk.”
Jane shook her head. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about it! Do you feel alright?”
Lizzy grinned. “Never better in my whole damn life!” She tried to stand up straight, but something- rather someone- caught her attention across the fire pit and disturbed what little was left of her equilibrium. Grabbing Jane’s arm to steady herself failed. Lizzy fell down, making a riotous spectacle in the process.
Jane knelt on the sand beside Lizzy, declining offers of aid from the concerned people around them in the process. “Oh, Lizzy, I think it’s probably time to go. I doubt you’re going to be feeling well enough for seeing the volcano tomorrow, let alone getting up early for a fitness class. Shall we go now?”
“Go?” Lizzy slurred. “What’s the hurry?” She wanted to see if that had really been William Darcy, or if he was a mirage like those imaginary pink elephants that were now dancing before her eyes.
Hauling Lizzy up was no easy task. It didn’t help that she wasn’t cooperating. Lizzy finally lifted her arms so Jane could get a better hold of her. “Janey, will you answer me something?”
Jane groaned and with one final tug she brought her sister to her feet. “You have to ask a question first, but sure.”
“Do you see elephants?”
The commotion on the other side of the fire pit caused a stir throughout the entire luau. Both Will and Charlie’s attentions were drawn, but the gathered crowd blocked whatever it was that had happened. Charlie questioned a uniformed server who walked by, “Hey, what happened over there?”
The disinterested server replied, “Some lady mainlander had one too many drinks.”
“Does that happen often?” Will asked.
The young man rolled his eyes. “You have no idea.”
After he left, Charlie elbowed Will. “Well, I’m glad I have you here to keep me from making myself a spectacle like that poor woman.”
“Poor woman? Charlie, you astound me.” Will gave up trying to see what happened and made his way back to his seat at the table, with Charlie following right behind. “She’s probably some young girl who had one too many and mistook the luau for an early Mardi Gras party.”
Charlie laughed. “God, Will, you can be such an ass, you know that, right? I bet she’s a sweet girl that just got a little carried away. I’d imagine it’s probably pretty easy to do in a place like this.”
Will’s remark was laden with sarcasm. “I love how you’re always so quick to make excuses for everyone.”
“Yeah?” Charlie retorted, “Well, I love how you are so quick to be judge and jury in situations you know nothing about.”
Will had a strong suspicion they weren’t just talking about the drunken lady anymore. “I make judgments based on what I see, same as everyone else. No more, no less.”
“And you’re always such a terrific judge of character, aren’t you? You have no idea how lucky others don’t measure you with the same stick you use.”
The music had begun again, but the dancing hadn’t yet resumed as Will asked, “What exactly do you mean by that?”
Charlie didn’t hear Will’s question. He hadn’t had anything at all to drink, so he couldn’t blame the vision across way on alcohol. Will demanded his attention, causing Charlie to tear his gaze away from where he thought he’d spied Jane. He held up a hand to stay Will’s inquiry while he searched the spot where he’d seen her. Jane was nowhere to be found. He had not truly expected to see her, but- impossible as it was- he had hoped nonetheless.
Feeling silly for having let his mind play tricks on him, Charlie made a special effort to focus on what Will was saying. Will, seeing that he’d finally gained his friend’s attention, asked again, “What did you mean by ‘don’t measure others by the stick you use’?”
“I thought it was pretty self-explanatory. If others judged you by first impressions, everyone- including me- would think you were the biggest prick on the planet. You come off all wrong and you make no effort at all to change what others think of you.”
“Why should I? If they want to know what I’m really like, they should take the time to get to know me.”
“Exactly!” Charlie cried, exasperated that his friend didn’t understand the point. “Sometimes you baffle me. It’s a good think I knew you before you had that stick up your ass or I don’t think I’d have taken the trouble to get to know you.”
Will was tired and really had had enough criticism for one day. He was about to protest that Charlie needn’t bother with further explanation regarding his faults- for he understood them all too well- when Charlie held up a coconut that sat atop the table. “You’re a lot like this nut. Tough, damn impossible to break, but if you exercise patience and can get past the impenetrable exterior, you’re all tender and sweet inside.”
Will frowned. “Did you just call me sweet?”
“Good grief! Must you be so dense? Yes, I called you sweet to counterpoint the rough exterior of the shell. It was meant to be a parallel, jerkface. Sometimes I don’t understand how we’re still friends.”
Unable to immediately come up with an answer, Will took a long sip of his drink and found he wondered the same thing.
It hadn’t been as difficult as Jane imagined getting Lizzy back to the hotel. Once she’d gotten back on her feet, Lizzy had been much more cooperative. Except for that detour to throw up behind a palm tree, she seemed none-too-much worse for wear. As Jane tucked Lizzy in, she swore she heard her sister mutter “Darcy” under her breath. Poor girl, thought Jane, she’s having some sort of drunken nightmare.
Just when Jane had Lizzy finally settled in, Lizzy started to giggle uncontrollably. She laughed, tossing and turning- which caused her to dislodge all the bedding. Lizzy spoke, though clearly not yet awake, and said, “Stop!”
Jane, being such a kind, sweet soul, was about to wake Lizzy from her dream when she heard Lizzy say, “Stop that! That tickles, Will!”
Within every family there are roles that everyone seems to fit into. The Bennet family was no different. Lydia, the baby of the bunch, was the loud-mouthed sass. Kitty, next-youngest, was an amoeba- unable to exist without someone nearby to cling to. Mary was the stereotypical middle-child archetype. Lizzy was the pretty, quick-witted one. Jane was the beautiful and kind one.
Though Jane wasn’t the brainiest Bennet sister, it didn’t take a genius to connect the dots. Lizzy is dreaming about Will Darcy? I better check the news… Hell must have frozen over or there’ve been sightings of pigs flying!
Jane had never believed William Darcy to be the villain Lizzy had painted him to be. She wondered what had happened to make Lizzy change her mind about the man.
Then Jane wondered why Lizzy had never told her.
Charlie had given up trying to talk sense into Will. If he wants to continue to be a sad, miserable bastard, that’s his problem, right? Trying to get into the spirit of the luau, Charlie had begun drinking Mai Tais and the effect on his mood was immediate. He no longer cared if Will sulked. He would try and enjoy himself regardless of Will’s sour disposition.
Will was feeling guiltier than he normally did. Should I just get it all out of the way and tell him how I interfered between him and Jane? Could he ever possibly forgive me? God knows, he’s a much better man than I am. Maybe it won’t be so bad…
The fire-eater had just taken center stage and the evening’s Master of Ceremonies was explaining what was about to happen. Of course, this was the moment that Will chose to confess his underhanded dealings in derailing Charlie’s love life.
Charlie was watching with the fire-eater with the same wonder that a child has their first time at a zoo. He was completely fascinated and didn’t hear the first several times Will called his name. Finally, Will poked him, causing Charlie to turn his head just at the moment that the daredevil swallowed the flame.
Hearing the raucous applause, Charlie groaned. “What now, Will? You made me miss what I came to see, so it had better be damned good,” Charlie warned.
Obviously, Darcy thought, I can’t just blurt out ‘I ruined your life, forgive me’. Taking a deep breath, he began, “You have been my best friend forever, and both Georgie and I think of you as family. You know that, right?”
Still irritated that he’d missed the main attraction, Charlie nodded and waved his hand to speed Will’s explanation along.
“All right… so, family looks out for one another, agreed?”
“Yes, Will, they do. Is this the brilliant newsflash that was so earth-shattering it couldn’t have waited five minutes? I’ve about had enough, here. First, all you do is complain, then we’re late because of your whining. Then you whined some more and just when you finally shut up and I’m about to finally see something I want, you screw that up for me, too. Damn it, Will, the whole world- despite whatever you may think- does not revolve around you!”
“Of that, I’m painfully aware.” Will fiddled with his napkin. “If I did think it so, believe me when I say that there’s more than enough people just lining up to knock me out of my orbit, so to speak.”
“Then what the hell was so important? Just be direct, man!”
“I agreed with your sisters that Jane wasn’t the best match for you, and I exaggerated some circumstances and have since learned that I was wrong. She did love you.” Will had rent his napkin by accident. “Probably does still.”
Charlie moved with lightning speed and his fist connected with Will’s jaw so fast, that they were rolling on the ground in a brawl before anyone around them knew what happened.
Five- The Day After
“Good morning, sunshine,” Jane said cheerily as she attempted to rouse Lizzy awake.
“If you love me,” Lizzy moaned, “you’ll go away and leave me to die a peaceful death.”
“I do love you, sister dearest, but you’re going to live a long and happy life. And that starts this morning.”
Lizzy pulled the blanket over her head as she cocooned further inside her bedding. “The long part is right- since only the good die young- but the happy is highly doubtful. Now, do me a favor and go away!”
“I would, but it’s already noon and I thought it might be a good idea if you actually ate something before your stomach rots from all the drinks you had last night.”
“Ugh,” was the response from under the covers, “don’t remind me!”
“Okay,” Jane’s voice teased, “so if food’s not enticing enough, what about mail?”
Lizzy peeked from under the pillow, her eyes trying to adjust to the early afternoon sun. “Mail? Who’s it from?”
“That,” Jane tapped the letter on her head, “is a mystery.”
Lizzy tried to grab the letter, but Jane held it just out of reach. “No, if you want it, you have to sit up like and make yourself decent first.”
“Or,” Lizzy reached to try and tickle Jane, “I could just tickle-torture you for it.”
Jane, however, was not suffering from a hangover, wasn’t affected by light or motion and moved quickly out of Lizzy’s grasp. “Ha! That’s not going to work today, Lizzy.” Jane headed to the door. “I’ll meet you in the downstairs lounge in a half hour. That’s enough time for you to get human again. When you come down to eat, I’ll hand you your letter then and only then.”
Lizzy threw her pillow at Jane. “I’m going to get you! I’ll have my revenge!”
Jane stuck her tongue out at her little sister. “Well, you’d better start by getting dressed and then you can try!”
As Jane left, Lizzy groaned and threw herself back against the bed as she wondered who hated her enough to replace Jane with an evil doppelganger.
“Will, you look totally ridiculous,” Georgie said for the umpteenth time. “C’mon, take those stupid shades off. Please?”
They had just returned from lunch and Will had walked his sister back to her room, all the while wearing the largest sunglasses the hotel staff had been able to find him.
When they were safely inside her room, Will said, “You want me to take the shades off? Fine!”
Georgie gasped and raised her hand to her mouth to try to keep from shrieking at the sore sight that was her brother’s left eye. There was a gash just below his brow that had been tied together with several stitches and the eye was nearly swollen shut, the tender skin around it a royal shade of purple.
“It’s not as bad as it appears…” Will reached out in an attempt to sooth her.
She shrugged out of reach. Still stunned that someone had punched her beloved brother, Georgie demanded, “Who did this? Who did this to you? Were you robbed? Did you call the police? Why didn’t you call me earlier?” Before he could answer, she added, “Where was Charlie? Why didn’t he stop them?”
Georgie had begun to cry. Will never had any idea how to handle a crying female, or a crying anybody for that matter. Nothing made him feel more ineffectual as a big brother than when something made his baby sister cry. Great, how many more ways can I fail those I love most?
“I wasn’t robbed. I didn’t call the police, but they got involved anyways. I didn’t call you earlier because the emergency room took forever and I didn’t want to needlessly worry you when you can see that I’m fine.”
“You’re hardly fine! Needing stitches doesn’t qualify as being ‘fine’! And you still haven’t answered me why Charlie didn’t step in and try to stop this.”
“Uh, yeah…” Will stammered. “Charlie’s in jail.”
Georgie was certain that was the most surprising news she’d ever heard. Charles Bingley was simply not the sort of man one ever pictured sitting in a jail cell. “What? Why?”
“Why? Because he refused to accept it when I tried to post his bail.” Will said, matter-of-factly.
“No, you idiot! Why is he in jail in the first place? Shouldn’t the S.O.B. who hit you be in jail?”
When he began to turn red and still hadn’t answered a full minute later, Georgie began to get the picture. When it became apparent that she had pieced together that Charlie was the culprit behind the damage to Will’s face, he nodded that it was true.
Georgie shook her head and sat on the edge of the bed. “Oh, my! I can’t believe it. Something huge must have happened, if you managed to piss Charlie off enough to sock you in the eye.”
Willl sat next to her and held her hand as he gently admonished her. “Language, young lady.”
“Yes, Will.” Georgie decided that she would put off telling Will that Lizzy was on the island until the mess with Charlie was straightened out, for there was no doubt in her mind that was what would happen.
The relatively dim light in the hotel room had hurt Lizzy’s eyes enough that she knew it would be foolhardy to even attempt to go anywhere without both a hat and sunglasses. Before leaving the room, she dared a look in the mirror and nearly frightened herself with her appearance. Her curly, wet hair was pulled into a ponytail and fed through the back closure of her Baltimore Orioles ballcap. A University of Maryland t-shirt that had seen better days was paired with an equally worn pair of denim shorts. The mere thought of bending down to tie her shoes made her nauseous, so flip-flops would have to do- regardless of Jane’s hatred for the comfortable footwear. Making certain she had her keycard, ID & debit card shoved in her back pocket, Lizzy grudgingly made her way down to the lounge where Jane was waiting.
Jane stood to greet her sister when she approached. “Good morning, Miss Mary Sunshine!”
Lizzy made a snarling sound and snapped, “Mary’s in Baltimore. Since you’ve forgotten, my name in Lizzy, thank you very much.”
Jane did the one thing that was designed to irritate Lizzy most: she grinned. “Yes, well, if you want me to call you Lizzy, then you should quit mimicking Mary’s disposition.”
Lizzy slid her glasses down her nose just enough so Jane would know she was glaring at her. “That was a low blow.” She pushed the glasses back into place and crossed her arms. “I believe there was some mention of food?”
“There was.” Jane swept her arm towards the more casual of the resort’s eateries. It was a short walk and a friendly young man showed them to a beachside table on the deck. They were given menus and the waiter assured them he’d be back momentarily to take their order. “Sadly, you missed the breakfast extravaganza. I swear, I’ve never eaten so much fresh pineapple in my life. I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied with plain, old grocery store pineapple again.”
Lizzy was only half-listening. It was taking all of her energy to not lay her head on the table and go back to sleep. It was only sheer curiosity about her letter that had coaxed Lizzy from her bed.
“I’m thinking of being daring and trying that Spam salad. What about you?” Jane asked brightly.
“I may have to kill you for being so damn cheery is what I think. Spam salad? Eww.”
“Well, that’s what I’m getting. What’s a vacation for, if not to try new things?” Jane closed her menu and tried to encourage her, “Live a little, Lizzy! Try something new.”
“I did that last night, remember? All it got me was hungover and you in my face, so no thank you.”
The waiter returned to take their orders and Jane, despite the face Lizzy made, ordered her Spam salad. Lizzy stuck with a plain cheeseburger with a side of fruit.
Despite Jane’s best efforts, Lizzy wasn’t ready to talk about anything, let alone open up about Will. Once their food came, Jane gave up trying to make conversation and they ate in silence. Once the table was cleared, Lizzy demanded her letter.
“I kept up my end of the deal. I showered, I dressed and I came out in public and ate.” Lizzy held out her hand. “Now pony up my letter, please.”
Jane handed over the letter and pouted. “You always were a spoilsport, you know that, don’t you?”
Lizzy didn’t recognize the handwriting on the envelope. Impatient as ever, she ripped open the envelope. “Takes one to know one, Miss ‘Mom, Lizzy’s cooking Playdough in my Easy Bake’. If I was a spoilsport, it was because you were a tattle-tale.”
“Okay, we both had our less-than-spectacular moments of brattiness. Now, who’s the letter from?”
Lizzy held up her hand as she read the note. Jane had never seen so many emotions play across Lizzy’s face in such rapid succession. She appeared all at once to be pleased, shocked, happy and distressed.
When Lizzy finished reading, she said, “You will never in a million years guess who this letter is from.”
Jane shrugged her shoulders and gave a wild guess. “President Obama? Don Ho? They’re both Hawaiian.”
“Ha, ha. No and no.” Lizzy held up the letter and flashed the lines at Jane, then pointed to the signature. “Georgiana Darcy. Georgiana Darcy is here in this very hotel and she saw me on her way to practice for the Aloha Bowl parade.”
“And she wrote you? That’s weird. I didn’t think you’d ever met Darcy’s sister.”
Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! You never told her that! Stupid! “Um, yeah… I did. Remember back in August when I went to show Aunt Sophie and Uncle Ed around DC?” Jane nodded that she did. “Well, we ran into Darcy then. Aunt Sophie wanted to visit Congress and since they weren’t in session, I didn’t think there was any remote possibility of running into him. But it seems he’s a workaholic or something. He was just returning from Wilmington and was pleased to meet some of his constituents. I couldn’t have been more surprised when he invited us to dinner.”
Jane couldn’t have been more surprised either and it echoed in her voice when she asked, “He did?”
“Yep. It was then we met his sister. She was just getting ready to go to band camp and was really excited about the upcoming performance season. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised she’s here. I remember now she told me she was playing somewhere over the holidays, but I guess it didn’t register that it was Hawaii.”
“Is she a sweet girl?” Jane asked, still confused about why a teenager would write to Lizzy.
“She’s a doll. Since Will was busy with whatever it is precisely that a junior congressman does, Georgie offered to accompany us to the best must-sees in DC. She’s written that she’s got some free time later and wanted to know if I would meet her for dinner.”
“Yeah, I think I might. That is, if you don’t mind. She said most of the band’s families haven’t arrived yet. I guess a flying to Hawaii for a band thing is probably out of most people’s budgets.”
“It’s not out of the Darcy’s budget.” Jane gently reminded her.
“I realize that. However, Georgie didn’t even mention that pig-headed jerkface, so all is well.”
To Jane, it sounded like Lizzy was trying awfully hard to convince someone she still hated Will. She just wasn’t sure exactly who. “Do you really still think he’s such a bad guy?”
Since Lizzy had first met Will, almost every opinion she’d had about him had changed. Almost. No, he hadn’t bought his seat in Congress. Wickham was just sore because Will had honestly succeeded where his underhanded tricks had not. Will was an excellent, not a negligent, brother. He worked hard, fought for what he believed in, and did the best he could- whatever the situation. His intentions were always good.
And the road to hell was paved with good intentions.
The Honolulu police released Charlie to his own recognizance at five in the afternoon and he was not at all pleased to see Will waiting for him outside the station.
“What are you doing here? I have nothing to say to you.”
“Charlie, please,” Will pleaded. “You didn’t hear me out last night.”
“What more did I really need to hear? You betrayed me. My best friend, the high and mighty, oh-so-principled Congressman Darcy betrayed his best friend in the world. You’re no better than my sisters.” He turned to walk away, then stopped abruptly and added, “Actually, I take that back. You’re so much worse than they are. I knew they were armed when I let them stab me in the back. I never expected that from you.”
Charlie was trying to hail a cab. When one stopped, Darcy waved it off before Charlie could contradict him. “What now? You think you’ll mess me up more by keeping me from getting a cab? Fine. I’ll walk back to the hotel. There I’ll catch a cab and get a flight home.”
Will quietly asked, “And then what?”
“What do you mean?” Charlie practically shouted. “Then I drive to Jane’s and begin bowing and scraping at her feet until she can forgive me and take me back. That’s if she can even stand to look at me.” He looked pointedly at Will. “Some things are unforgiveable.”
“I know that, Charlie. But what good would it do to fly today? If, and that’s a big if, you can manage a flight out today, it’ll take forever to get there and you’ll be unbelievably jet-lagged on top of being pissed at me and the world.”
“Not the world, Will. Just you.”
“Okay, I deserve that.”
“Finally! You got something right!”
“Okay, I deserve that, too. But please finish hearing me out.” Charlie nodded permission for Will to continue. “It’s a little public to be doing this here in front of the station, don’t you think?”
“I had a cab, jackass. You sent it away.”
“You did, I’m sorry. Shall we get another? I promise, you can hit me again if you really need to.”
“I shouldn’t have done that.”
“No, you probably should have. Just maybe not in front of a few hundred people. I tried to get them to dismiss everything immediately, but the management seemed pretty miffed at having their place torn apart.”
“My bad for punching a congressman’s clock.”
Another cab arrived and they got in, gave their direction and resumed talking. This time with much less hostility.
“So, best case is you get to Baltimore and you’re all bedraggled and whipped from your flight and then what? Interrupt the Bennet’s Christmas together? I can’t imagine Mr. Bennet being very pleased about that.”
“Probably not,” Charlie agreed. “But Mrs. Bennet would.”
Will knew it was akin to pouring salt in Charlie’s wound, but he needed him to see the sense in not rushing back and perhaps making the situation worse. “When was the last time you actually spoke to Jane?”
“Not since February. You must remember. It was right before Valentine’s that you convinced me she wasn’t worth my time.”
“Again, I’m sorry. I was so very wrong in my estimation of everything. I didn’t think you were any more serious about Jane than you were any of those other girls. And you must admit, Charlie, there were a lot of girls.”
Charlie, for the first time since he’d been arrested, realized that maybe he wasn’t entirely blameless in the matter. How had he let himself be persuaded so easily in the first place? Because you knew Jane was really too good for you, you stupid idiot! It’s way past time to be your own man. Quit letting others lead you. “Yeah, there were. But Jane was different, she really was and I blew it by not believing in myself enough to stand up to either you or my sisters.”
Will was impressed. “That’s a very mature outlook on the matter, Charlie. Did you have time to think about that in your holding cell?”
“Nah. I mostly played solitaire. Seemed appropriate somehow. I only just now realized that I’m as much to blame as you are.”
“So,” Will asked cautiously, “what now?”
“We go back to the hotel, have some dinner and then I go to bed while you do whatever you want. We have to be up pretty early tomorrow and I know you want to spend some time with Georgie before her curfew. Sleep sounds excellent. That cot last night was terribly uncomfortable. I guess that’s one way to deter repeat offenders.”
Darcy chuckled. “What did you expect? The Ritz?”
“No,” Charlie said a bit defensively. “I was expecting something along the lines of the cell they always let Otis use on Andy Griffith.”
Will was about to laugh at Charlie’s joke, but one look at his friend’s face told him he hadn’t been joking, which made him laugh all the more. The tension between the friends was now entirely gone. They both knew all was forgiven and that in the future things would be different.
Six- Little Miss Matchmaker
Georgie was squirming in her seat at the table she’d reserved for dinner, anxiously awaiting Lizzy’s arrival. I hope this all works out alright or I’ll end up with nothing but coal in my stocking for sure! Her moment of uncertainty gave way to the confidence she felt in the rightness of her ploy. When this all works out! Just think how wonderful everything will be… Will can finally be happy in the way he deserves and I get to have Lizzy as a sister. Another moment of doubt crept in. Why did Will have to be such a jerk to Charlie in the first place? No wonder Lizzy refused Will. Then she talked herself out of it. She can’t still hate him. At least not totally. I saw them together this summer… it may not have been love, but it sure wasn’t hate. All I need to do is set the wheels in motion and then we’ll see where this ride takes them.
Before Georgie could work herself into another frenzy of doubt, she spied Lizzy approaching with a big smile upon her face. Seeing Lizzy made Georgie all the more certain of her plan. It was now time to put it into action.
Georgie stood to greet her guest. Lizzy, never one to stand on formality when it was much more fun to flout convention, embraced the younger girl in a hug. “Miss Georgiana Darcy, fancy meeting you here, of all places!”
“I know, right? Maybe we ought to sing a chorus of ‘It’s a Small World’ or something.”
Lizzy, feeling much more refreshed since she’d taken another nap, teased, “What would it cost me to prevent that from happening?”
“Nothing at all. Friends need only ask.”
“Then I’m asking! Seriously though, Georgiana, how are you? It seems like ages since I saw you.”
“I’m great. School’s going really well, senioritis hasn’t totally sunken in yet. I’m sure when it finally does, I’ll be climbing the walls.”
Lizzy well remembered just how stir-crazy those last days of high school had made her and smiled. “I imagine this trip helps break up the monotony.”
“Yeah, it does,” Georgie agreed, “but I kinda miss home, too.”
Mistakenly thinking that Georgie meant Will was still in DC, she said, “I know it must be difficult for you, but I’m sure you’ll see your brother soon enough.”
Georgie glanced at the clock on the wall. It was six after six and she’d told Will to meet her at six-thirty. Will was compulsively early, so Georgie knew she needed to work faster or her brother would show up before she’d had a chance to warm Lizzy up to the idea of seeing him again.
“I sure hope so,” she said honestly. “I know he can be a royal pain sometimes, but he’s one of the good guys.”
Lizzy could only nod as the waitress had come to take their order, thus preventing Georgie from hearing Lizzy’s opinion about Will.
“I know you met my brother last year. That was in Baltimore, right?”
“Yes. His friend, Charles Bingley, opened a gallery in the same building as my sister’s travel agency.”
“Charlie’s always had an eye for very beautiful things,” Georgie began. She saw Lizzy turn red and realized what she’d said could be misconstrued very badly. Georgie tried again. “Charlie, well, he’s like another brother to me. I think he likes being with me and Will because his own sisters can be such bitches.” She gasped when she realized she’d sworn. Will was always correcting her for doing so, stating that using coarse language belied her intelligence.
“It’s okay, Georgie,” Lizzy reached out and patted her hand reassuringly. “I’ve met them, too, and understand completely.”
Georgie nodded and smiled as she continued her story. “So, I’ve known Charlie most of my life… he’s been Will’s best bud since they were in prep school together eons ago. Charlie’s mom was always pushing him to be more like Will- more a go-getter. Charlie just isn’t that kind of guy. He’s a romantic soul. When the guys had to study art and music for school, Will did horrible and needed tutors to get by; where all of that came really natural to Charlie. There’s something about the arts that has always seemed to speak to him in a way that it doesn’t to my brother. Don’t get me wrong, Will doesn’t hate the arts or anything, but it wasn’t his passion. Will’s thing is public service, but that’s another story.”
When Georgie paused for a moment to take a sip of her water, Lizzy took the opportunity to ask, “And why are you telling me all this?”
“I’m getting to that… please, just hear me out?” Lizzy nodded and Georgie continued her story. “While Charlie is brilliant when it comes to understanding artistic compositions, he sucks at self-confidence.”
This revelation surprised Lizzy. Charlie had always appeared so self-assured, so easy-going. It was hard to believe.
“I see you don’t believe me. I guess if I didn’t know Charlie really well, I probably wouldn’t believe it either. Mr. and Mrs. Bingley were jerks. They weren’t happy with Charlie’s choices at all. Art wasn’t ‘manly’ enough. Can you imagine what it’s like to live with people who are constantly badgering you, trying to get you to be somebody that you aren’t meant to be? I mean, your parents are supposed to be your biggest fans, not your biggest critics, right?”
Lizzy had only to think of her own mother. Then she shuddered at the thought of “what if.” What if her father hadn’t have supported her career? Her mother had been made miserable by her choice to open up a gym. She could still hear her mother say, ‘It’s just not very feminine, is it?’ Life would have been unbearable without at least her father’s support.
“That’s why Charlie sometime leans a bit too much on the opinions of those he’s closest to: his sisters and my brother.”
“Thank you for clarifying certain things about Charlie… but I still don’t understand why you’re telling me this.”
“I guess I was hoping, since I saw you here, that you could help me make things right. I mean, when we get home.”
“Make things right?” Lizzy’s mind reeled. “What do you mean? Right, how?”
“Between my friend and your sister. Charlie’s been miserable for months and months now, and I only recently learned that it was because he was a stupid idiot who listened to others instead of listening to himself. If he had the confidence a guy like him should, he never would have walked away from her in the first place. I know he still loves her. If Charlie came to her, if he apologized and tried to be a better man, do you think they could have a chance?”
“I think…” was all Lizzy managed to get out before the waitress began setting down their plates upon the table. She was grateful for the interruption. How did Georgie learn all this? There’s only one way… She quickly dismissed that as impossible. There was simply no way that a man like William Darcy would tell his romantic troubles to his kid sister. The idea was ludicrous. Or was it? It seemed to be the only logical explanation Lizzy could come up with.
Georgie was glad for the interruption. Her bravery had begun to fail and she wasn’t sure how long she could manage to avoid just coming right out and begging Elizabeth to consider her brother as more than a pain in the neck. The food was very good and the silence that fell between them was not too awkward or uncomfortable. As she watched the clock, Georgie hoped she could finish explaining everything to Elizabeth before Will showed up.
“Are you sure you don’t want to come to dinner with me and Georgie?” Darcy asked Charlie one last time. “I know she wouldn’t mind if you did.”
“True, but that’s only because I’m not a pain in the ass.” Charlie joked, “Plus, she likes me better.”
Though Darcy knew his friend had spoken it jest, it often felt too true. “It does feel that way sometimes, you know.”
Charlie clapped his best friend on the shoulder. “I know, pal. But she loves you, pain in the ass and all. I’m just the comic relief.” He then flopped on his bed. “What’s not funny is how tired I am. I’m just gonna hang here and catch up on some sleep.” Charlie smiled and shook his head when he saw that Darcy was about to issue another unwanted invitation. “Seriously, Will, I’m fine. You may find it hard to believe, but it’s tough to catch any shut-eye in the slammer.”
“All right, if that’s what you truly want to do, then I’ll leave you alone. Can I at bring you back something? It’s the least I can do.”
“William Darcy,” Charlie groaned, “get the hell out of here now, so I can get some sleep! Please! You’re late for Georgiana, and we all know how fastidious you are about being on time. Go!” He made a shooing motion with his hands. “Be gone and let me sleep!”
Lizzy couldn’t help noticing how distracted Georgie had become and called her on it. “You certainly seem fascinated by the clock, my dear Miss Darcy. Do you have a hot date before curfew? Come now, enquiring minds want to know.”
Oh my God! Will’s never late! Did he change his mind? Did something happen? He found out what I’m up to and he’s never going to speak to me again because I’m interfering in his life. That must be it. Oh no, my brother hates me. Whether he hates me or not, I’ve gone too far to stop now. “No, no date, hot or otherwise. There aren’t any boys…” Georgie blushed. “I mean, there are boys, but none that like me or anything like that.”
“I find that hard to believe.” Lizzy’s warm smile appeared sincere. “You are a beautiful, smart, delightful girl and I just bet there’s at least one boy, and very likely more, that’s just too shy to get up the nerve to speak to you.”
Yay! This is more like it! Here we go, all or nothing. “You mean too frightened of my brother.”
Lizzy’s eyes went wide while her cheeks turned pink with embarrassment. “That’s not what I said.”
“No,” Georgie giggled, “but it’s so what you meant.”
Before Lizzy could offer a denial, something- or rather someone- had caught her attention so fully that Georgie was forced to turn around to see what it was. Seeing that Lizzy was speechless, Georgie grinned and called out to her brother, who had not yet spotted them.
“Will,” Georgie cried a little too loudly for the other guests’ comfort, “come here and join us!”
Lizzy leaned in and whispered harshly, “What is going on, Georgie?”
Georgie patiently whispered back, “I’m trying to right another wrong. Seems Will didn’t only mess up Charlie and your sister.”
Feeling trapped and frustrated, Lizzy threatened, “I am so going to kill you!”
Will was approaching the table with a look on his face the likes of which Georgie had never seen before. She grinned proudly. Her plan had worked and at the very least something would happen this afternoon. Whether that something was good or bad was now out of her hands and up to Will and Lizzy. Georgie couldn’t help herself and teased Lizzy. “You can kill, or thank me, later. You know, whatever.”
It has to be my imagination, it just has to! Will rubbed his eyes, hoping to make the mirage Lizzy disappear. When he reopened his eyes she was still sitting there, with Georgie. There’s got to be something really wrong with me that I keep seeing her everywhere. She’s home in Baltimore, not sitting at a table in Honolulu with my sister. Whispering. Over mostly eaten plates of food. It was then he realized Lizzy was no illusion, but flesh and blood, and sitting a mere three feet from where he stood.
Will’s powers of speech had abandoned him. He stood there dumbly, just staring at Lizzy until Georgie elbowed him. “Will, can you believe it? Lizzy’s here!”
With a goofy smile on his face, Will finally managed to address her, “Elizabeth.”
Lizzy was having equal difficulty with speaking. It was only with a prompt to her shin, courtesy of Georgie, that she managed to return the acknowledgement, “Will.”
Georgie tried not to be too frustrated, though she did wonder how these two would ever manage without her. She pulled out a chair. “Will, have a seat. Lizzy was about to tell me all about your good qualities before you showed up.”
“I was?” Lizzy asked with surprise the same moment Will asked doubtfully, “She was?”
“Yes.” Georgie said firmly, then went on to explain, “I had just mentioned what a pain you could be and she was about to defend you. Right, Lizzy?”
Quickly retracing their conversation, Lizzy realized nearly she’d been trapped into a confession by Georgie. Great, now I know how I make Jane feel. At least someone will be amused by this. Then another thought struck her. Jane! If there’s a Darcy, there’s a Bingley… I can’t believe I underestimated her! My, oh my, you are you a very clever girl, Georgiana Darcy.
Though she hated having her hand forced, Lizzy knew the time for stubborn pride was over. She had long wondered ‘what if’ and now was the perfect chance to the answers. All she had to do was speak.
That’s easier said than done, mused Lizzy. “Right, Georgie, I believe I was.”
For the first time in many months, William Darcy’s heart filled with hope.
Charlie was having a difficult time falling asleep. He was exhausted and lying in a comfortable bed in a darkened room, but he could not keep his eyes closed. His brain was too busy replaying his history with Jane Bennet.
He tortured himself by recalling the beauty of her smile, the depth of feeling in her eyes and the musical sound of her laughter. All of these details paled in comparison how it felt to have Jane in his arms. Each time there had been a physical connection between them, his world had been perfect, right and complete.
God, I am such an idiot! He berated himself. You had the love of the most perfect woman on the planet and you let others persuade you to leave her? Jackass! I don’t deserve Jane, but damn it, I’m going to try to convince her to give me another chance anyways. He turned over to his side and punched the pillow. Three days, Jane Bennet. Only three days until I come knocking on your door. I don’t want to start the new year without knowing if I’ve blown it forever.
Charlie pulled the covers up over his shoulder in an attempt to try and sleep. He had just finally closed his eyes when there was a commotion in the hallway. A loud crash, complete with the sound of something breaking, forced him to get up and investigate the matter. There were several indistinguishable voices speaking and Charlie was about to ask them all to be quiet when he opened the door.
A luggage cart had collided with a room service cart and there was luggage and broken dishes everywhere. The porter was doing his best to set the bags to right while the young girl from room service was picking up shards of china with the help of another guest. The blonde woman was kneeling on the floor with her back to Charlie’s door, but he would recognize Jane anywhere. Then she laughed and any doubt she might be a figment of his imagination vanished.
While some people spend a great deal of time thinking things through carefully before saying a word, others leap right in without a second thought. Charlie was a leaper. “Jane?” She turned towards him and gave a shy smile. Taking that as encouragement that she didn’t hate him on sight, Charlie rushed to her side and took her hand. “You’re here! I can hardly believe it, this makes Christmas perfect!” He threw his arms around her and hugged her tight, as if doing so would prevent her from vanishing. “I am such an idiot, Jane, can you ever forgive me?”
Jane tried to answer, but was crushed so tightly in Charlie’s arms that she was having trouble breathing. “Charlie, let me go,” she gasped.
He released her at once and stood, feeling stupid for not considering her feelings. “I’m sorry again. It was wrong of me to just grab you like that, Jane. I’ll leave you alone now.”
The waitress and porter had finished cleaning up their mess and had disappeared to give them as much privacy as could be had in a hotel hallway.
Jane wanted to cry, the man exasperated her so! She stood, brushed off her knees and called to him, “Charles Bingley, stop right there!” He turned, not knowing what to expect from her.
Her heart, the small part that wasn’t already in pieces, nearly broke from seeing the man she loved standing there like a scolded child. “Do you always give up so easily? I only asked you to let me go because I couldn’t breathe.”
She nodded and went willingly into his arms.
A moment later she went willingly into his room.
Will was listening to Georgie tell the story of how she’d witnessed Lizzy coming to the aid of the small, lost child. “…and that’s when I really knew that Disney was right and it’s a small world, after all!”
“Georgie,” Lizzy warned, “you’re exaggerating. I didn’t do anything special. You make me sound like Mother Teresa or something.”
“I beg to differ, Elizabeth,” Will protested. “There are few who would stop what they were doing to pay attention to a child that’s not their own.” He smiled, “It’s just another example of your tremendous kindness.”
Lizzy knew she wasn’t always kind. She had only to think on her dealings with Will to see that truth. Kindness was Jane’s thing, not hers. Lizzy shook her head. “Now I believe that you’re the one exaggerating, Mr. Darcy.”
“Nonsense, Ms. Bennet.” Will was tired of this polite conversation. He didn’t care that she was enjoying the weather or how good her lunch had been. All he wanted was to know if he had a chance to change her opinion of him. “You’re being very kind right now. After our previous… shall we say disagreement? it’s a kindness to speak to me with this undeserved civility you’re showing me now.”
“No, Will, if anyone’s being kind here, it’s you. I was wrong before and we both know it. You are too good to humor me for your sister’s sake.” She set her napkin on the table and stood to leave. “I think I’m going to go check on Jane now. Georgie, thanks for lunch. Will, it was good to see you this one last time.”
“Elizabeth, wait! What do you mean, ‘one last time’? Please, you know, above all others, that I can be dense sometimes. You can’t mean that we’ll never see each other again, do you?”
She had closed her eyes as she listened to his plea. His voice was warm- soothing, even- as he asked for their acquaintance to continue. Was it possible? Did he really not hate her? He really seemed to want her to not leave.
As if he could sense her turmoil, he added, “Please, I would like for you to stay. Elizabeth, I don’t want you to go.”
Georgie, who had been quietly watching the scene, chose then to interject. “It’s okay, guys, just pretend I was never here.” Georgie’s work was accomplished; neither Lizzy or Will gave her a second her a second glance as she slipped away.
Lizzy sat back down, unsure of everything except needing to hear Will out. “You really want me to stay?”
“Yes,” he smiled, pleased that she’d joined him. “Consider a Christmas gift, if you will.”
“A Christmas gift?” She looked at him, skeptical of this odd request. “I thought you were the man who has everything.”
He put on a pained smile. “Not everything, Elizabeth. I don’t have you.”
In between kisses, Charlie and Jane were working out the new terms of their relationship.
“Remember,” Charlie said as he paused for breath, “I’m kinda dumb and can’t read minds. I need to be told things. And often.”
“Mmn-hmn… oh, that’s wonderful!” Jane managed to say hoarsely. She began to unbutton Charlie’s shirt. “And you’re going to speak to me when you aren’t sure how I’m feeling about something, instead of asking your sisters or trying to guess, right?”
His voice was ragged and breathless as he replied, “Absolutely. I know better now. Asking’s the best policy.” Charlie’s hand picked up the hem of her shirt. “As for asking, may I?”
Jane melted under his touch. “Please!”
They continued negotiating in this manner for some time until they were both highly satisfied.
Lizzy believed she must have heard Will wrong. That was the only logical explanation. But what if I heard him right? “Why would you want me?”
Will laid his hands on the table, palms down and fingers extended upwards in a gesture that she had witnessed him do countless times. Only now did she understand he did so whenever he became frustrated. Great, I’ve gone and aggravated him… again! Good job, Lizzy.
“Elizabeth, are you serious? I’ve always wanted you… because I’ve always loved you.” Okay, Darcy, your cards on the table… time to make your final play. “However, if you’re only being nice and tolerating me because of Georgie…” Will noticed her eyes had begun to water and he felt awful. Great, I’m such an idiot that I’ve made her cry.
“Stop, please!” She absently swiped away an unshed tear. “I’m not being nice and I’m not just tolerating you… can you really be that clueless?” Lizzy sniffled and used a napkin to wipe her face. “I thought elected officials had to have some common sense.”
This time, his smile was genuine. “You’d be surprised.”
“I guess so,” she returned his smile with one of her own. “I’ve tried… over and over I’ve tried… to forget you, to hate you, to try to stop thinking about you. But I failed. ‘Epic fail’ as your sister would say. You know what? Turns out that you simply can’t forget, hate or stop thinking about the man you love, no matter how hard you try.”
He reached for her hand, wishing they were anywhere but in a crowded restaurant. “Elizabeth…”
She squeezed his hand in return. “So, now that I’ve given you your gift, my Christmas shopping is finally complete.”
Will was amazed at how much his fortune had changed in so little time. “I have a confession to make.”
Lizzy was surprised. “Another?”
He nodded and gave her a wink. “Oh, yes it’s something very shocking. As a boy, I was terrible at waiting to open my presents- the worst.”
She pulled out her key-card and handed it to Will. “If that’s the case, then let’s go open your present, Congressman Darcy.”
That was an invitation that even William Darcy couldn’t misinterpret.
Seven- Mele Kalikimaka
Will, Lizzy, Jane, Charlie and Georgie all met the next morning for breakfast. Georgie wasn’t able to stay long, as she had to board the bus early to get to the stadium. Will had arranged for a second set of tickets so the girls could attend the game and see Georgie’s marching band play during the half-time show. It was decided that Will and Lizzy would take the original seats, since Will had made all the arrangements in the first place.
As the two new couples drove over to the stadium, they were still rejoicing at how circumstances had brought them together. They laughed at the stories of their near-misses over the few days prior.
Charlie had been happy to defer the driving to Will. That left him able to cuddle with Jane in the backseat. “Guess it’s a good that I did listen to old Darcy this one last time. If I hadn’t, I’d have been on a flight home to Maryland, while you were right here- in the same hotel!”
Will frowned and eyed his friend in the rear view mirror. “Please, Charlie, you would have come to the same conclusion if only you’d have taken a moment to think it through.” He cast a sidelong glance to Lizzy and grinned, “And now everything is as it should be.”
Jane whispered something to Charlie that made him laugh and say, “Really? We were there! You know what else is funny?” Then seeing Will’s reflection in the mirror, he decided to whisper it to Jane, causing her to laugh, too.
“Elizabeth,” Will asked, “is it just me, or do you get the feeling that they’re laughing at us?”
Lizzy turned to see Charlie and Jane’s heads put together. “Since they’re being terribly selfish and not letting us in on the joke, I think that’s a pretty safe assumption.”
“You two are ridiculous!” Charlie began. “You,” he smacked Will’s shoulder, “were moping about for months on end! Why? Because you were too chicken to pick up a damn phone!” When Lizzy laughed along with Charlie’s teasing, he poked her elbow and said, “Oh no, missy, you’re just as bad! Isn’t she Jane?”
That drew Will’s curiosity enough to ask, “What bad behavior do you have to accuse Lizzy of?”
Before Lizzy could voice her protest, Jane chimed in, “So, I understand you were at the same luau we where we were the other night. Do you recall anything about a drunken woman making a scene?”
Lizzy hid her face in her hands, mumbling, “Oh, no!”
Jane wasn’t about to stop now. A chance to tease Lizzy like this was too rare to pass up. “Oh, yes. So, Lizzy’s been miserable ever since last summer… though she never shared why, not even with her sister who’s allegedly her best friend. And though she hardly ever drinks, she chose the other night to become a Mai Tai lush. After she made a spectacle of herself, and believe me, it was a true spectacle, I get her back to our room and she starts gushing ‘Oh, Will’. Gee, it was ever so difficult to connect the dots.”
They’d reached the parking lot not a minute too soon for Lizzy. She glared at Jane. “Are you done embarrassing me yet?”
“For now. I just think it’s cute, in a very pathetic sort of way, that you two were mooning over each other and didn’t do anything about it.”
Charlie put his arm around her. “I agree with Jane.”
Will did the same with Lizzy and added, “Why am I not surprised?”
As they began to walk to the ticket gate, Charlie explained, “No, hear me out… Will here’s always trying to do what he feels is best for everyone and from what Jane’s said, Lizzy tries to do the same for those she loves, too. You are two of the most meddlesome people I’ve ever met and you deserve each other!”
Will and Lizzy each looked as though they were about to argue, but the protests died on their lips. Instead, when Charlie and Jane looked to them for a response, they just shrugged as Will said, “What can we say? You’re right.”
The first half of the 2011 Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl passed by quick enough. Southern Miss and Nevada exited the gridiron for a well-earned half-time rest while Georgie’s band took the field and got into position. Will was sitting on the edge of his seat, Lizzy’s hand crushed within his own as the band began their long program. The band played flawlessly and when their rendition of Mele Kalikimaka was over, the crowd stood to its feet to offer applause. No one clapped harder or cheered louder than Will.
“She was fantastic, Will.” Lizzy kissed his cheek. As the roar of the crowd began to quiet, Lizzy hugged him and said, “You should be very proud.”
“I am,” he beamed. “My sister just performed in front of a huge audience, so I suppose her shyness is probably just about gone. I’m on vacation in paradise with my best friend who, luck has it, is still speaking to me after I messed up his life. While on said vacation, I was able to finally make things right with the woman I love, who by some amazing miracle, love me back. Life is very nearly perfect.”
Lizzy raised an eyebrow in question. “Nearly perfect?”
Will made a thoughtful face. “Things could be better.”
“Really? And here I thought I was all you needed.”
He pulled her into his arms. “You are all I need, but I need you forever.” Will kissed her gently. “I hadn’t exactly planned doing this here, but since everything else with you has been so unexpected, why not?”
Lizzy now had a pretty good idea of what was coming and her heart began to beat faster in anticipation.
“Elizabeth Bennet, I love you more than I ever thought it was possible to love another person. I am not a great speechmaker, this is something we both know, or I would put into eloquent words how I feel about you. Instead, all I can do is promise to love and cherish you for the rest of my life. Elizabeth, will you marry me?”
Tears of joy welled up in her eyes, making Will visibly uncomfortable. Seeing his discomfort, Lizzy assured him all was well. “I love you, Will. I would love to marry you.” She kissed him then wiped the wet spot from where one of her tears fell on his cheek. “So you know, these are happy tears. Happy tears are good. Happy tears are something you’re going to need to get used to.”
“So long as you’re happy, my dearest, loveliest Elizabeth, I’m happy.”
It had been agreed upon earlier that everyone would meet back at the car after the game. As Charlie and Jane exited the stadium, he was struck by a brilliant idea. He led Jane to a grassy area just out of the way of the milling crowd. Charlie took Jane’s hand in his, looked into her beautiful blue eyes and said simply, with no pretense, “Marry me, Jane?”
Jane, with no hesitation, answered, “Of course I will, Charlie.”
He picked her up and spun his new fiancée around in celebration of their understanding.
When Will and Lizzy finally reached the car, they found Charlie and Jane waiting, but far from bored. They had reclaimed the backseat for the return trip to the hotel and were making use of it like they were teenagers in a 50’s movie.
Lizzy took great joy in interrupting the lovebirds by loudly clearing her throat. “Ahem, if you crazy kids aren’t too busy, we have some news.”
Jane climbed out of the car. She was flushed, but not just from the make-out session with Charlie. “We do, too!”
The Bennet sisters then exclaimed at the same time, “I’m getting married!”
Charlie had also gotten out and stood next to his best friend. He frowned and wryly commented to Will, “Notice they left us right out of there?”
Will watched the girls laugh together as they exchanged proposal stories. He knew they were both really excited and, being practical as always, he asked Charlie, “Do you really mind?”
Jane and Lizzy were practically glowing with happiness. “No, I suppose not. Congratulations, by the way.”
“Thanks, same to you.” Will realized that he and Charlie would be brothers after all and let out a chuckle.
“What? Is something funny?”
“Your sisters are going to be royally pissed about this, you know that, right?”
“Yeah, they never liked Jane and I know Caroline’s been trying to get her claws into you for ages.” Will knew the moment Charlie understood what had tickled him. “She always said it would be wonderful if we could be brothers. You’re right; she’s definitely going to be angry. In fact, pissed isn’t the right world. I think ballistic or nuclear would be a bit more accurate.”
The girls had finally settled down enough for the ride back to the hotel. They passed on the idea of having dinner together as a group. They made separate arrangements to spend Christmas eve together, going so far as to have Jane and Will switch rooms.
A very smug Georgie met Will and Lizzy for an early dinner to hear the news. “I knew it! I knew it all along.”
“Yes,” Will played along. “You’re very smart, aren’t you?”
“I am, thank you. So, when’s the big day?”
“We haven’t really discussed it yet…” Lizzy answered, sounding a little disappointed, “but I know your brother has many obligations he needs to meet, so I’ll leave those arrangements to him.”
“Elizabeth, the only obligation I care about right now is making you my wife.”
Georgie was on the case. Using her smartphone’s googling abilities, in a matter of moments she had the Hawai’i Depart of Health website up and informed them both that they could be married immediately upon obtaining a marriage license. “Yep, it says here there are no residency requirements, blood tests or any of that other stuff. If you guys really wanted to, you could be married before New Year’s.”
Will thought the idea had a lot of merit, but wasn’t sure how Lizzy would feel about it. “What do you think? Will you elope with me?”
“My mom won’t like it. That right there is almost reason enough to do it.”
“Elizabeth, I’m serious, would you like to get married next week? Here in Honolulu?”
She nodded, rewarding him with a huge smile and more tears. “I want nothing more than that. This is the best Christmas ever.”
He was beginning to get the hang of this. He used his thumb to gently stop a tear trail. “These are the happy ones, right?”
On Christmas morning, Will and Lizzy explained their plans to Charlie and Jane, who decided it was the most brilliant idea they’d ever heard.
“And what do I get for all my hard work and planning?” Georgie pouted, “I get sent off all alone to my room.”
Will didn’t agree. “Hardly, sister dearest. I believe you were pretty anxious to ditch us and get to your party. Isn’t that right, Elizabeth?”
“I believe the exact words she used were ‘get a room you two’.”
“Well, yeah!” Georgie made a face. “You guys were getting pretty touchy-feely to be out in public like that. And with me right there, an impressionable, innocent youth!”
Jane teased Lizzy, “Can we trade sister-in-laws? I’ve got quite a deal for you, two for the price of one!”
“No way, Jane. Sorry, but Georgie- though she can be a pain in the neck sometimes- is a keeper.”
It was agreed that on Monday morning both couples would apply for marriage licenses and share a simple beachside wedding ceremony.
The couples and Georgie spent Christmas day on the beach, enjoying the sun and surf. The general happiness shared by everyone in their little group was a far cry from the misery they’d all begun this trip with.
Monday morning, right as the office opened, Will, Charlie, Lizzy and Jane applied for their licenses. By nighttime, Lizzy had become Mrs. Darcy and Jane would be forever known as Mrs. Bingley. Georgie, pleased that her scheming had borne fruit, was tired of feeling like a fifth wheel and took an early flight home to spend the rest of her Christmas break with her aunt and uncle, allowing Will and Lizzy to honeymoon in peace.
In early January, the happy newlyweds finally returned home to break the news to their families. As expected, Charlie’s sisters were less than thrilled by the idea of being related to Jane. Of course, after they thought it through, they realized that they still had that elusive Darcy connection to power that they had wanted so badly, so all was not completely lost.
The most surprising reaction came from Mrs. Bennet. Her biggest concern was that there might be a scandal attached to Will’s hasty decision to marry that could possibly damage his career. When they assured her there was no scandal, she calmed down immediately and even thanked the girls for sparing her the stress of planning a high society wedding.
Mr. Bennet was saddened to see his time as the most important man in his two favorite daughter’s lives had expired. “It comes to every man who is lucky enough to have a daughter,” he warned Will. “I imagine you’re the sort who’ll suffer greatly when some young man comes to claim your sister’s, or better yet, your own daughter’s hand. At least I have the satisfaction of knowing my girls married worthy men.”
No one ever remembered there being such a wonderful Christmas before.
Lizzy eventually sold her gym to Will’s cousin who’d recently retired from the Army. Jake Fitzwilliam expanded the business to include a series of self-defense classes in addition to the standard fare of aerobics and yoga. His classes were so popular and difficult to get into, that he was persuaded to record a series of fitness videos that became instant best-sellers. Just how many of those DVDs were sold to women who just wanted to watch Jake move and sweat is something the world may never know.
Though Lizzy still loved personal training, she found being a politician’s wife was more than enough to keep her days occupied. She loved working with Will for the betterment of their congressional district. Lizzy spent her days seeing to the concerns of Will’s constituents and helping Will translate those needs into action. Together, they made an amazing team. Any misunderstandings they had in the beginning were quickly overcome as they learned to communicate with one another in a way that left no room for misinterpretation.
Charlie, much to the dismay of his sisters, re-opened his Baltimore gallery located right next to Jane’s travel agency. Jane’s kind and gentle loving influence was the making of Charles Bingley. No more were the days where he lacked self-confidence. When one feels secure knowing they are loved unconditionally, they feel like they could take on the world and Jane’s love did exactly that for Charlie. He was now imbued with enough self-assurance that he had no need to rely on others for their opinions. Charles Bingley had finally grown into a man even his disapproving father would have been proud of.
It had taken a lifetime, but Jane had learned at last to be more discerning of other people’s motives. Being Mrs. Charles Bingley had also boosted Jane’s own confidence. She could no longer afford to the soft touch she’d always been, she needed to be strong for Charlie. Oddly enough, Jane’s new ability to take charge only added to her appeal.
William Darcy still struggled from time to time with the need to help others (or interfere, as Lizzy preferred to call it) when he thought they needed it. Years of being in charge, first his sister, next the family business, then finally his congressional district taught him to rely on his own good opinion first and foremost. Through his marriage to Lizzy, Will quickly learned that there were many other points of view to consider before making life-altering decisions for others. It took a lot of trial, error and patience, but he had finally learned to let others live their own lives. Georgie had even stopped calling him a control freak.
The following Christmas, Will surprised Lizzy with an envelope. “What’s this, Will? I already told you, you didn’t need to get me anything for Christmas. What more could I possibly need?”
Will may not have always been the most observant of men, but he always noted everything about his wife. Lately she had been seemingly run-down and it occurred to him that they’d been working very hard and could use a quiet getaway for the New Year. Since the year before they had seen so little of the island, he had the brilliant idea of a second honeymoon to Hawaii. This time around he figured they might even get around to actually leaving the room once in a while.
“I know you said that, but this is something I think we both will really enjoy. Just open it already!”
Lizzy teased him for a moment. “Maybe I’ll wait a few more days to open this…”
Will appeared ready to burst with anticipation. “Fine,” Lizzy kissed his cheek, “I’ll take pity on you and open it now.” She slit open the envelope and chided him, “You and your inability to wait to open gifts is simply amazing.”
He wrapped his arms around her from behind while she took the papers out to look at them. “True, but my all-time favorite present insists on re-wrapping herself all the time.” He placed a kiss just below her ear and whispered, “It makes it feel like Christmas every day.”
Lizzy didn’t answer as she was too stunned by Will’s present to think coherently.
“Surprise! Well, Elizabeth, what do you think? We leave tonight for two weeks in paradise. We can even call it a celebration of the Mayan non-apocalypse. Merry Christmas, Mrs. Darcy!”
When Lizzy turned around with tears in her eyes Will didn’t think they were the happy tears and wondered what it was he’d done wrong.
“Will, why didn’t you ask me about this before you booked this?”
“Because that would make it so much less like a surprise, dearest.”
Her lip trembled as she told him, “I can’t go.”
This was not at all the reaction he’d hoped for. “Why on earth not? Our schedules are clear and your parents aren’t expecting us anytime soon.”
Lizzy was openly crying now. “My parents know about this trip? Doesn’t matter, still can’t go. Let me get you your gift and then I’ll explain.”
Her frustration was clearly marked by the crease on her forehead. He really hated it when he made her look like that. “What gift? We weren’t doing gifts, remember?”
“Yes! I remember!” Lizzy practically yelled. “And if you’d stuck to that, then everything would be fine now! But no… the great William Darcy always knows what’s best for everyone!”
That really hurt him. He crossed his arms and shot back, “But how would it have been all right for you to have gotten me a gift, but not fine for me to get one for you? You’re not playing fairly, Elizabeth.”
Lizzy opened up the side-table drawer and withdrew a small, wrapped package. “Here’s your present, you aggravating, infuriating jerk!” She threw it right at his head. “Enjoy unwrapping that.”
Will held the present in one hand while he rubbed his aching head with the other. “Elizabeth, why are we fighting? I only wanted to do something nice for you, as a way to show you how much I love you.”
The anger was gone now, but the tears remained. “I know that. Really, I do. Just open the damn present and I think everything will become clear.”
He wasn’t sure solving this unknown problem would be so simple, but he decided to go along with her anyways, since that usually worked out for the best. Carefully, he opened the small square package. Will frowned. “It’s a piece of Tupperware.”
Lizzy said anxiously, “Open it.”
Will took the lid off the container and found a pregnancy stick inside. A plus sign was clearly visible on the indicator strip. It took a moment for his brain to register what he was looking at. “Is this what I think it is?”
Lizzy nodded. Sadly, she explained, “That’s the reason I can’t go. I’ve been getting sick so much lately. An elevator rides lay me out flat, so I think an endless plane ride would kill me. I think you’ll agree that our child is a little more important than a vacation.” When Will didn’t say anything, Lizzy rambled on, “And I know I haven’t been easy to live with these last few weeks… I’ve been weepy one moment and… well, crabby the next. I’m irritable and emotional. I can’t keep anything down for breakfast… and lunch isn’t much better. I’d love to go to Hawaii with you, really, I can’t think of anyplace I’d rather go. But… right now, I just can’t because of the baby. Doctor Parks says that in another month or so, I should start feeling better and…”
Will hadn’t moved at all. Still in awe, he was so focused on the present in his hands that Lizzy began to worry. “Well, what do you think? Are you pleased? Not pleased? Say something…”
Will’s face split into a huge grin, the likes of which were rarely seen on the usually serious face of the congressman. “Lizzy, I couldn’t be more pleased. This… this is amazing!” He set the precious gift down and took the even more precious one into his arms. “I didn’t think I’d ever receive a more special gift than your love, but I was wrong.” Will gently wiped her tears away with his thumb and then gave her a tender kiss. “Thank you, my dearest Elizabeth, for giving me- for making us- a family.”
Lizzy returned his kiss, smiled and said, “I think our becoming a family is the best gift of all.”
~And they lived happily ever after…~
First, thanks to you for not giving up on me and coming to read my stories. I appreciate it more than I can ever express. The other things are not forgotten about and are still being worked on. Secondly, a million thanks to the amazing, talented Debra Anne for helping me make some sense out of this idea! This was written last year, but then things happened and it didn’t seem right to post a Christmas story in March. Any mistakes at this point are, like always, my fault. Hope you enjoyed Mele Kalikimaka. If you did, please consider writing a comment and letting me know. Thanks! I hope everyone has a fantastic holiday season & a wonderful New Year!
Mele Kalikimaka by Jennifer “michchick” Hickling is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://meanderingsandmissives.com/.