What if Darcy believed Elizabeth to be pregnant with another man’s child?
‘So much for two days of relaxation! I thought this weekend I’d be able to rest body and soul in peace. Why did I agree to go? How can I hope to relax in such company? The last thing I want is to spend my time being nice to a bunch of strangers’.
Elizabeth had received a phone call from her sister. The original plan for the weekend had included just the three of them; herself, Jane and Charles Bingley, Jane’s new boyfriend. Unfortunately, Jane had rung to say that they would no longer be alone, as Charles had now asked his best friend to come for the weekend. If that wasn’t bad enough, the sister of Charles had invited herself as well, without telling him. If Jane hadn’t felt overwhelmed by the thought of being with the strangers, Elizabeth would have turned her twenty-year-old Mini around and spent the weekend on her own. She didn’t have the patience to deal with another city slicker like Michael Darcy’s father, who was so quick to despise a young, single pregnant woman.
As if sensing its owner’s unwillingness to go any closer, her little Mini began making a loud spluttering noise, and finally broke down about three miles from Netherfield. As Jane wasn’t answering her phone, Elizabeth decided to walk the remaining distance. Although the sun was setting, the air was still hot and muggy. Fast cars flew by, splashing her with mud and dirt that had built up from the heavy showers they’d had earlier in the day. By the time she arrived at Charles’ weekend retreat she looked like a nomad who had travelled across the Sahara desert.
She walked between the towering pine that grew along the driveway and came face to face with a tall well-groomed man she recognised. Her heart sank.
Darcy had escaped from the house, for a moment of well deserved solitude after giving Michael a bath, when he was confronted with a petite, dishevelled pregnant woman dragging a wheeled travel bag behind her.
‘So much for two days of relaxation! I thought this weekend I’d be able to rest body and soul in peace. Charles drooling over his new-found angel was bad enough. I wish he’d told me before that she would have a sister in tow. And talking of sisters ... what did I do to deserve getting stuck with Caroline Bingley? I wish I’d never agreed to this weekend. Now I’ll have to be nice to all of them’.
“What are you doing here?”
“I am visiting a friend.”
“Oh. Charles is …your friend?”
“Yes. What about you? Do you know Charles? Wait ... you’re not Jane’s sister?”
Elizabeth lifted her chin defiantly. “I am.”
Darcy gazed at her dust-covered body. She was truly beautiful, even in her present tousled state. Her vivid eyes were further brightened by the exercise and a healthy glow had appeared on her cheeks from under her porcelain white skin. Her enticing cleavage was heaving up and down against the soft thin fabric of her sundress. He could easily imagine her in a similar state after another kind of exercise … with him on top.
‘Darcy! You’ve got to stop it! Where did all this come from? She is pregnant with another man’s baby’.
Darcy cursed the sudden arousal and spoke in a voice harsher than he intended. “You came all the way here on foot? It’s nearly six miles!”
“I’m not so poorly paid that I have to walk six miles to visit my sister. I can afford a car, only it broke down mid-way.”
Elizabeth gave him an angry glare and walked on. Insufferable man! Why did he have to be so handsome! He was wearing an impeccable dark blue Ralph Polo jacket, a white T-shirt that was filled by his broad chest, and dark blue trousers that hugged his masculine legs and tight butt. His lips were as perfect as she remembered.
Darcy’s eyes devoured her swaying bottom for a moment before he remembered his manners. He increased his pace and took the travel bag from her. “Allow me,” he said.
Elizabeth’s hand felt like it had been scorched by fire when he touched her. She looked at his hands, they were as lean and strong as she remembered.
‘Elizabeth! You’ve got to stop it!’
When the silent couple entered the sitting room, introductions were made. Darcy and Elizabeth explained how they had met before at the doctor's office, and Michael's childcare centre.
“William! Where have you been?” Caroline Bingley demanded, as she pulled Darcy closer to her side. She had noticed the way Darcy was looking at Jane’s short fat pregnant sister as the two had walked into the room.
‘He seemed to want to jump her right there. Men and their carnal lust! Perhaps I should boost up my breasts to 36D.’
Caroline had regretted wasting three years abroad, when she had been chasing several men, all seemingly rich than Darcy. They had all turned out to be hollow men with little net worth. She was not getting any younger and her trust fund was rapidly diminishing. She had to get a tight grip on Darcy, and had thanked the Lord when she found out Charles was seeing him this weekend.
Caroline and her younger brother had never got on particularly well, and she hadn’t kept in touch with him at all during the years when she had been travelling. Charles was a pushover; he let his ‘angels’ walk all over him. The only time she found him remotely useful was when he could introduce her to his Cambridge friends, as most of them were extremely rich. Darcy was one of them. With the mother of the little brat Michael away, she thought she could get chummy with him by showing him her motherly instinct. Why did this pregnant little upstart have to turn up and spoil her plans?
“Lizzy, are you ok? Why are you so late?” Jane asked with concern.
“Liz, mud?” Little Michael walked toward Elizabeth, holding out his arms to be picked up. Darcy swiftly intercepted him, sweeping him up and into his arms. He didn’t want Michael to tire her out.
Elizabeth watched Darcy pick up Michael, and was annoyed with the tall man.
‘Now I’m too dirty for his son’.
For the boy’s sake, she forced herself to smile. “Hi, little Michael, how are you?” He stuck out his bottom lip, unable to understand why he couldn’t be in her arms. She ruffled his hair to reassure him and turned to her sister. “I’m sorry. My car broke down mid-way and I couldn’t reach you. So I walked.” She looked down at her clothes, acknowledging their state with a rueful smile. “Maybe I should freshen up. I don’t want to mess up Charles’ nice furniture here.”
“Don’t worry about it, Elizabeth,” Charles reassured her cheerfully. “But you might feel more comfortable once you’ve had chance to freshen up. You must be tired after such a long walk in your condition. We’ll have dinner in an hour; does that give you enough time? Later, we’ll see about getting your car recovered and fixed.”
Thanking him, Elizabeth followed her sister upstairs.
Caroline made a few attempts at being motherly to Michael, but he constantly ignored her, preferring instead to ask Darcy about Liz. Sick of hearing that woman’s name, Caroline decided that the better form of defence was to attack. “Charles, did you see the dirt and mud on her clothes?” she began. “Who would be so stupid as to walk three miles alone instead of waiting for help? William, that was quick thinking on your part, taking our little Sweet Pea away from her! You don’t want to be giving him another bath today. He was quite a handful earlier on.”
Darcy hated Caroline’s pet name for Michael, and the way she talked down to the boy. He was about to explain why he took Michael away from Elizabeth, but she continued without a pause. “So, Charles, she is pregnant, and without the benefit of a husband or boyfriend? Does she even know whose sperm it was? I bet she picks up dozens of men on the highway, whilst walking.” Caroline burst out laughing. “Shouldn’t you be careful about this new angel of yours? The ‘fast and easy’ gene may run in the family. Sleeping around, you know.”
“Caroline, could you be any more crude? Jane is the nicest and sweetest girl I have ever met. She is not the type to sleep around.”
“Oh, so the big sister’s keeping her legs closed tight and won’t give you a taste? You’ve been dating for what, over a month? Don’t tell me she strings you along saying she’s a virgin. Men are so dumb! Maybe you should try her little sister tonight? Miss Eliza may give you a freebie while you pine for Jane. Did your sweet angel tell you how her sister became pregnant? I bet she didn’t. These girls are all looking for a one-way ticket out of their country town. They haven’t yet learned that men don’t give out free tickets.”
“Caroline, your mouth is dirtier than the gutter! Not all young, unmarried pregnant women sleep around. They may have made a mistake with the wrong guy,” Bingley argued.
Darcy thought about Bingley’s outburst. He couldn’t agree more with what he said about Caroline and Elizabeth and nodded his head.
“Yeah, a mistake like opening her legs without thinking about the consequences,” Caroline said, as the Bennet sisters walked into the room again.
‘Mr. Perfect thinks I sleep around and didn’t think about the consequences. So typical!’
Elizabeth pretended she hadn’t heard as she entered the room and greeted everyone again. Michael ran to her immediately, wrapping his arms around her thigh. “Liz, play!”
“Mikey, Elizabeth needs to get some rest and we will have dinner soon. It’s your bedtime. Let’s go.” Darcy tried to get him away from her, but in vain.
“No bed! Play, Liz!” Michael hid his face behind Elizabeth legs, evading Darcy’s plea. Darcy crouched down in front of Elizabeth and talked to him. “Mikey, come to bed. I’ll read you a dinosaur story.”
“Dinosaur!” The little boy nodded his head, but still held onto Elizabeth’s leg. “Liz read.”
Caroline had had enough of the brat. He had drawn Darcy’s attention away from her earlier, wasting her precious time. Now he was making Darcy crouch near to the fat country upstart. The bile rose in her throat and she forgot about pretending to be maternal. She scowled as she warned, “Troublesome boys might be swallowed up by dinosaurs tonight.”
Michael burst into tears.
“Caroline!” Bingley and Darcy both hissed at the same time.
Elizabeth crouched down and picked the crying boy up. “Shoosh, shoosh, Michael,” she said softly. “Have you heard the story about a little dinosaur named Mikey?”
The question was enough to pique his interest. He slowed down his crying and shook his head. “Well, little Mikey found some treasure in the desert one day. Do you know what that treasure was?” The little boy stopped crying all together, his attention focused on Elizabeth, and he shook his head again. “Well it’s a secret! So shall we go to your bedroom so that no one hears about this secret?”
Michael broke out a wide grin and nodded his head, “Mikey love secret. Da come!”
Elizabeth moved the little boy on to her right hip and walked towards the door, asking, “Do you know where you’re sleeping tonight?”
Michael shook his head and looked to Darcy.
“I’ll go with you,” Darcy said, and stood to follow the pair.
“It’s the first door on the left at the top of the stairs,” Caroline interjected. “Darcy, there is no need to go with them. Come and try some of the wine I brought back from Paris.” She latched onto Darcy’s arm.
Elizabeth shrugged and walked on.
Darcy turned to glare at Caroline, and said coldly, “I prefer to see Mikey settled.”
Caroline persisted. “In that case I’ll come with you.”
Michael heard her, turned back, and pointed his finger at her, “No! Witch no come!”
Elizabeth tried to distract the boy again. “Now, remember the little dinosaur, Mikey?”
“Bloody hell!” Caroline growled at Michael, and made him cry again.
“Caroline! Just stay here,” Darcy demanded, and pulled got his arm free from her clutches. He then walked quickly to follow Elizabeth up the stairs.
Elizabeth was telling Michael the story as they walked. She weaved it with twists and turns and continued to ask him questions.
Not a few minutes after she put Michael down on his bed, the little boy was sound asleep. Darcy admired her imagination, and marvelled at her ability to tell the story in an animated and yet smoothing voice. He loved to watch her ruffle Michael’s hair and bed sheet. Her attempt to making sure he was tucked in nice and warm was very endearing. She would be an excellent mother, he thought, imagining making babies with her and watching her feed them.
Sitting on the bed, Elizabeth caught Darcy’s intense gaze. Does he look at me to find fault? Does he want to see if I am fit to be a mother? she mused. And yet, she could not make up her mind about his stare; especially when Michael fell asleep and she swore she saw admiration in his eyes. In fact, she felt hot and flustered under his gaze. When she finally raised her head and met his eyes, she saw tenderness and then … passion. Her breathing became shallow. His big frame looming at the door made the room seem so much smaller. She needed to get away. But she wouldn’t be intimidated. She arched her eyebrows and looked directly at him, and then stood up and brushed past him. She walked out of the room with as much elegance as a pregnant woman could muster.
Darcy savoured her sweet scent and felt unbelievably pulled to this ‘unreachable’ woman. Unreachable until he had at least made sure there were no skeletons in her cupboard.
During dinner, Caroline took every opportunity to berate her rival. “So, Miss Eliza, you moved to Canterbury from Meryton?”
“So, does the father of your baby still live in Meryton, or is he here?”
“I would rather not talk about it. I moved here to study.”
“You are studying, working in a doctor’s office, and in a child care centre? I don’t know how women can be so accomplished. They can all multi-task far better than any man,” Bingley said.
“Accomplished? Charles, your idea of what equates to is far too common. What’s so accomplished about being pregnant, unmarried and making ends meet?” Caroline snorted.
“Caroline!” Bingley hissed.
“ I’m amazed how, in this day and age, young pregnant single women are still faced with such stereotypes and prejudices. It happens a lot in a small town, and I find it fascinating as a study of human behaviour,” Elizabeth commented.
“The country can in general supply but a few subjects for such a study,” said Darcy, “In a country neighbourhood one moves in a very confined and unvarying society.”
“But this is a university town with close proximity to London. The neighbourhood consists of international students and lecturers as well as city slickers like yourselves who only come to town at the weekend. I find there is always something new to observe,” Elizabeth replied.
“I’m sure there are just two dozen families in the whole town and Miss Eliza works for all of them,” Caroline laughed.
“There are many more than twenty-four families, actually. But some of their responses to unmarried pregnant women have been most interesting.”
“How so? They don’t think you are pulling your weight?” asked Darcy.
“Without getting into the serious stuff, there were raised eyebrows when I needed to take four or five toilet breaks in one morning. Or when I constantly needed to sit down on a chair, or on the floor.” Elizabeth looked archly towards Darcy. “And then there was this one particular father who came into the child care centre with his young son just yesterday and ogled constantly at my bigger boobs.”
Darcy blushed on hearing her last remark. He hadn’t realised that he was so obvious. To cover up his discomfort, he said, “You encountered some serious prejudice?”
“Oh, just the usual ones, like being pregnant and unmarried. Or that a pregnant woman deserves to be sent away by her rich boyfriend. It’s just a case of poor equals being stupid, really.”
“So your boyfriend is rich and he left you because you got pregnant on purpose?”
“Caroline!” Bingley cried out.
“I am just trying to understand our new friend here. You always said I should learn to be more understanding,” she replied casually.
“Caroline is all friendliness! I’m not talking about myself. It’s one of the kids’ mothers. I got the impression she had been sent away by her rich boyfriend, but I may be wrong as I don’t work on the days when her child comes in. There may be a perfectly good reason why she was sent away.”
Darcy realised she was talking about him and hoped he would have the occasion to explain about what she overheard of his conversation with Michael's mother. Elizabeth was wrong about him. But the dinner went on with Caroline giving out punch after punch, and Elizabeth evading them effectively. Added to her beauty, Darcy now admired her quick wit too. She never resorted to Caroline’s crude and acid verbal tactics, no matter how hard Caroline tried to debase her pregnant and unmarried situation.
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