Darcy did not need to read her letter. Now that he understood what he was, such laborious communications were unnecessary. If he was no more than a conscious trapped in time, what import could letters have?
He met her in her dream, as he had done in his own dreams so many years ago. He found her walking along the paths of Longbourn.
“Miss Bennett,” he called after her. She turned to face him. He caught up to her. “Will you not walk with me a bit?” He offered her his arm.
“I do not know this place,” she said quietly.
“You do. You grew up here,” he replied as she tucked her arm into his elbow.
“Yes, I know. I am very confused.”
He laughed. “Dearest Lizzy, anything is possible in dreams, do you not know that?”
“Is that what you called me? Lizzy? I am now known as Beth.”
“No, I was never given the privilege of calling you Lizzy. You were always Miss Elizabeth Bennett. Though I fondly wished for the privilege.”
“You may call me Lizzy if it pleases you,” she replied.
“Thank you, Lizzy,” he smiled.
“Did you read my letter?” she asked.
“In a manner, yes.”
“Will you find peace now?”
“Peace?” he asked.
“Yes. Now that you know that I have always loved you, will you be able to rest in peace?”
He stopped along the path and turned to face her. “Do you think that after so long, a simple ‘I love you’ will put me at rest?”
“I think we will find each other again, when the time is right,” she answered.
“Dearest Lizzy, the time is now.” With that, he took her into his arms and kissed her with all the tenderness, longing, and passion that he had held in his heart.
Elizabeth woke with a start, her lips tingling.
The time is now, she thought. What can he mean? She lay awake in bed, recalling her dream. Was it only a dream? Had he found a way to communicate with her? Or was her overactive imagination getting the better of her? In the light of day it seemed the latter explanation was the more likely one.
She rose from bed and dressed and set about her tasks for the day. She found that her mind was unusually focused; she was able to make decisions more quickly and with more certainty than ever before. She knew with unparalleled clarity which exact colors that must be used for each room. She notified the roofer of a particularly bad spot hidden under the boughs of the tree. She instructed the landscaper to trim back the branches three feet. She pointed out a hidden passageway to a contractor inspecting the cellars. She did not question how she knew these things.
As dusk drew on, she looked out the window overlooking the pond. At the edge she saw a figure on horseback. Their eyes seemed to meet, although she could not make out his features and certainly he could not see her inside the house as she was. Then he was gone. She did not look away, he did not ride away; he was simply…gone.
She looked away with a shiver.
Darcy now had a new concept of time and space. The rules of life no longer applied to him. He could exist in ways that defied human comprehension. He imparted to her information on the improvement of the house. He watched her work with the contractors; people so unlike anything he had ever seen. Their dress and manners were so coarse and yet he knew that she was, in essentials, still the same.
He hovered near her until one especially perceptive contractor looked at him curiously. Then he retired to the parlor to wait for her.
“M’am, this house is funny. You sure you want to live here?” one of her contractors said as he was packing up for the evening.
“Funny? What do you mean? It’s a lovely house,” she laughed.
“Didn’t you ever wonder why it was left abandoned for 50 years?” he replied.
“No, not really. It’s a big house. It’s a lot of work to take care of. I imagine nobody wanted the burden.”
“Humph,” was the contractor’s reply. “You just be careful, things ain’t always what they seem,” he said as he picked up his toolkit.
“No, indeed,” she murmured as she watched him walk away.
Elizabeth went to the parlor. Darcy was waiting for her.
“Are you here?” she asked into the empty room.
I am right in front of you, he replied.
She could not hear him.
“Don’t scare off my workers!” she said with some force.
Darcy laughed and followed her as she walked to the French door leading to the terrace.
She could not hear his laugh but she could sense that he was there.
“Can you hear me?” she asked softly.
Yes, he replied sadly, but you cannot hear me.
She waited in vain for a reply to her question. She looked disappointed.
“Don’t you want to talk to me? I thought you were violently in love with me,” she said, annoyed.
He walked to the piano and tapped a key. Her head swung toward the sound.
“Is that you?” she asked. He tapped the key again. She sighed in relief. “Don’t leave me,” she said. He tapped the key again.
She turned her head toward the glass; it was now dark outside and her reflection was plain on the glass before her. As she watched, before her eyes his reflection began to appear on the glass. She stood still, not wanting to disturb him. She could see his dark, wavy hair and piercing green eyes. He was directly behind her; she should be able to feel his breath against her cheek. She put one hand to the glass and watched as his reflection raised a hand to meet hers. After a moment, his image faded away. She put her head down and cried for a moment before collecting herself.
“I am going upstairs for a bath. I will come back down in an hour. Perhaps we can talk then,” she said quietly.
He had been exhausted by the manifestation; visual or physical manifestations were so difficult! It was much easier to enter her consciousness but he could not do that when she was awake and active. He let himself revert to his ethereal form and followed her upstairs.
She had stripped to her panties and undershirt before she began to wonder if he were there. Then she said,
“Mr. Darcy, if you are a gentleman, you should leave now.”
He attended her rebuke and retired to the parlor until she had bathed.
With a glass of wine in her hand and a thick terry robe wrapped around her, she made her way to the parlor. How strange that I am convinced that I have a ghost and I am not in the least frightened, she mused. On the contrary, she welcomed him; this was his home, after all. Or else she was completely batty.
She settled in the chair after building a fire, wine bottle close at hand. She re-read his last letter and felt the wine washing over her. Before she knew it, she was in a state of semi-consciousness, just hovering on the edge of drifting off to sleep. She opened her eyes just a crack and saw him seated across from her.
“You’re here,” she murmured softly.
Yes. Do not wake up, you cannot hear me when you are awake, he said.
She heard his reply in her own mind rather than with her ears. She nodded drowsily.
“Did you kill yourself?” she asked him.
No, it was an accident. I was thrown from my horse. My wounds were grievous but would not have been fatal had I the will to live.
“You wanted to die?”
Not precisely; I simply did not care to keep living. I did not staunch the blood and my life slipped away in a very agreeable manner.
“I—she loved you very much.”
You are the same person. I do not know how but I do know that you are she. And as you already know, I am he.
“I am not afraid of you,” she mused.
I would never have it so, my love. Nor do I think if our positions were reversed, that I would fear you.
“No, it’s a relief to finally find you.”
“Can you show me your home?” she asked. He smiled and slipped into her consciousness. In her mind, he appeared as a man in Regency period clothing with a top hat and walking stick. She appeared as herself but in a Regency period dress. She looked down at herself and laughed.
“Is this your doing or mine?” she said as she plucked at the peach dress she was wearing. He smiled at her. Suddenly the dress color changed to yellow.
“Now it is my doing,” he grinned. She laughed and took his arm and they strolled through the Pemberley of their imaginations.
His presence became common to her. She would often hear her name whispered in the middle of the day. Occasionally she would feel a soft touch, as if he were stroking her arm. She had not seen his full form again save when he invaded her dreams but she sometimes caught glimpses of a flash of white as if he had just turned a corner. He always seemed to be just on the fringes of her vision.
These visitations were not disturbing to her; on the contrary, they brought her comfort. This strange relationship was the most real, most meaningful relationship she had ever experienced. She felt as if she had been dropped onto earth for the sole purpose of this communication. This was her destiny, Pemberley was her home.
Then, for two weeks, she heard nothing at all. She did not feel his presence. He did not come to her dreams. Each night she sat in the parlor and deliberately clung to a state of semi-consciousness in the hopes that he would come to her but he did not. She wondered if he had found peace. The thought perhaps he had found peace, and left her to what remained of her meaningless life, troubled her.
The whisper woke her from a sound sleep. The room was black as pitch; she would not have been able to see her hand if she waved it before her face. Had she heard her name or had it been wishful thinking? She held her breath.
“Yes?” she whispered. Her skin was tingling and the hair on her arms was standing on end. She heard a distant rumble.
“Lizzy.” It was a whispered sigh. His voice held such longing; a lifetime and more of suffering, waiting and wanting.
“I am here with the storm,” he said. Another distant rumble alerted her to the approaching electrical storm.
She could feel his breath stirring on her cheek; he had never wakened her in her bedroom before. She let out a trembling sigh. She was fully awake; he was not in her consciousness, he was here with her.
“Will you have me?” he whispered. His voice sounded ethereal and multi-tonal. It had a resonance to it that made her shiver.
“Yes,” she whispered.
As she closed her eyes, she felt the air thicken around her. The atmosphere seemed to sparkle with collected energy. Every nerve ending in her body began to tingle.
Soft, ethereal lips touched hers. Cool arms embraced her and she felt a weight descend on her body. Hands that were not solid caressed her breast. She arched against his presence that seemed at once solid and insubstantial. Her breath quickened as a sensation of effervescence washed over her body. She could not tell in the darkness whether he was visible, but when she closed her eyes, she could see him gazing at her with piercing green eyes.
His swirling energy crackled about her. They were consumed with each other, physical united with metaphysical in a consummation of spirituality and sexuality. The ecstasy felt by each was a lifetime in the waiting but scant heartbeats in the making.
She cried out as the storm descended, lightning flashing and ozone filling her senses. She saw him as the storm lit the windows with light and for a split second she saw on his face a reflection of her own desperation, longing, and despair. His energy scattered, dissipated by the apex of their union, and tears coursed from her eyes as she tried to hold him, sobbing, unable to gather him to her for comfort.
Even as she cried, she tried to compose herself for sleep with the hope that he would meet her in her dreams. He did not fail her.
In her dream, she came upon him sitting on a bench, naked and bent. Sobs wracked his body. She sat next to him on the bench and folded him to her own naked form. They cried together and made love together and promised the world that they could not give to each other. His tear-filled eyes looked into hers and he said,
“God has forsaken us.”
“No, fate has forsaken us. God has allowed us here,” she replied.
“Elizabeth.” The whisper in her ear distracted her. She jerked her head as the hair stirred by his breath tickled her ear. The motion caused the stack of boxes she was carrying to begin to topple. As she tried to look around the stack and keep them from tumbling down the steps, she lost her footing. She fell headlong down the stairs, boxes flying in all directions. She heard the spindles of the balustrade snap as she tried to catch herself on the way down.
She came to just a moment later. She took the hand that was offered to her gratefully and stood, relieved and annoyed.
“Damn, how many spindles did I break?” she asked, thinking of the cost of the craftsmen that would be required to replace them. She heard a soft laugh and turned to see Darcy standing before her.
“That, my darling, was the sound of your lovely neck snapping.”
Elizabeth turned and saw her broken body sprawled at the foot of the steps, her neck twisted at an impossible angle. Contractors had gathered around her to try to revive her but she was clearly beyond hope. She turned back to Darcy.
“You killed me!” she exclaimed.
“I apologize. It was an accident,” he replied with a smile.
“Did you want me dead?” she asked.
He pulled her into his arms; he felt warm, solid, and alive.
“Not precisely. I just didn’t care for you to continue living. Sometimes, love, one must take fate into one’s own hands. And now, we have eternity to map out our own fate together.”