[completed - R]
As he stood in the sitting room, the love of his life was before him. So many things had happened since he first met her and this moment was the culmination of three years. This was the most feared event, yet it happened all the same. All they could do was stare at each other, neither daring to move. This is why.
He had fallen in love with her almost the first time he saw her beautifully alive eyes. At that point he knew he must have her as his wife. Not everything goes to plan though does it? When he had seen her one spring, he was about to propose to her. Beaten to it, somebody had already asked for her hand and she had accepted. His cousin was the lucky man that had the pleasure of kissing her, holding her, making love to her. The pang of jealousy he had at first felt over the match had only increased in intensity. Finding excuses to always visit her, to just see her, talk to her, silently love her. If he couldn't have her, he would make sure she was safe from everything. Little did he know how deep her feelings ran.
Something had changed between the two. They became closer over the past two years of her marriage. He taught her how to ride so he could spend more time in her company. Her husband was always too busy and away quite often; he had taken it upon himself to amuse her. He took her to London when his cousin didn't have the time and took every care to ensure her happiness. Something was happening between the two, a relationship was blossoming that was spiralling out of control. Both knew it but nothing could be done. Society ruled their lives and to be caught would be disastrous. Their hidden longing for each others bodies caused such tension between them that one day, in the warmest of summers, it snapped.
He had suggested that they ride to the top of the peak, the best view in the county. They often rode there to relax and talk. Nothing seemed wrong to her husband; he was more than used to them just riding off together. Why should he not trust his cousin? They had virtually grown up together. He knew his wife was safe with him.
As their horses slowly cantered up the incline, conversation between them became scarce. They were at breakpoint and both knew it. Once at the top of the hill, they reached a woody copse that was sheltered from the searing rays of the sun. As they dismounted and tied the horses to a tree, they walked further to a denser patch of woodland. He had already shed his topcoat whilst riding and carried it with him. Removing his cravat and unbuttoning his waistcoat, he found a suitable place to sit down. Throwing his topcoat on the floor, they sat down together. He could feel the heat from her body against his leg, she was so close to him. It wouldn't have taken much to touch her and how he wanted to. The desire to touch her soft delicate skin was overwhelming. She felt this need too.
Looking up at him, she reached out and gingerly touched his face with the tips of her fingers. The sensation of her skin in contact with his caused such a surge of electricity, he could almost feel the skin burn. He drew in a sharp breath and looked deep into her eyes. He could see the same feelings of love and desire reflected in her beautiful, deep blue eyes. Nothing could have prevented what was about to happen.
Her eyesight began to blur as he lowered his head to kiss her beautiful lips. It was so tender and slow, so peaceful and yet full of longing and desire. She kissed him back and began to feel the rest of the world disappear from around them. She pulled away looking deep into his eyes. They were so loving, so grateful for the one kiss that gave him everything he needed to know. She hadn't pulled away or tried to stop it, she just enjoyed it.
He kissed her again with more force but still loving and slow, she placed her arms around his neck and drew him slightly closer. This gave him everything he wanted, this woman of his dreams was in his arms, begging for more. He would give it with all his heart and strength, he wanted to make her happy. That was all that was important. Both knew that this was wrong and dangerous, neither could stop if they had wanted.
His hands roamed over her body as their kissing became more frantic. His lips trailed lines of fire down her neck as she undid his shirt. As soon as her hands slid over the bare expanse of his chest he was lost. At that moment he knew he had to have her. He looked at her, a deep guttural noise escaping the back of his throat. He moved quickly to capture her luscious lips in a fierce kiss. His hands swiftly reached round her back to unbutton her dress. Pulling down the top half of the garment, his hand cupped her bare breast and kneaded it gently. His other hand crept to the edge of her dress and pulled it up to her hips. He kissed his way down her neck and her collar bone until his mouth came to her nipple. Before he took the swollen bud into his mouth, his tongue swirled around slowly, whipping her into a mad frenzy. Her hands slid down his chest across his abdomen and unfastened his breeches. As her hand slipped inside and caressed his engorged manhood, everything became more frantic; both needed this and neither cared if it was slow and caring. Immediate release is all they craved; too much tension had been created to take it slowly.
He pushed her down on the ground and he lay betwixt her open legs. This was it. His mouth worked it's way back up to her mouth and kissed her passionately once again. Nothing else mattered. The tip of his erection brushed against her silken sex; she quivered with anticipation and let out a small moan. He broke their kiss and stared deep into her eyes. They became mentally locked together as he thrust into her hard. Both let out a deep, shuddering breath as her warmth surrounded him completely. Their eye contact remained as he slowly began to move in and out; her hips rose to meet him at every stroke. The pace suddenly changed; both needed more. Their movements increased in speed as the wind whirled about them, rustling the leaves on the trees in rhythm to their motions. As they moved nearer to completion, she wrapped her legs about his hips to pull him further into her. They became one, loving each other in the way they had wanted for such a long time. Deep moans of pleasure began to escape their throats as the edge beckoned them ever closer; nearing the precipice that would take them to ecstasy. She screamed his name as she found her climax; he could feel her womanhood grip him tightly and he too felt his mind enter oblivion. The heavens opened at that precise moment, soaking the two lovers within minutes; neither noticed or cared.
His arms collapsed from beneath him and he lay atop of her. Her arms encircled his trembling form and she held him close. Neither knew how long they lay there, alternately kissing and mumbling words of affection. Slowly, the chill of the first rain in months seeped into their bodies and they parted. As they rearranged their clothing, neither could prevent touching the other. Kissing, holding. They had been denied this for so long that neither was wishing it to ever end. The knowledge that they would be expected back before long was the only reason they moved from the hidden and secluded spot. This was there place. No matter what the weather, no matter to time of day or month, this was their special place.
The secret lovers rode back in silence that day. Not a word had to be spoken; their looks said everything required. They needed each other, a special love that should have been discovered before it was all too late. Their clandestine affair was risky but that only amplified their desires. Neither would stop seeing each other. She was married to his cousin, yet neither felt remorse or guilt over their actions; everything seemed so right.
The passionate affair continued for months. Finding excuses to ride out to the woody copse together; just make love to each other until the sun went down. All three members of the sordid love triangle were blissfully happy in their ignorance. It was doomed to fail from the minute it started however. Her husband was due to leave for a trip that would take him away for weeks. As usual, her spouses cousin came to stay and keep her safe. This worked out perfectly for the woodland lovers...until their plans took and unfortunate turn for the worse.
She awaited her love in the sitting room, looking from the window towards the long drive leading up to the house. She knew he had arrived; had seen him mere moments before cantering up to the door on his black stallion. She never heard the door open and close, or his footsteps crossing the room towards her. She was momentarily startled when he wrapped his arms about her waist and pulled her to him. Knowing who it was almost instantly, she relaxed into his warm and strong embrace. His lips gently caressed her neck with small kisses. She closed her eyes momentarily before turning in his embrace to face him. His lips found hers and crushed them into a passionate kiss. Gone were the days of waiting. Times together were too scarce to waste by being slow. Their love making was heated and exciting; their caring and slow caresses were shared afterwards.
His hand snaked round the back of her head to pull her closer to him, his tongue invading her mouth. Her hands slipped inside his waistcoat and shirt to touch the bare skin of his abdomen. Something distracted her lover, nothing baring good news either. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a movement by the doorway and abruptly pulled away from his love. Nothing could have prepared them for what happened next.
The woman looked at the doorway and saw her worst fears before her eyes, her husband stood looking at her. His face suddenly drained of all colour as he leaned against the doorway for support, his legs not able to fully stand anymore. He turned around and unsteadily walked from the room, from the house, from her sight, forever.
He couldn't believe it when she had said yes to his proposal. He of course knew she would but felt the surprise non-the less. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever lain eyes on and she was to be his for all eternity. Their engagement didn't last long, each of them desired the other so much that even a month seemed like forever. That spring, he was made the happiest man alive, even though his wife brought no money to the family name and had such low familial connections. Nothing mattered to him, he was just incredibly happy to at last call her his.
He had taken her to his family home for the honeymoon. No one else was there, they were left to themselves on their wedding night. He had shown her around the house and gardens, kissed her beside the lake and taken her hand in his during the evening meal. He had been so happy to lead her to his bedchamber and finally make her his forever. Their love making had been so sweet and gentle, like two souls coming together for the first time. Never had he felt so at peace as when he lay next to his beloved wife and held her close. He could hear her heart beating reassuringly, telling him that she would be his from now on. Till death do us part.
Unfortunately, his line of work meant he had to be away a lot and so his new bride would be left by herself. His cousin, who he treated like a brother, offered to look after her while he was away. He had always been close to his cousin. They had spent most of their childhood together, playing, talking, learning to ride and trusting each other when something went wrong. They seemed to become inseparable. He trusted nobody with his wife more than he trusted his cousin. He knew that his wife enjoyed sitting in the evenings in deep conversation with her cousin by marriage and that he had taught her to ride. He was happy that she had become so close to someone he valued so highly.
He was going away for a few days to London. Not an unusual occurrence in itself. He would leave on the Friday, his cousin would arrive just before his departure and would stay until his return on the following Friday. Nothing strange. He was to set off as planned yet his cousin didn't arrive. He bade his farewells to his wife and left the house. Little did she know that he was waiting for the man charged with the safety of his wife. Not prepared to depart without the knowledge that his wife was safe, he paced the courtyard. As he walked over the smooth cobbles, he saw the groom lead the large black stallion over to a stable indicating that the person he was expecting had arrived. Anxious to depart on his journey, he dashed into the house to see his cousin. He knew that his wife would welcome the visitor in the sitting room and headed straight there. He opened the door to a most horrifying sight.
He could not believe what he was seeing. He would never forget it; the encounter was to be seared into his mind forever. His world collapsed so quickly around him that his legs gave way, and he fell against the doorframe. He couldn't take his eyes off his beautiful wife kissing his cousin, right in front of him, in his own house. It was her lover that noticed him first. All they could do was look at one another aghast. It seemed an eternity before he could find the strength to take him away from the tattered remains of his universe.
He ran from the scene, his mind's eye never leaving the couple behind. He felt so unsteady and only just managed to get outside into the courtyard before he slumped against the wall and slid down in a heap. A sudden wave of nausea overtook him and he rested his head on the cold cobblestones to overcome the stupid notion to just pass out completely. As he replayed the moment in his head he began to wonder what had happened. He had seen his wife kissing his cousin, they looked at each other with so much love and guilt in their eyes. How long had this been going on? How far had they gone? A sense of anger overcame any sense of sadness or jealousy. All he wanted to do was walk into that room and rip them apart. He loved his wife so much, his cousin was like a brother. How could they have done this to him? It all fell into place. Why his cousin had never married, why he always looked after his wife whilst he was away, why they went riding constantly and why they always talked with one another.
Slowly the sickness passed and he sat back against the wall. The groomsmen were looking at him enquiringly, he waved them away. His mind worked rapidly as questions flooded through again. Perhaps it was his fault for being away constantly. It was a hard life he lived, he had tried to be with her as much as possible. Every second spent together had always seemed magical; it was the way she had looked at him. Nothing of that mattered anymore, she had made him happy and now it was erased forever.
He hated his cousin for what he had done, destroying his world in which everything was perfect. As he looked towards the sky, tears of frustration and anger ran down his face. To say he was livid would be an understatement. Rarely had he ever been so infuriated. They had both disappointed him to the point where he wished them both dead. Why couldn't he have been there to prevent his cousin touching that which was not his. Something had to be done. He began to formulate just punishments for the adulterers. He knew not how long he had been sat on the floor but his mind was made up. He knew exactly what to do.
As he walked to the room where his once beloved cousin and wife were, he knew exactly what he must do. Entering his study, he opened the drawer in his large oak desk. He pulled out a wooden box, the light catching on the ivory inlay. He collected the objects contained within and placed them in his tailcoat pocket. Leaving the room, he strode purposefully down the wood panelled corridor to the room where his wife and cousin stood. Servants scurried out of the way when they saw their master walk towards them. They had never seen the look of pure hatred in his eyes before and no one wanted to be the object of that wrath.
They had no idea what could cause such a change in the normally amiable countenance of their master. Of course, rumours had begun to circulate when the stable hands had seen their employer and the state he was in. They had rushed into the kitchens, only too happy to spread the news that something untoward had taken place in the household. It was also linked with the fact that his cousin had arrived mere moments before. Nothing could put the two together, only the unthinkable.
So they stood by, hiding round corners. None wanting to be seen but wanting to see all. They knew their mistress was in the sitting room along with his cousin. The look in his eye said everything as they waited in anticipation of what was to come.
He stopped in front of the large, thick oak door that separated the adulterers from him. It was heavy and dark in colour with a large cast iron lock. It was this lock that his cousin should have turned the key in to prevent the affair being found out. This was her main point. As soon as her husband had left the room, she had let loose a torrent of insults and insinuations. According to her it was all her lovers fault that her life was now ruined. She was distraught that she had hurt the man she loved. She never realised that with the comments flowing from her mouth, she was in turn hurting the man in front of her.
He too had never wanted to be discovered. The affair with his cousin's wife had never meant to be. He was content to remain friends with her; close but never touching. If only he had not listened to his heart and heeded his mind. How could he have let the temptation overwhelm him? It does take two and she was more than willing to go behind her 'beloved' husbands back. They had both hurt him. He could take no more of her spiteful words. His face bore a blank expression. He could not show the full extent of his inner turmoil. In one day this woman had broken the hearts of two men.
He walked towards the door, if only he had locked the door, if only he had ignored the primal urges he had felt, if only he had stayed away from her. He should have let his feelings for her die when she was taken from him. Just as he reached out to turn the handle on the door to escape the torture of the room, it was flung open. She stopped her words as soon as she saw the frightening sight of her husband. His body seemed to loom in the doorway. His eyes staring fixedly at the pair inside the room.
Her lover had seen this horrifying expression before. Once when they were teenagers he had been beaten to within an inch of his life when caught in the look of anger in his cousin's eyes. He countered the terrifying look and stared coldly back. Never would he be afraid to pay for what he had done. Nothing mattered to either man at that second. Both had lost her. She could say nothing to either; her jaw had dropped open in shock at seeing her husband look at her with such contempt.
Slowly, the man in the doorway moved further inside the room and closed the door behind him. Not once did his eyes ever leave the couple. She was scared but his cousin was not. That would make the revenge sweeter. He broke out into a smile surprising the lovers. She stood by the window; he was standing near to his cousin. If she did nothing to stop them, they would surely kill each other. She began to walk over to her husband; she did not get very far.
"Stop there. Do not come any closer unless you also want to end up looking the same as he will in a few minutes. You have hurt me so much I shall have no hesitation in hurting you as well." There was no emotion in his voice as he continued to stare at his cousin.
"You shall not touch her." His cousin moved to one side blocking the way to his lover.
"And who are you to stop me? You are nothing in my estimation anymore. You have stolen what was never yours and now you dare to give it back? I want to know one thing. Did you make love to her?" The anger crept into his voice now.
"Please, do not hurt him." Moving closer to the pair, her voice betrayed the terror inside. Her husband locked her in his gaze.
"You will shut up. I ask you again, did you have my wife?" He moved closer to his cousin, his fists clenched at his side. They stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, he answered.
"Yes" It was barely a whisper.
All the guilt he felt poured into that one tiny word. It was enough to push her husband over the edge. Moving back a pace he drew his arm back and landed his fist as hard as he could on his cousin's jaw. A resounding crack could be heard as he recoiled back. He watched his cousin stagger back into the wall and lean all his weight against it. His hands flew up to cover where the fist had made contact with his face, blood pouring from his mouth, he spat out a tooth.
"Don't, please." Her voice pleaded with her husband as she rushed over to where her lover stood and touched his face gently. He winced in pain.
"Why should I not. He knows what he deserves; I can see it in his eyes. Move else I shall not hesitate to move you myself." He walked over to her and wrenched her arms away from his cousin.
As soon as she broke the contact with him, her husband flung her across the room. She landed on the floor by the window. She had just enough time to look round and see her spouse deliver another blow to his cousin's ribs. He curled up and sunk to the floor, all the air knocked from his lungs. Her husband kicked the man on the floor and then turned to his wife. She was on her knees crying for him to stop.
"Do you love him?"
"What? It...it was a mistake, nothing else." She stammered not believing he would ask such a question.
"I asked do you love him?"
With that he dragged his cousin off the floor and pushed him back against the wall. He reached into his tailcoat pocket and brought out a shot pistol. Both lovers recognised it as one of a pair of percussion duellers given to him by his father 1. Neither knew where it's partner was, both had a fearful suspicion. Aiming the octagonal barrel directly for his cousin's heart, he asked her again.
"I...please, do not shoot him." Tears flowed down her face as she took in the frightened yet resigned look of her lover. Her husband turned towards the man he aimed his gun at and asked him the self same question.
"Yes" He replied without hesitation. He knew exactly how he felt about her. He was prepared to die for her.
Her husband aimed the gun lower and to the side. Looking straight into his cousins eyes, her husband pulled the trigger. Everything seemed to slow down as she watched the powder explode and fire the small round bullet out. It hit her lover in the side and flung him back against the wall before he slid down it again. His face never registered either surprise or pain, just sadness and relief. The feeling of the bullet inside him began to seep into his senses. Putting his hand over the wound, he looked at the blood on his jacket. This was for real. His cousin, her husband, had shot him.
The shooter dropped the gun, walked over to his wife and grabbed her arm. Pulling her across the room, he threw her down to his cousin and pulled out the missing half of the pair, its silver highlights glittering ominously in the light. Pointing the weapon at her, he asked what he needed to hear.
"Do you love him?"
She looked at the man beside her, his eyes dull, a large bruise forming on his cheek where the initial blow had been struck. He was already drifting in and out of consciousness; his once cream waistcoat now stained an ominous shade of scarlet. She took his hand in hers and kissed the back of it. Not looking up, she answered.
"Yes, I do. Shoot me if you will. My life means nothing without this man."
"NO!" He cocked the gun and aimed it at her once again. His finger trembled as he tried to shoot. Both of them on the floor looked up as her husband quickly raised the gun to his own chest. Before she could stop him, he pulled the trigger. The sound of the discharging shot reverberated around the room and faded. An eerie silence descended upon them as he fell to the floor.
"No!" She whispered as she scrabbled over to him. Taking her husband's hand in hers, she whispered to his already unconscious body.
"I'm sorry my love."
As Richard Fitzwilliam lay dying on the floor, a puddle of blood forming around him, she looked over to his cousin. Darcy was bleeding heavily, the bullet buried deep in his side. He was unconscious, his breathing shallow and laboured. He was ignored as she knelt down next to her husband and held him close. The life drained from him as the servants rushed about the room, screaming and calling instructions. Elizabeth Bennet Fitzwilliam could see nothing except the lifeless body of her beloved Richard.
1A pair of duelling pistols from 1779 made by Wogdon in London. Percussion rather than flintlock which was becoming popular at that time, the 10inch barrel had sights as well as being octagonal in shape. The maker actually signed the gun barrel in gold. Stocked with silver mounts, silver escutcheons were fastened to the butts with the initials and crest of the owner. Hallmarked London and kept together in a baize-lined mahogany case sometimes with ivory inlay. Likely to be owned by the gentry as in this case. Ref ~ Miller's Antique Price Guide Vol XX 1999
Darcy was laid in bed for a week after the bullet had gouged deep into his side. He knew he should have felt fortunate that he wasn't in the same state at his cousin. Death would have been a tragedy indeed. Two days after the argument, Richard had died, leaving Elizabeth a widow. Darcy couldn't feel anything but sadness. He had been so close to his cousin, even when committing adultery with his beloved wife. Now, thanks to their carelessness, he was dead. He felt terrible at the fact that he couldn't even go to his funeral. How many more ways could he find to disgrace the man he looked up to as a brother?
No one else in the world knew truly what happened that afternoon. It was treated as an accident, everybody none the wiser as to the true reason of his death. That way it had been at least seen as honourable. This eased his guilty mind somewhat.
Lizzy hadn't been to see him at all. The last time he laid eyes on her was when she was hovering over Richards bleeding body, just before he had passed out. He didn't know what he would do anyway; could he even look at her? Nothing felt right about any of the whole incident anymore. His and Lizzy's love-making that once felt so perfect now repulsed him. Why had she marry Richard? She should have been faithful to her husband. Would she have done the same to him had they been married? No. He knew she wouldn't. There was always something distant in the way she looked at Richard, there was no vagueness of her feelings when she looked at him. He so longed to see her again; he was becoming bitter about her lack of interest.
He arose from the bed he was resting in. He'd had more than enough bed rest in his opinion. The sun was shining and he wanted to ride to the top of the hill, to their place. Thinking was what he wanted to do and there he could do it. He wanted to leave Guilford House once and for all. He knew not where he would go. Pemberley and London held far too many memories. He walked to the dressing room and summoned his valet. He didn't care that it hurt to move, he knew he deserved it for everything he had done. The guilt made his pain more worthwhile.
As he descended the steps slowly, clutching his side all the way down, the doctor espied him from the hall. He would have some say in the matter but nothing could sway Darcy from his mission. He walked straight past the doctor who called out for him to stop. Darcy did and turned about to face the man who would just order him to get back to bed.
"Yes, what is it you want?" The impatient tone in Darcy's voice did not unnerve the doctor one bit; he was used to disgruntled patients.
"I have not given you permission to leave your bed yet Mr. Darcy. Do you want to reopen your wound and get some infection or would you like to remain healthy and alive?"
"I would like to go for a ride. I've been trapped in my own room and mind for a week and I need to clear my head. Death would never be granted for me; it is too easy a way out for the sins I have committed."
"You and your cousin's widow are both the same; stubborn and very stupid. She has also left to ride. Are you both insane?" The doctor's Scottish voice rang through the hall as he emphasised the word.
"Probably. I care not. I shall summon you if anything happens, I know it shan't." Darcy walked off leaving a stunned doctor standing in the doorway to the sitting room.
He walked out of the house and into the courtyard. The stable boy readied the horse while Darcy sat on a step trying to ignore the pain in his side. When the time came to mount his horse he was dreading it. Why couldn't he have listened to the doctor and waited for the wound to heal? Anyway, he jumped up and hauled himself into the saddle. Once there he just adjusted to the sensations shooting up and down his side. Slowly, he became comfortable and kicked the horse into a trot. He knew exactly where he was headed and he knew exactly who he would meet there. He wouldn't let that fact stop him though.
As he brought the horse round to a brisk gallop up the hill, the rays of the sun beat down on him. It was a day like this that he had first made love to Elizabeth. It seemed like only yesterday that he touched her skin, felt the flames of her desire.
The love he had felt for her seemed only to grow as he thought back to her now. Of course she had not come to see him. How would it have looked? No matter what, propriety would always dictate their lives, no matter how desperate the situation. Her husband had died; she would have to spend at least a year in mourning, kept from society and the rest of the world.
What could he say to her once they met? It would be a highly uncomfortable situation indeed. Doubts flooded his mind as he made his way up the hill to the familiar woody copse at the top. He could tell she would be there, in their spot. They had travelled there to make love many times after that first encounter. Spending the day in each other's arms; talking and laughing about meaningless things. The thought that they could no longer do that grieved him almost as much as his cousin's death. How was he to bear the torment?
He dismounted his horse and tethered it to a nearby tree, much the same way he had all those months ago. The wound in his side was forgotten as he lost himself in recriminations and the grief he felt for all he had lost. He walked without looking; the path beyond had been well traversed by the couple; he need not watch where he was going anymore. The clearing in which they had spent most of their time was directly ahead of him as he strode without purpose through the grass and bracken.
There she sat, the object of his thoughts, on the ground where they had once sat in such happiness. Tear stained cheeks and red eyes showed him how she had suffered. Without thinking he walked to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. She turned and looked up at him. Smiling sadly, she covered his hand with hers. The all too familiar sparks coursed through them as their eyes locked.
"I knew you would come. Nothing shall keep Fitzwilliam Darcy down. Nothing as small and insignificant as a bullet anyway." Tears welled in her eyes again as she thought about her husband.
Looking away from him, she bade him sit beside her. He declined, not telling her that it would hurt him too much to sit. She stood before him and looked up into his face once more. The tears had ceased her expression indifferent.
"How are you? I heard that you are making quite the recovery." Her voice was cold and slightly bitter.
Obviously she was angry with him for having the audacity to survive. He looked down at his feet, swallowing his guilt again. He had to talk to her yet the words would not formulate in his mind.
"Are you to say anything? Or are you to stand there all day, self-pity etched into your features?" He looked up at her, the anger now forming in him.
"Self-pity? Is that what you truly think I feel? Am I so unfeeling in your estimation, for if I am, then what we have done meant nothing and Richard died for nothing except your folly. What was I to you? Anything? Do not blame his death on me alone, I deserve no such contempt from you."
"My folly? Yes, of course. Why did I not think of that? I helped kill my husband for what? I should have thought you would be happy at his death, now you finally stand a chance with his wife!"
Her words cut deep; he winced as every syllable smote his ears.
"My happiness? My happiness left such a long time ago Elizabeth. I have lost my cousin and it's thanks to you. Why did you have to enter my life? Why did I have to love you? Since I have known you, my heart has belonged to you, and now it lies in tatters on the ground. My whole existence was for naught. I have nothing and yet you think I should be happy."
"You have Pemberley..."
"Where is the Elizabeth I used to know? Wealth? You think that matters to me, material possessions are nothing if you are not happy and I most certainly am not. My mother died when I was but a boy, and then my father left me. How could you have ever expected me to be content with my life? I wanted you, I needed you. At the time of our first meeting my life seemed so empty and incomplete. It was you that made it whole. Yet my own family snatched you away from me, I should just have let you go. This should not have happened and I want hate to you for it, but I cannot. What have you done to me and my family? Why did you have to enter our lives?"
His voice wavered as he spoke the words, he wanted to block everything from his mind, to die and stop the pain from eating away at him constantly. This was not living anymore, he survived, nothing else. Elizabeth had made him happy for those short months and now that was taken from him. He could not bear to look at her anymore.
He turned to leave, she caught his arm. Keeping hold, she turned him to her. Decades of pain came to the surface as she looked at him. She could see every sad moment written in his eyes, showing her how this man had truly suffered through the years. He tried to turn away but she wouldn't let him.
"Please Elizabeth," His voice cracked with the intense emotions building up inside. He knew that if he did not escape now, he would be lost.
She tightened her grip on his arm as he tried to pull away again. His calm façade crumbled as she kept him back. He wanted to run, to hide from everything that had ever happened. His mind was plagued by grief he had never expressed. Always wanting to be the strong one, the person the family would rely on to remain calm and impassive. Now all the sorrow he had felt rushed to the surface. He was trapped, by the woman in front of him and his own feelings.
He tried one last desperate attempt to turn away from her. It was too late. As he looked at her to plead his escape, his carefully built defences collapsed.
"Lizzy, please," He whispered as he sank to the floor.
She kneeled next to his shaking form. Cupping his cheek with one hand, she turned him to face her. Tears flowed down his face as all the pain and hurt he had felt poured out. Her heart broke when she saw the look of loss on his face. Almost everyone he had loved had gone. He was alone, left to be the strong one yet he was only a child when his mother had gone. Looking into his brown eyes, she could see how young he really was.
She wrapped her arms around him and embraced him tightly. He hid his face in her shoulder as he allowed himself to grieve for all the people he had lost. He gripped her to him, the only person he could let go with. For so long he had been living with these feelings and now he could release them. Lizzy was still the only person he needed. After so much had happened, he knew he could not live without her. Yet he must.
Gradually, he calmed down. He lay limply in her embrace as all the tension drained from him. She stroked his hair and kissed the top of his head gently, telling him that everything would he alright. Both knew it to be a lie. Neither could face the truth of their inevitable separation. For the time being, they would act as if nothing had happened. They were two lovers, relying on each other as if they always had.
Slowly, he sat up and looked at her. He smiled weakly and mouthed his thanks to her. He could not bring himself to speak yet, too many raw emotions flew through his mind. It was strange how this place, this spot in the woods, should offer the pair so much relief. This time, it was a very much different one. It now seemed so long ago since the couple first made love in this spot, first declared their feelings to one another. It would also be the place to say goodbye.
He attempted to stand but the injury in his side peaked and sent shooting pain through his body. He winced and fell to the floor again, gripping his side. Lizzy reached over and took his hand. Squeezing it gently, she placed her other hand over the area where he had been shot. Even through his coat and shirt, she could feel the extra heat radiating from the wound her now departed husband had given him.
"Can I look?" She looked into his eyes and saw worry and discomfort pass. He nodded.
Carefully, she lifted his hands away and unbuttoned his topcoat. Pushing it open, she saw that his waistcoat was unfastened. Looking at him, he shrugged. "It hurts less" He whispered, still not trusting his voice.
She nodded and proceeded to pull out his shirt. She didn't need to go very far. There it was, a horrible mark forever embedded in his skin. The bullet had scraped along the skin of his abdomen before gouging into his side. Stitches ran along the wound, attempting to close it yet blood still seeped through.
He lay his head back against a nearby tree and closed his eyes. He knew not which hurt more; the wound she was inspecting or the fact that she was touching his skin, searing it into his memory. He could never have her again, could never feel her body writhing beneath his own, their bare skin touching sending sparks of desire coursing through their veins. He could never hold her again, never see her once more. He wouldn't have thought it possible to weep anymore yet he did. Losing his family and then this woman, the one person who made life worth living, was all too much.
She moved to lay beside him, her hand over the injury she had helped to cause. Her other hand wiped away his tears as she kissed his lips so gently. He opened his eyes and looked into hers, begging her not to make this harder than it already would be. He covered her hand on his abdomen with his.
"This is a constant reminder of what has happened. It will scar and remain there for the rest of my days. Every time I see it, I will think of you but it shall be forever tainted with what we caused. I cannot live this way, I will not stay here and be faced with the overwhelming guilt I will feel when I set eyes upon your beautiful face. You could not expect me to."
"Where will you go?" Tears began to stream down her face, resting his forehead against hers, he took a deep breath.
"I do not know. I have some family in France that I have not seen since I was at Cambridge. I think I shall visit them. Wherever I go, I shall be reminded of you. I can never escape the thoughts that linger in my mind but I can try."
"But I love..."
"NO, do not say it. You must never say those words to me again." He was breaking down again, his voice wavered as the emotional turmoil took over once more.
"Please William, do not leave me."
"I'm sorry! Please Elizabeth, please give me the strength to go." His voice was barely a whisper, his eyes resembling nothing more than a broken man pleading for his life to continue. The Darcy she had first known died with his cousin leaving just the tortured memories of that fateful day.
She nodded. Embracing him tightly, she said goodbye to him. Pulling away, she looked into his eyes one last time. She saw all she had ever seen; his love for her.
He stood and fastened his coat again, his back to her all the while. He could not bear to look at her lest he change his mind and suffer just to be by her side. His wound throbbed, uncomfortable sensations flooded through his abdomen as he prepared to ride back to the house. He would leave as soon as possible, attempting to escape what he knew he could not.
She stood behind him and placed her hands on his back. Laying her head on his back, she whispered the words he never wanted to hear.
"No matter what, I shall always love you."
He turned around to see her but she was gone, her form retreating further into the wood. That was to be the last time he would see her. Slowly, he turned and walked back to his horse, back to his escape, away from her forever. By the time she returned to the house, he had gone.
The sun blazed through the canopy of leaves suspended on the trees above. The road was drenched in light as it filtered through the small gaps in the dense coverage. The air was warm and thick with heat, the ground in front quivered as hot air rose from the surface. Crickets sang their chorus from the grassy verges at the side of the horse-worn track. Small flowers broke the green with splashes of red, yellow and white. The smell of summer pervaded every sense of the rider as he and his horse slowly made their way along the road.
The whole place was alive with sounds and scents. A lazy breeze made the reeds shimmer ever so slightly as they danced at the joy of summer. He could not help but smile as he looked at the well known countryside surrounding him. Nothing had changed from when he had run up here as a boy. He had been happy then, not a care in the world and now, so many years later, he had only one concern.
As he meandered up the lane, the group of trees on his left parted revealing the most welcome sight he had chanced upon in many years. There, through the clearing stood his home. Unchanged and dazzling in the midst of summer, he smiled as he remembered all he had left behind. He had been gone so long, never a word to anyone. He wondered what his sister would think. It was cruel but necessary when he left with no note or explanation. His only hope was that she managed by herself, being raised by her cousin, Elizabeth.
As he pulled his mount to a stop, he just stared at the prospect for who knows how long; savouring the feeling of being home once again. Nothing felt more right than to be here. Gradually, he pulled himself back to the here and now and made to complete his journey. Only once he was inside the thick stone walls again would he be truly content.
Dismounting outside the large oak doors, he noticed several footmen stare at him in disbelief. Only one ventured forward and took the reins from him. He just smiled at the groom and walked up the stone steps. He pushed the door open and peered inside. Moving further in, he looked for any sign of life.
The hallway was dark in comparison to the warm and bright outdoors. It was as if he never left, everything was exactly how it had always been. The oak panelling soaked up the brilliant sunlight causing a dark and imposing colour to be cast about the room. The tiled floor helped bounce the rays back to the high ceiling, illuminating the rest of the area. Taking a deep breath, he closed the door behind him. He removed his riding gloves and placed them on the small table next to the door. He could hear nothing, not a sound echoed round the once lively hallway. No servants scurried about their tasks, neither of his hounds bounded up to him as normal on such occasions. Nothing.
He walked further into the building, hoping to find someone familiar to him. The sense of being in the wrong place suffused his mind with doubt. Surely there was somebody here. Not once in his life had the house been so deserted; an apt reflection of his life he pondered sadly.
He walked along the corridors that felt so familiar, everything in its right place as he passed all he had ever known. He stopped suddenly as he heard the delicate notes of the pianoforte. He strode purposefully towards the music room. It was one of two people; Georgiana or her. She was the one that had plagued his dreams every night for the past five years, no, longer than that.
He entered the room silently so as not to alarm the occupant. When he looked to the instrument dominating the centre of the room, he was stunned. He stood, rooted to the spot as he took in the beauty before him. The years had only made her more alluring, her eyes just as fine and beautiful. She did not notice anyone enter until she finished the piece of Mozart she has been playing. Looking up from the keyboard, her eyes alighted on him.
Momentarily, her fine eyes danced over the vision of her lover before her. He looked different, his hair had been left to grow and fell unruly over his broad shoulders. The beard he had grown suited him she thought. The most wonderful change was his eyes. They were no longer filled with pain and guilt, but were strong once again.
Neither knew what to say, just looking at each other, both too shocked to speak. Slowly she stood and moved closer to him, stopping just before him. She looked up into his eyes questioning whether it was really he. Finally, he spoke.
"Yes, your eyes do not deceive you."
"William?" Tears brimmed in her eyes as she spoke his name, tears of joy at seeing him again.
"Yes. It has been too long. How are-"
"You are back? After all this time you have returned home. Why?" Her voice became cold as she stared icily at the man in front of her. The warm expression of delight now vanished.
"You should have known I couldn't stay away from you Liz-"
"Georgiana has been sick with worry for you. *I* have been worried about you. Five years William; *five* years. Why did you not write, just once to tell me you were safe?" Tears formed in her eyes as she attempted to berate him.
"I...I... am sorry. I had to think, about everything. All that has happened in my life..."
"You took time in thinking did you not? Not a word to anybody who loves you, who cares about you did you send. Yet you are here, expecting everything to be the same as when you left."
"Do not call me that, sir. I have missed you, we have all missed you yet you cannot just appear..."
"I do not expect that to be the case. I know I have been gone so long and it was never meant to be five years before I came home but I am back now."
"Why? Why have you returned?" Her voice softened slightly as she looked into his eyes.
"I...I could not bear to be away from you any longer. My guilt at what occurred so long ago has finally died. I think I just wanted, needed to be near you once more. Is that so unreasonable?"
"So much has happened. You will be happy to know that Georgiana is married to a very respectable young man of our acquaintance. She is happy at last; she deserved it so much, especially after you left her."
He closed his eyes and drew a deep breath. His baby sister had grown into the young woman he always wanted her to be and he had missed it. He looked once again into Elizabeth's eyes. Yes, after all this time, he still loved her.
"I am happy for her." The words felt so distant to him, the whole conversation did. Nothing felt like it once had anymore.
"This is far harder that I imagined I fear."
"So it should be. You ran away and left everyone else to face their fears and get on with their lives."
He swallowed the lump that formed in his throat. She was right, he had run away and now he selfishly wanted everything to go back to the way it was. In the few short minutes he had been home, Elizabeth had already humbled him.
"I have been running, never from you or Georgiana though. I...I tried to escape myself, what more can I say?"
"Say you shall not go again. Say you will face your family and not turn your back on them once more. You must promise to stay here and take care of them now. They need you. But please, I beg you; say you shall not leave me. No more running..." Tears fell down her face as her voice cracked.
"God Elizabeth, I shall not leave you. Never again will I leave your side. I have been so empty without you."
"This will take time William, I cannot and will not let you back just like so."
"I know it will be hard but for you I shall do anything. It is our turn for happiness now my dearest, loveliest Elizabeth. Please, no more tears-"
He was interrupted as she flung her arms about his neck and embraced him. He wrapped his arms about her waist and held her close. They just held each other, savouring the sensations they thought they would never feel again. Drawing comfort from each other as they had that afternoon five years ago. This was going to be hard for everyone but they were together again, forever.
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It is a truth universally acknowledged that all sorts can happen on the 31st October. Hallows Eve is a day in the Catholic Church to honour the saints and spirits of the dead and Halloween meant corruption of Hallows Eve. For the Celts, it was Samhain, New Year's Day. Which ever you believed in, the outcome was the same.
From the time of the Celts this has been put down to the dead from the previous year coming back to try and possess the bodies of the living for one final chance before the eternal sentence that comes to us all. The living of course wanted to remain in this world and so tried to scare the ghouls away and make this world as uninhabitable as possible. They also sacrificed people to the other world to appease the souls of the dead but to no avail.
Of course, this was all just put down to myth; a falsehood born of years of stories and folklore. To some however, these are all to true. The corruption of Hallows Eve and the disturbance to Samhain runs far deeper than children knocking on your door...
The nights drew in so quickly at this time of year. By the time she had finished work it was pitch black. Only the light of the moon illuminated her way. Add this to the eerie winds blowing through the skeletal trees and the rustling of the leaves causing you to look round every few seconds; it wasn't a pleasant walk home. Yet she made it every day, all year through, from the chilling edge and new life of spring to the harsh and slippery cold of winter. It was a normal journey for her; she could have made it in her sleep.
Cottling was a small town of no consequence really. Situated at the side of a large estuary and of the 5000 inhabitants; the two major groups were either students or fishermen. It was the students that would be most hassle on this evening. She had lived there ever since her first year at university six years ago and now she owned a house of her own. It was small and hidden behind a large wood, almost totally invisible from the outside world and this suited her to the ground. Dark and oppressive from the façade, she was happy to have very few people disturb her. Well, that was until she had met her fiancé Will Darcy. So, it was she and Will who lived in the spooky house behind the wood, completely out of sight.
The leaves crunched beneath her feet, the browns and oranges of the decay surrounding her. Everywhere she looked she could see the dying remnants of a beautiful summer in the small village. The clouds moved rapidly across the full moon ahead making the light flicker ominously as the wind picked up. The feel of the ions in the atmosphere invaded her body and she began to walk faster. A storm on Halloween can't be a good sign!
She saw the wood in front her and quickly wound her way through the trees to find the path leading up to the front door. Walking through a cutting in the trees, she espied the building before her. A warm glow emanating from the two downstairs windows presented a very welcoming sight for her frozen body and a safe haven from the gathering battle in the sky.
As she entered, she was greeted by the smell of cooking assaulting her nose and a very welcome smile from Will as he walked from the kitchen into the entrance hall. He always did the cooking, something she had never had a problem with; he was so damned good at it! After taking off her coat and dropping her bag in the living room and taking a long shower, dinner was served.
"You came home just at the right time it seems?" He said in his deep Yorkshire accent.
She looked out of the window in the kitchen and saw the flash of light crash down across the sky followed immediately by the loud crashing of the thunder rocking the land beneath it.
"It's very close, almost on top of us. What a night, eh?" He laughed as another clap of thunder almost made her jump from her seat.
"That's right Will, laugh it up..." Her berating was cut short as a knocking was heard at the door.
Wondering who it could be at this time, in this weather, at this house, she stood and left the kitchen. There was a small window in the front door at about eye level and carefully, she peered through it. A flash of lightening lit up a face looking back at her, white as a sheet and ghoulish in appearance.
"ARGH! Fuck!" She screamed and jumped back from the doorway. Will came running up to her, a questioning look on his face.
He looked through the glass and saw nothing. Putting the safety chain on the door, he started to open it slightly when Lizzy caught his arm.
"Why? Not scared are you?"
"No. No, I mean, I just have a bad feeling about this,"
It was too late. A gust of wind caught the small gap in the doorway and blew it from his hands as it flew back as far as the short chain would let it. Will leapt back hiding her behind him, ready to confront anything that was waiting outside.
Taking a deep breath, he walked towards the flailing door and slowly looked outside. Nothing. Swallowing hard, he took the chain off gingerly and opened it slightly further.
"There's no one there. Must have been some kids or something. I can't believe this; you are even making me jumpy..." He turned back to face her only to see her white, petrified face looking straight past him, her shaking hand pointing to what she saw.
He turned very slowly and followed the line of her finger. As his eyes focused on the spectre before him, he froze, his eyes becoming fixed at the point in front of the door. It didn't move, just looked at them, its ghostly white skin highlighted by the flash of lightening illuminating the surroundings. The long black cloak clung loosely to its skeletal frame; the wind whipped the torn fabric around the long thin legs supporting its horrific body.
Its eyes were dark and hollow, staring unseeingly into the doorway yet its gaze seemed to bore right into her soul. Elizabeth couldn't move, her muscles seized, her breath caught in her chest, the fear and panic building inside of her became overwhelming yet she could not move. Will's hand took hers and pulled her gently, his eyes never leaving the thing before them.
"Come on Lizzy, its nothing, just a joke. A stupid prank, you know what the kids are like. SOD OFF WILL YA?!" He called out at the thing. It was in the way it stood, tall and stick-thin, the darkness of its features and the paleness of its face. Something told them that this was no joke; a nightmare may have been a better way to describe it.
He gripped her hand tighter and pulled her behind him. He knew that once he tried to shut the door it was make its move and that it might hurt her he dreaded more than anything. He didn't know how he could tell its thoughts, but he feared it all the more for knowing.
"Shut the door Will. Please." Her voice was just a whisper as she finally found the will to move and made to shut the door. He tried to pull her back but it was too late. It ran towards them.
"WILL!!!" She screamed as the things arm reached inside the door and clawed at her hand. It was cold, icy to the touch, chilling her to the bone.
"MOVE!" He flung her away from the door and slammed the door on the arm, and again and again until it moved from the opening so the door could be fastened shut. He was breathing so hard and fast, his pulse raced as the cold sweat of fear ran down his back.
She screamed again as the face appeared at the window, the lightening striking once again casting an eerie white glow across its death-like features. Long spindly fingers clawed at the glass, Will jumped back away from the door. The real panic started now.
"Call the police, NOW!" But as she reached for the phone, it disappeared. The clawing noise stopped, the face went, and its retreat through the bushes could be heard. She put the phone back down.
"What the bugger was that?" He asked the air in front of him, his fists clenched tightly by his sides, his knuckles white.
"It was so cold Will, it touched my hand and it felt so lifeless. It was like my whole body chilled at its touch. Oh Will," She embraced him tightly, her body shaking. "Do you think it's gone?"
"For the time being yes, but I still think we should call the police before it attacks some little old lady and gives her heart failure." He smiled but the terror was still in his eyes.
They walked back into the kitchen; at least no one could get around the back of the house. A large stone wall surrounded the rear garden and dense woodland and foliage stood on either side. The only entrance to the 'secret garden' as they called it was through the house; therefore when they saw the book on the dining table, she screamed once again.
There it was; an ancient volume, dusty and brittle with age and decay. Its leather binding was faded and peeling, no letter remained on the spine or front, only the ghost of an image remained. She span in his arms and hid her face in his chest.
"This isn't happening, this isn't happening," she kept repeating to herself as she tried to squeeze her eyes even tighter shut. Her hands curled into fists as she gripped his shirt, a desperate attempt to keep the horror of the situation filtering into her mind any further. He just stood and stared at it, swallowing hard.
"I take it you didn't bring it home with you." His voice was small and trembling slightly as the dread took over. "Let's have a look then."
The book smelt old and dusty as he opened the front cover of the tome. Bits of detached paper floated from the pages as the air pressure gave way and pulled them off. With Elizabeth hiding her head in the crook of his shoulder, he began to read the volume someone had left for them.
"It's just a history of Celtic myths and legends. Nothing more, see? October 31st is Samhain, a day in which the dead can come back and try to re-inhabit the bodies of the living."
"Why would someone leave this here? It must have a meaning else...look, look at the inscription on the front page. What does it say?"
He peered at the inked scrawl marking the front page, not many of the letters made much sense but it was definitely a family name, one which he was very well known to. He pulled back and slammed the book shut before she could have a chance to read it.
"What did it say?" Her expression puzzled due to his rapid closure of the cover.
"Nothing that I could make out, just some ancient writing."
"Perhaps I could read it..."
"NO!" He snatched the book from the table and held it under one arm. "It's just a joke Lizzy, nothing more. That guy at the door was nothing and neither is this book. Don't worry yourself so. I'll get rid of it."
"What do you mean the guy at the door was nothing, he touched me, he tried to attack us and don't tell me you weren't just as terrified when you saw that book there. What's going on Will, what does the inscription say?"
Before he could say anything, she had pulled the book from his arms and opened it at the front page. He eyes began to scan the writing when with an almighty crash of lightening; the lights flickered and died away. She screamed and ran into his arms.
"It's ok, just a power cut, I'm sure everyone else has no power either."
"Yes, but has that person called on them? Have they found ancient books in their kitchen when nobody can get around the back of their house? Somehow I don't think so. I saw the name on that book and believe me, I'll not let that thing get what it wants. Get a candle."
She left his arms and let him find the emergency candles. Plain white and shapeless, they always kept a few spare just in case. She could here him move around but not see him, her eyes stared blankly at the windows into the garden. Nothing had been touched yet she could sense that someone had been here.
The scratch of the match striking, the soft glow of its comforting light and the hiss of melting wax. The illumination was minimal but it would have to do. He made his way back to her and stood the candle in a glass on the table. Pulling out a chair, he sat at the table and pulled the book towards him. Staring at the name he signed every day. He felt her sit next to him, her body trembling.
"What are we going to do then?" Her voice cut through the icy darkness, piercing his cloud of confusion.
"Nothing. This is nothing but a joke and I won't rise to the bait. Understand?" He stood knocking the chair over behind him. The crash made her jump, her eyes still unused to the dim light produced by the candle. At once irritation and anger took over.
"How can you say that?"
"Okay, professor, how did the book get in here? How did that joke guy outside make his hands feels deathly cold? Why are you being so stupid and blasé about the whole thing?"
"Because I have to be!" His voice softened, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, he continued. "I'm as scared as you are. I've known of this happening before, in my family. A ghostly figure, a mystery book. I know what happens next and I can't bear to think on it." Turning to her, he looked into her eyes. "Elizabeth, this thing came to me one Halloween twenty years ago. The night my father was killed."
Shock registered on her face as the words she never expected to hear sunk in. At once her fear changed, it was not for her own life but for his she worried. He sat beside her, taking her hands in his, they were cold to the touch. Somehow he had banished these memories from his mind. The thought that one day the same thing that happened to his father might also happen to him was not a welcome one. It was his time, he knew it as his father had known twenty years previous.
"Funny. I'd known this day would come since the day my father died but all I can think about is how I would have liked to have known you longer. The life we could have had together."
"What? You don't mean to just let this thing get you? You can't give up, not now. We have to run."
"Where? This thing got my father and it comes to claim me. I think it knows what it's doing!"
A loud bang resounded from the patio door. Lightening bathed the garden with light, illuminating the horrific face of death. Pale fingers caressed the glass as water began to fall from the heavens. It beckoned him, aroused his interest, enticed him to stand and walk toward the door. Powerless, he felt nothing as he stood and moved to unlock the door. Not the chill in the air, the sensation of the floor beneath his feet, Elizabeth's hand striking him across the face.
Again she hit him, determined to make him awaken from the trance he was in. Nothing worked. Desperate to stop him from succumbing to the monster beyond the glass, she grabbed the kitchen knife nearby and held it to his throat.
"Release him or I'll strip you of your prize!" The ghoul looked at her, unsure whether she would go through with her threat. Pressing the knife to his neck harder she saw blood trickle from a small cut in Will's skin. The thing outside saw this too and released it's prey.
"Liz! What are you doing?" Looking round, she dropped the knife as soon as the words left his lips.
"Thank God, Will. You were about to give yourself up to that... that...thing!"
"So you thought you'd cut my throat?" He wiped the blood away from his neck whilst retreating from her, his expression confused and mistrustful.
"Will, it's me! I wouldn't have done anything to hurt you. I was trying to protect you." Still unconvinced, he stayed away ignoring the hurt look in her eyes. It was then that he saw the spectre had returned. He just had time to yell before the thing hit the glass so hard that it shattered into a million shards of glass.
Screaming in fright she ran away from the door and grabbed Will's hand dragging him through the house. Grabbing the keys to unlock the front door she fumbled almost dropping them. They could hear it coming, breaking all objects that lay in its path.
"Hurry!" Finally she managed and flung open the door. The wind howled, the rain bombarding them instantly. "Come on!" He grabbed her hand and together they ran into the darkness. No light penetrated the dark cloud above, street lights were extinguished. Her hair whipped about her face as they wound their way desperately through the woods surrounding the house.
"Where are we going?" The words were breathed out between gulps of air. Each lungful hurt it was so cold.
"I don't know, keep running." Lightening flashed and thunder rumbled overhead. A tall fence lay before them causing them to stop in their tracks. Skidding to a halt, he picked her up and almost threw he over the obstacle. Landing heavily on the other side, she waited for him for what seemed an eternity. Eventually he landed beside her and both continued their escape.
Lightening lit their path and suddenly they both recognised where they were. Tombstones littered the ground around them; some ancient, some newer. Either way, it enhanced the true horror of their situation. Not stopping for a second they continued.
"Look! The Church!" Arriving at the front entrance, they opened the door and entered. The air was dank and musty. It had not been used for years and everything showed signs of its decay. "We'll be safe in here for the time being." He sat her down on one of the more stable pews, their breathing hard, their clothes and hair saturated from perspiration and rain. It was then that she noticed.
"Will! What happened to your arm?" Blood ran down his skin, dripping from the end of his fingers. She could feel its sticky, wetness as she held his hand. Reaching up, she searched out the cause; a deep wound stretched across his back and shoulder.
"It's nothing." He moved away.
"It got you, didn't it?" Silence reined bar the sounds of their laboured breaths.
"Liz," He reached out, beckoning her into his arms. At once she entered his embrace, holding him tight, not willing to ever let him go. "I'm not done for yet. But there is more I need to tell you. There isn't much time." Settling down on the wooden bench, he pulled her down beside him, laying her head on his shoulder. "This thing does not wish me dead, nor did it wish my father to end his life as he did. On this day, the dead wish to return to the living stripped away from them. It is a lost soul aiming to take over my body and use it as a vessel to create havoc and mayhem. I also know the soul that chases me relentlessly.
"Many years ago, long before my birth, my grandfather had a very loyal and dear friend. His name was Wickham. They spent much time together in and out of school. So it remained until they met my grandmother. Both men fell in love and attempted to win her affections. At first she favoured Wickham, his easy manners making him the obvious choice. But then my grandfather relented his claim to her heart and this endeared him to her all the more. For though he loved my grandmother deeply, he understood that she could be happy with his friend and refused to compete any longer. Seeing this it was my grandfather she married.
"Wickham went into a rage and one evening shortly after the wedding he stormed into their home and held them at gunpoint demanding that my grandfather return what was rightfully his. To cut a long story short, Wickham miscalculated his actions, the gun firing accidentally. He was killed. Twenty-eight years later, on All Hallows Eve, the book appeared mysteriously in my father's locked study. I remember seeing it that fateful evening. That night Wickham attempted to get his revenge. My father took his own life before allowing such a man to re-enter this world."
The storm had quietened during his story, only the sound of the rain banging hard at the windows could be heard. Elizabeth sat in shock. That Will not only knew who the ghoul was but also foretold what was about to happen frightened her to the core. Am impossible situation was before them. Either Wickham got Darcy and walked the Earth once again or...
"Surely there must be another way. I mean, wasn't Wickham satisfied with your father's death? What more hurt does he want to cast down onto your family. All this over a woman?" Her voice became increasingly louder as the feeling of hysteria threatened to overwhelm her.
A large gust of wind shook the entire building causing tiles to slide from the room landing with a clatter on the ground outside. The floor seemed to vibrate with the intensity of the gale blowing outside. With a crash the doors were flung open, thunder and lightening raining down on the world below. Screaming at the noise, Elizabeth hid in Darcy's arms, willing it all to be a dream, a dream that she would wake up from at any second.
"Liz, we have to move." His voice was quiet, his heart pounding in his ears as he watched their foe enter the church. Silent footsteps ceased and slowly, the thing turned. "When I say so, run. Try to get up the steps into the spire. I'll be right behind you. Now!"
They jumped up and ran as fast as they could towards the steps to the side of the altar. He had seen them and in a flash it came at them. Screaming, Elizabeth threw herself at the steps, jumping them two at a time. She could hear Darcy behind her, his breathing quick, his footsteps loud. Lightening illuminated their passage in short bursts followed by the thunder shaking the very foundations of the building. A wooden door appeared before her, flaying about on its broken hinges.
"We're nearly there Will!" She panted to the man behind her.
The blood roared in her ears as she ran free from the narrow stairs and onto the spire roof. Will joined her immediately after and pulled the door closed, wedging it shut tight against the frame.
"This won't hold him. Liz, you've understood all I've said haven't you? Haven't you!"
He shook her shoulders, willing her to comprehend his meaning. Tears of comprehension and fear poured from her eyes as his plans materialised before her eyes.
"Look after him, Liz, take him far from here. Protect him. You'll understand soon enough." Hugging her close, he kissed her forehead gently before they both heard and splintering of wood behind them. At once he pushed her away onto the floor. Turning, he faced the thing in the doorway. For a second they looked at each other. Suddenly, Darcy ran towards Wickham, pushing him towards the low wall of the spire. A scream, the thunder, the laugh of determination. All faded as they fell to the ground.
Twenty-nine Years Later
The memory of that night was just as vivid as the day it happened. She could still feel the numbness that surrounded her as she walked to the edge of the roof and looked down toward the body of him. He had jumped, taking Wickham with him but on the ground, only one body lay still and unmoving. Every day she relived the horror of that Halloween twenty-nine years ago. She still awoke screaming his name as he fell again and again in her mind. William Darcy had died, and her world had never been quite the same since.
Shortly after, she had realised what his last words meant. Finding she was pregnant with their child, she left the country, moved as far away as was possible. A son, as Will had predicted, was born the following May. He was named for his father and reminded Elizabeth of him so much so that every time she saw him it were though her Will were looking back at her. Still, fear gripped her that the ordeal was not yet quite over.
"Don't worry, mum. It can't get us here, I'm sure everything will be fine." Constant reassurances did nothing to ease her mind. Especially as he was nearing his twenty-eighth birthday.
She encouraged him to settle down early, just in case. The family line ought to be continued else Wickham would truly have won. Her son married and soon a child was born. Another boy to carry on the name. It was easier to forget what could happen soon when a grandchild found his way into her life. Easy to imagine that all could be perfect and that the curse had ended that night. It was in this frame of mind that she entered the kitchen one day, walking hand in hand with her grandson, and saw her son opening the cover of a dusty, old tome. One that she knew well.
It was starting all over again.
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