Place du Tertre, the River


   
 

Table 
of contents:

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7.1

Chapter 7.2

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 11b

Chapter 11c

 

mail author

Place du Tertre, the River

 

A modern Pride and Prejudice version, set in the Netherlands. 

 

The story is NC-17, R rated.

 

Marjolein © 2003-2004-2005 All rights reserved M.Houwer


Place du Tertre, the River,       chapter one

A steady, old oak tree stood in the middle of the serene, brilliant green, flat field covered with grass of different varieties.  Its strong trunk was partly covered with moss as a result of years of weather influences. The roots, which dug deep under the ancient ground, were not only fed periodically by fresh rainwater, but also by the cold ground water, bubbling to the surface in a small spring. As it was very quiet and peaceful, with the only sound to be heard a wind whistling through the oak leaves, a young deer dared to approach the well to drink the pure, unspoiled water. He was of a delicate brown color with golden spots, to suggest he always stood beneath the tree where the warm sunbeams that played on his coat were partly blocked by the oak leaves. Carefully, step by step, the fragile legs carried the young animal away from his mother towards the place where he could get the thirst-quenching drink. The surface rippled immediately by the touch of the soft deer lips. It reflected the oak, the blue sky and the warm yellow sun. The mother’s ears twitched as she sensed something. She and the oak knew the event coming and were prepared, the pure water and the young deer were not.

A slowly turned from white, light purple and green into a dark shade of grey when clouds covered the sky. Above it, positive and negative ions fought to be released. Tension built an enormous electric power and the drops of heavy rain waited for the right time to fall.

The deer hadn’t expected it, and when the first lightning touched earth, he did not know what to do. Gripped with fear, he jumped, scratching the sand and mingling it with the clear water, racing over the well to his mother. Where moments ago only a small breath of air was heard tickling the leaves, a big bang followed the bright, white light. Immediately the clouds opened and heavy rain battered the green field, the strong tree and the frightened deer. The wind gained power and threw the water upon the tree. Its branches fought their ancient battle. Some leaves could not hold and fell to the ground or into the well. Small branches cracked and were broken by the powerful rain. The wind blew the grass in several directions. All colors had lost power. The grass looked dark green, like ancient, half-rotted moss, the deer became wet; a deep dark brown with not a golden spot to be seen, and the water had lost every blue color and reflected a dark purple and grey-green light. Everything seemed dark and somber.

The thunderstorm stopped as suddenly as it had started. The young animal left his mother again to look at his surroundings. He had survived but would never forget his first storm. The oak regained its position. The trunk stood steady, some of the branches bent back into their original positions, some large and some small ones were broken, changed or even damaged for good.

It was as it always is when a sudden event enters a life, no matter what kind of life. Part of it will remain steady, part of it will bend only temporarily, and part of it will be changed forever.

Heavy rainwater mingled with the pure well water. There was not enough room for both in such a small place and the little creek which had before danced away from the spring, changed into a river. Water from deep down and water from high above joined and left the field together.

~ * ~ * ~

When living in north-west Europe and in search of a conversation, no matter with whom, the weather will always be a safe topic. Blessed with a sea climate, the area welcomes temperatures between -10 and 35 degrees Celsius, and since the ground is very flat and a bicycle a cheap and easy means of transportation, every inhabitant learns from childhood how to cope with the circumstances. One day, cold rain batters the face, on another the hair might be covered with pristine, white snow. Warm beams of sun tan the skin and wind blowing from each possible direction dry it. So the circumstances outside are different every day and very hard to predict. It isn’t only a safe topic to talk about; it’s also, to many people, one of the contributors to mood for the rest of the day. Of course, rain will always be an excuse for a very low mood. So Elizabeth Bennet was asking herself if the Teutonic weather gods were teasing her. They seemed to be allowing the water to pour on the earth just to emphasize the way she was feeling now for weeks in a row.

This day was just like the others. She rose from the bed in which she had slept since her childhood but for a five year interval. She drank coffee with her father, smoked the first few of many cigarettes and took her bike to travel the five mile distance to work. A rain suit protected her from the wet tears heaven was drowning on her, but it couldn’t protect her from the damp and cloudy feeling she had within. She had felt it since that particular Sunday two months ago, when she’d made a big step and said goodbye to her life; her easy, material goods-filled, and yet so damaging, life. She left her husband, her house, her safe surroundings and now it appeared many of her so-called friends. It hadn’t been an easy step and it was supposed to be a step forward. But for now it only looked like a big step backwards at least she didn’t feel she was progressing. Right at this moment, she felt more damaged than she had the last five years. This thought wasn’t far from the truth. A habit of smoking thirty-five cigarettes a day and getting only a few hours sleep every night can easily ruin a body and a mind in a short time.

“Ouch,” she coughed.  I will quit smoking. I will, thought Elizabeth, when she pushed the pedals, fighting against the wind, which always came from the direction she needed to go, or so it seemed.  She breathed in the damp air. When I’m ready.

Elizabeth placed her bike against the wall, locked it, and entered the office. “Hi,” she yelled to the back where a man was sitting in front of a huge desk, filled with papers, photos, magazines, empty coffee cups, filled ash trays, a nice Mackintosh and a lot of computer equipment. It was Jack, owner of the advertisement studio and not only her boss but a very good friend as well.

“Hey, you drowned cat,” was the reply she got.

“Well, thank you. It’s exactly how I feel.” She hung the rain suit in front of the heater and dried her hair with a towel. “I wish I was still in Paris. Those were the only nice days I've had since I chose to return to my parents.”

“Is it that bad? I mean they have a huge house, nice garden, situated so well next to a wood. You must get some inspiration there,” the man answered while filling another cup of coffee out of the machine and handing it to her.

“Thanks. Of course, the house and its surroundings are still wonderful and I think I appreciate it more, now that I have lived somewhere else. But, you know, the inhabitants are still the same.”

“Really?”

Elizabeth took a seat at the huge table which stood in the middle of the office. She shoved a pile of magazines to the side, bent forward to retrieve the sugar, and sweetened her coffee.

“Where’s the cream?” she asked absent-mindedly, while lifting more papers and magazines in search of the bowl full of creamers. “I guess my father and mother are pretty much the same as the ones I left five years ago. I’m the one who’s changed.” She found the cream beneath the latest issue of The Liquor Store, opened one, and poured it in her coffee.

Jack said nothing because he knew she would say more. She needn’t him to pull the words out. He just left his desk and joined her at the table. They had a kind of morning ritual before starting work: skimming the morning paper, drinking coffee, smoking a cigarette together, and discussing the world, the universe and the office. He had to lift another pile of papers from the chair before he was able to take a seat and turned to give it another place. Right in the middle of Elizabeth’s desk would be nice.

Other people were always wondering how those two could actually work in such a mess. Papers, opened and closed packages, magazines, samples, paint, ink, computer supplies, brushes, boxes and lots of other stuff seemed to lie everywhere. But somehow Jack and Elizabeth always managed to find everything they needed. They called it their organized mess. “I know I ought to be thankful my parents took me back home immediately … and believe me I am, really. I don’t know where else I could have gone. Going back home is one thing, but hiding under my mother’s wing is not exactly the part I prefer,” Elizabeth said. “She wants to steer my life again. She asks me where I am going in the evening. She wants to know whom I am seeing, etc. Now I remember why I was so happy to leave them in the first place.”

“Hmm hmm,” was the only reply she got. It was enough to continue.

“I know I shouldn’t complain. But believe me, I’ll be really happy next week when our new apartment is ready.”

“Is Jane as eager as you to leave the house for the second time?” Jack asked referring to Elizabeth’s sister, who had also come back to her parents after a failed relationship.

“Oh, yes. But she is way too sweet to admit it. I can hardly believe she lived there for almost a year without complaining. But then again, Jane never complains. Isn’t it weird? Mother was so angry when we came back. Well not angry, but ashamed that two of her daughters failed to maintain a relationship. I am the worst, of course. Mine was a marriage, Jane’s only a relationship,” Elizabeth rambled on.

“Anyway, what’s up boss?” She regained her own positive attitude very quickly. “What’s on the role for today?”

“I think you should continue with your season paintings. But if you feel you have some time and creativity left, I could use some help with the brochure,” Jack answered and turned to pick up a draft version from the beer brochure on which he was working. He showed it to Elizabeth and they talked about the text. It was for their main client, Merytayns, the huge beer factory settled in Meryton where they both lived. The ancient way of saying something came from Meryton was Merytayns and it also was the name of the factory which had produced beer for almost four centuries. The factory was, for the greater part, still owned by one family, which happened to be Elizabeth’s. She owned a few stocks herself. Her uncle, Mr. Phillips, married to her father’s sister, and believed to be one of the reasons her father withdrew himself from the daily care, took care of the business. Every single person living in Meryton had something to do with the factory. If they didn’t work there, like Jane did in financial administration, they worked for them, like Elizabeth did with her advertisements. Merytayns was the first alcoholic drink to be drunk by every citizen of the little town and when teenagers went away on their first holiday without the parents, they always proudly wore a Merytayns t-shirt to show everybody where they came from.

“By the way,” Jack casually asked, “have you heard something about an interim director in Merytayns?”

“No,” Elizabeth answered, “but Jane said something about a certain investigation. I think Mr. Phillips hired someone to do a survey. I am not sure, but I’ve heard he is going to check the whole factory, to see if there are things that can be done more economically. “

“What for? Are there problems?”

“None that I know. But you know the head of financial administration left a few months ago? Jane said everything has been a bit hectic. Well, we will find out this evening at my aunt and uncle’s 25th wedding anniversary party. I expect every important employee to show up. “

With this remark, Elizabeth took a piece of cloth and bound her long, brown, slightly curling hair in a loose tail. Drinking the last drop of coffee from the cup, she stood up and walked to the back of the office, where a door led to a small corridor, hiding other doors to several rooms including the one where Elizabeth’s half-finished paintings stood.  She was working on four paintings, which would become the main theme of the advertising campaign for four new Merytayns flavors. It was a huge project and very secret. Next year at the beginning of every season, a new Merytayns flavor would be launched on the market; strong and dark ones for the winter and autumn and light, bright ones for the spring and summer.

Elizabeth stood in front of her creations. The ‘autumn’ was the one she worked on most. Was it because it reflected her mood?  She neither knew nor cared. She continued working on that one, because it felt best to do so. Preparing her palette with dark purple-colored paint, she closed her eyes slightly and tried to think where she could place the color best in the thunderclouds above the green land, where she had already painted a huge tree and something which might become a creek, a stream, a brook or even a small river. But that part would be painted later. She concentrated on the storm and clouds right now.

~ * ~ * ~

“Jane, I’d like you to meet Mr. Bingley,” Mr. Phillips said. Jane quietly laid down an invoice, and calmly faced her uncle and employer. He had introduced her to several people the last few months. She didn’t know what was going on, but it looked like he was asking for information and help from more than one agency. This Mr. Bingley would just be another consultant for whatever advice her uncle thought he needed, and she would be asked again to prepare a room and a desk and provide the newcomer space to work.

“Very pleased to meet you sir,” she said looking at a very handsome man. Very handsome indeed. He was tall, blond and had amazingly beautiful eyes. They were not blue, nor they were green, neither they were both. Jane decided they were a dark shade of turquoise. She felt she could drown in them and deep down she felt they were familiar. Somehow she knew she had seen those eyes before but she couldn’t remember where, and it truly bothered her. How could she ever forget such beautiful eyes? She was so busy thinking about this dilemma, she completely forgot to introduce herself properly. Only after a warm voice vocalized: “The pleasure is mine. Bingley is the name, Charles Bingley,” was she capable of accepting the offered hand and saying, “Jane Bennet.”

“Jane,” Mr. Phillips interspersed, “Mr. Bingley is going to give us advice about some issues. I expect he will be here for several weeks and maybe longer. Could you arrange everything? Office, desk, computer, network access, e-mail etc? We will be in my office.” Before Jane was able to answer, the two men turned their backs to her and walked away to the huge hall and Mr. Phillips’s office.

Why me? He has a secretary, for god’s sake, she sighed, turned back to her own desk and picked up pen and notepad. Therefore, she neither saw the admiring looks her colleagues gave the gentleman, nor the look said person gave her when he turned his head back before leaving the room.

Jane checked her desk to see if there was any confidential information which she should be hiding before leaving and stood up. Her blond hair flung back by the movement and she straightened her skirt. She was considered pretty tall for a woman, had a figure most of her female colleagues would give everything to own, and her whole being radiated nothing but kindness. Not one single person had ever had a real fight with her. She had a very pretty face with bright blue eyes. People who were introduced to the Bennet girls could hardly believe the blond Jane and the brown Elizabeth were sisters. Not that Elizabeth was not pretty, oh no. But the sisters were very different… beautiful, but both of a different kind.

Jane crossed the hall, making clicking noises as her high heels touched the marble floor. She knocked on her uncle’s door and opened it after she heard his dark voice give her permission to enter.

“Sorry, to interrupt you,” she said friendly. “May I please have some information? I need some things before I can make arrangements.”

Mr. Phillips, sitting behind his heavy, mahogany desk, nodded at Mr. Bingley. He had more than one reason to ask Jane for help. He knew her to be very capable of organizing, but he also knew that while she looked very open, she was not, and that she was very good at starting friendly conversations.  It was not the first time he used her to entertain important business clients between meetings. She wouldn’t need to make reservations for a hotel room this time, because Mr. Bingley had his own place to stay and it was coincidentally not very far away.

“Mr. Bingley has rented Netherfield, Jane,” he said.

“Really?“ Jane asked surprised. “Is the house ready to move in then? It was empty for years.”

“I rented it a few weeks ago and part of the rooms are ready.” The warm voice sent sparks along Jane’s spine. Of course, she knew someone rented Netherfield. Meryton was too small not to know. The 10,000 inhabitants found out everything from each other. The parts they didn’t know were filled in easily. Her own mother was one of the people who knew best; it was as if she invented the word ‘gossip’ herself.  Netherfield was a huge house with very nice stables. A few weeks ago the first rumors could be heard in Meryton that someone rented the property again to use it as a horse breeding stable. And shortly after the rumors came certainty, when local painters and carpenters were hired to fix the stables. Yes, first the horses, then the people. Not that the house needed much work, a thorough cleanup session would do. It was fully furnished after the last owner died in his twocenturyold family home. The heirs had no intention of moving in themselves and were apparently wealthy enough not to need to sell it.

A woman hired it. Is he married? Jane thought.

“My sister is going to bring her horses by the end of the week.”

Good, he is not married. Oh my god, what am I thinking?

“My friend and I decided to come a few days earlier.”

My goodness, he is gay! Not that I have anything against him being gay, of course…

“I’m moving myself next week,” she said. Why on earth am I telling him this? Mr. Phillips frowned at his niece, causing her to blush.

“Jane, I think the office where Paul used to sit will be suitable for Mr. Bingley.”

“Of course,” was Jane’s answer and she started to note the information she needed. The way his name was written for the right e-mail address, how much space he would need, the number of chairs, etc.

“I’d like to interview all the employees in the office. A table and four chairs next to the desk would be nice, if possible, “ Bingley said.

“Jane, make sure he gets his own pass for the parking lot. By the way, you and Elizabeth are both coming tonight, right?” Mr. Phillips asked.

Surprised at why he was asking something he already knew, she looked up from her notebook, blushed again, this time caused only by the look of the turquoise eyes, and answered, “Yes, of course. We are coming together with our parents and sisters.” Then she closed the notebook, nodded her goodbye and after an answering nod from her uncle, quietly left the room.

“Mr. Bingley, I would be honored if you would come to my 25th anniversary this evening. My wife and I are giving a party and the hall is very close to Netherfield. I could arrange a taxi to come and get you, if necessary. All the staff members are coming; it would be a nice way to meet them.” Mr. Phillips said.

“I would be delighted, sir,” was the quick answer from Bingley, who could hardly believe his luck to be able to see the woman again; a woman who seemed so familiar and so beautiful. “Is it okay if I bring my friend? He is coming this evening and I ….”

“Of course,” interrupted Phillips, “Bring him with you. It wouldn’t be nice to leave him alone in such a huge house, would it?”

“No sir, it would not.” It would not indeed, but I really don’t know if Darcy would consider it nice that I’m dragging him to the first local party immediately after his first arrival.

“I’m sure my friend would also be delighted,” and the two men went back to their business conversation.

 

 
   

Back to Table of contents -  Previous chapterNext chapter 

    Marjolein © 2003-2004 All rights reserved M.Houwer