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

 

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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 All rights reserved M.Houwer


Place du Tertre, the River,       chapter seven part two

 

Charles sped up his pace, catching up to Jane and the others easily. Although he initially had agreed to keep Mr. and Mrs. Phillips company, they were soon replaced when he adjusted his steps to Jane’s. After Charles explained why Elizabeth and William hadn’t joined him, but would come later, Jane asked, “I expected Caroline would be here. Will she come later on?”

“I don’t know. When we left she was still in her rooms. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was sleeping in.” Charles answered.

“Sleeping in? But the horses … who takes care of them?” Jane reacted, surprised. She knew it wasn’t absolutely necessary to get up as early in the morning to take care of horses as it would be to milk cows, but she didn’t expect the owner of so many horses, and the responsibilities that came with them, to sleep in as easily as Charles made it sound.

“Don’t worry.” Charles sounded relaxed, but, like Jane did in the vault the week before, he quickly decided what he could reveal about his sister and what he should keep private. Although he felt at ease with Jane and trusted her, he knew it wasn’t fair to expose Caroline’s faux pas, so he decided not to tell about how Caroline had lost her inheritance. Charles owned the horses and let his sister stay in his house because she had no other place to go. “There’s well-trained staff to take care of the horses. They live at the apartments upstairs in the stables. Caroline can safely sleep in.”

“Is Caroline your only sister?” Jane wasn’t the type to ask personal questions before she knew someone very well, but talking with Charles felt so comfortable; she didn’t have the slightest problem telling him about her family and inquiring about his relatives. Questions which Jane would normally consider nosy seemed natural in conversations with her temporary colleague. Well, not only a colleague, but a boss as well. When they were at work, she had to do what he ordered her to do. She didn’t have the slightest problem with it because Charles was able to phrase every request in such a sweet way; Jane was more than happy to help him.

“I have another sister. She’s married … no kids … I don’t see her very often —only when Caroline invites her,” Charles answered.

“Parents?”

“Nope.” The shortness of the answer caused Jane to look up, his sad look causing her to cover her mouth with her hand. Charles saw her movement. “Oh, well, it’s quite some years ago. I think I’m over it, but it was indeed a rough year. My parents died in a car crash, only a few months after Darcy lost his father, due to illness.”

“Oh, Charles, I’m sorry.” Jane genuinely said. “I cannot imagine how it would be to lose both my parents all at once. It must have been horrible.” Automatically, her hand moved from her mouth to his arm.

“Darcy was a great help.” Close to an obstacle, they stopped walking and watched a horse approach. Charles covered Jane’s hand with his. It felt right.

“Darcy … but he had just lost his own father. How could he manage to help you? I mean, wasn’t he still mourning his own loss?”  Jane asked surprised.

“He threw himself upon what he knows best. He helped us organize things, he took care of the funeral and the will. He gave my sisters and me several options we could do with the family belongings and let us decide which to choose, although I still suspect him of talking us into the one he thought was best. Not that I mind, when it comes to financial stuff, he really knows his stuff. It gave the three of us the opportunity to mourn our parents.” Charles remembered how William had suggested to divide the inheritance. Originally, each sibling would have received a third of the entire fortune, which existed mainly out of a family house, horses and working capital, that Mr. Bingley had invested in several projects. The working capital needed to be split up in parts and divided between the three heirs. William had explained the working capital would be the most profitable if Charles could use it in one piece. They agreed that next to a little sum of money, the eldest sister, Louise, would take the family house; Caroline, the horses their mother was so fond of, and Charles, the working capital, which was more valuable than a third of the complete inheritance. This meant at the start, Charles would have a debt. Every year, the sisters would receive, from their brother, an amount of money, with a nice interest on top off it, so that in ten year’s time Charles would have paid his siblings off Unfortunately, Caroline appeared not to be capable of handling her portion. She got involved in some nasty, illegal business, lost a considerable amount of money, had to sell the horses her mother had bred for years, and asked her brother for the rest of her inheritance immediately. Charles managed to buy the horses before someone else did. Together with William, he arranged a settlement, so Caroline could pay the rest of her debt back in yearly portions. Every Euro she received from Charles, immediately had to be diverted to the persons, she once thought reliable.

“Did William even have time to deal with his own loss?” Jane lightly brushed Charles arm beneath her hand.

“I don’t know. William Darcy is normally not one to display his feelings. He was very good in alleviating mine though, especially the evening I came home after identifying my parents.” A shiver showed how Charles relived that evening again. Jane immediately squeezed his arm, which he answered by brushing her fingers. “It showed me how important friends are. Sometimes I think they are the most important creatures in the world. Real friends, that is.” On saying that, he eyed her intensely.

“I’m sorry you’ve been through that. It must have been a nightmare.” Turquoise burned all over her body, muffling her in a pleasant blanket of heat.

“Charles,” Mr. Phillips rudely interrupted the special moment. “I see the chairman of the catering association of Breevoort at the other side of this obstacle. You really must meet him.” The company of four walked to the other side, where a bleacher stood. Jane took a seat next to Mrs. Phillips, while Charles and her uncle talked with the caterer.

Elizabeth and William walked on the other side, but they didn’t see Jane waving. “It’s okay,” Jane said to her aunt. “We’ll catch up later.  It looked as though they were entangled in a nice conversation, they won’t mind.”

Mrs. Phillips nodded, “Sure hon, you’re right,” while waving at another acquaintance. 

~ * ~ * ~

 

William stepped back and saw Elizabeth was as surprised as he was at her sudden reaction. She slapped both her hands on her mouth, and made some irregular steps back and forth. With her eyes, she followed his hand and cringed when he cautiously touched his cheek close to his eye.

“Oh my, I can’t believe I did that. I didn’t mean it. I … I… I’m so sorry,” Elizabeth stammered, shocked at her own behavior. “I’m so sorry. Does it hurt?” Her fingers closed into a clenched fist, and again she made some irregular movements, swinging her arms up and down in frustration. “I didn’t see the horse approaching. I hadn’t heard him at all. I was thinking … I didn’t sleep very well last night. Oh my, I hurt you.” The words left her mouth falteringly. She wasn’t only surprised, but quite upset by now, and searched for excuses. She was suffering PMS, the hormones could be a valid reason, but she was not going to tell him that. “It was a shock for me. I didn’t expect the horse. Of course we didn’t … otherwise we wouldn’t be walking on the track. But I didn’t want to slap you, believe me, please. I’m just tired and I was …. and ….. and ….”

“And Jonathan?” William quietly said.

“Yes, and him too.” Elizabeth wrapped her arms around herself. Although she tried to hide the tears that were stinging behind her eyes by looking at the ground, William saw she was really upset. She blinked several times, and prevented a sob from leaving her mouth, by swallowing hard.

“Look, we’re almost at the point where we can get something to drink. What do you say, let’s go and sit down for a while. We both got a scare… I think I could use some coffee, too.” William pointed at a Merytayns tent and the long wooden tables and benches that stood in front of it.

“Yes, thanks … good plan.” Elizabeth quietly followed him.

A few minutes later, William came outside, two paper cups with hot coffee in his hands. Elizabeth was sitting on a bench, her back to the table, elbows on her knees, watching the incredibly interesting blades of grass between her feet. With slightly shaking hands, she lit a cigarette.

“Here you are.” William handed Elizabeth her coffee, and seated himself next to her. “You shouldn’t do that.”

“What?” Then she saw William nodding at her cigarette. “Ah, yes … you’re sitting next to a walking chimney, well a sitting one, right at this moment.”

William immediately knew she was referring to the remark he had made at the anniversary party. “You heard me saying that, at the party, right?”

“Yes.” Elizabeth thought back on how offended she had been. She wasn’t mad at him now. “You know what? You’re right, and actually I want to quit, but I truly don’t think I can handle doing it all at once.” She had a puff from her cigarette and looked into the distance. She meant what she had just said, she really wanted to quit. Her emotions, which seemed to be in constant turmoil lately —changing her from a happy, beaming ray of sunshine into a dark, roaring thundercloud within mere seconds —caused her to think she wasn’t strong enough to cope with that battle right now. First things first, she thought. “That horse scared me to death. I didn’t even hear the whistle until you grabbed me,” she said after another puff.

“I suspected as much.” It remained silent a few moments, but for the hardly audible sounds of sipping coffee and puffing smoke.

“Why did you wrap your arm around me when we talked to Jonathan?”

William shouldn’t have been surprised by the question because his action had astonished him as well, but somehow he didn’t expect Elizabeth to ask it so directly. Why had he done it? “I…” Now it was <I>his</I> turn to stutter. Had it been the giggle of the other woman? Had it been the look in Jonathan’s eyes, when he hugged the woman a little more? “I saw he….” Had it been Elizabeth who stood stock still? “I noticed you ... Actually, I don’t know. I just did. It was an impulsive reaction.” He never acted impulsively! “I went too far didn’t I? I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done it.”

“Oh no, it was all right. Perhaps you did exactly what I wanted most at that moment.” Elizabeth turned her coffee cup around in her hands. “I didn’t expect to see Jonathan with another woman ... so soon.”

“You were extremely quiet afterwards.”

“I didn’t understand it. I saw him with that Corinne and I felt jealous. I mean isn’t it ridiculous? I left him, I shouldn’t be jealous.” Elizabeth sipped her coffee while William softly hummed, encouraging her to continue. “My head is saying I should be happy for him. Happy he found someone else and went on after me. My feelings are telling me something completely different. I begrudge him her. I don’t want him to be happy. It would have been perfectly all right if he had been without any woman for at least five years. Isn’t that silly of me?” She almost spat out the last few sentences.

“It sounds as if you hate him.” William’s serene, quiet voice calmed Elizabeth.

“I don’t know. Yes, I hate him….. No, I don’t. He isn’t a bad man or anything. I just don’t understand why I feel this way. Love and hate are flip sides of each other. I guess something happened and my love turned into hate. I saw him with his arm wrapped around Corinne and suddenly, I hated him. I don’t want him to be happy with another woman. Hell, I don’t want him to be happy at all or at least, I’d rather never know if he’s happy, but I can’t explain why. I just don’t want it, that’s all.” Elizabeth took another nip of her coffee. Then she suddenly looked up. “Why am I telling you this?”

William answered her look. “Because you need to talk about it, and I happen to be present right here and now. Besides, I’m willing to listen.”

A few weeks ago, Elizabeth would have considered William Darcy among the last persons she would take into her confidence, and tell about her most private feelings. Perhaps he was right, and him being here at the right moment in the right spot, nothing special, it could have been almost anybody. Besides, she thought she owed him an explanation as to why her reaction was way out of proportion. Out of proportion …. Even that was an understatement. She slapped him in the face for Christ’s sake. She smacked him, while he practically saved her life. “You must think I’m a silly creature.”

William thought back to the times Georgiana had begged him to open himself up. At that time, he hadn’t believed his emotions important enough to talk about, but that didn’t mean he trivialized his sister’s request. Initially, he didn’t think it was necessary to unveil his feelings, and later on he convinced himself there wasn’t anyone trustworthy enough to rely on. It could well be that William Darcy didn’t dare show he wasn’t the perfect, strong, steady man that many people regarded him as, but that possibility never crossed his mind. Thinking back to his sister, he remembered her words clearly. “No, I do not. My sister Georgiana always tells me how important it is to talk about what you feel. She says analyzing your thoughts can help.”

“You have a clever sister.”

“Yes, I have. By the way, I don’t think you’re alone in begrudging your ex-husband. Look around, how many ex-lovers act childishly? Read the magazines about glamour couples who split up. They don’t even want the other to have simple, material things like cars. They love to throw mud at each other in the media. Imagine what a scene they would have made if the one spotted the other with a new flame.” 

“I guess you’re right. I just didn’t expect it. Do you think…. Could it be…?”

“I think what … ?” William could almost feel her mind working at top speed to find an answer to some question she asked herself. “We’re out of coffee. Let me get new ones and you can reflect on it, okay?”

Elizabeth also took the opportunity to light another cigarette. Upon his return, she smiled a silent ‘thanks’ as she accepted the drink.

He immediately got back to the point, “So, you asked ‘Could it be …?’ Now you fill in the blanks.”

“I left Jonathan. Perhaps …. no not perhaps, leave that word out…. I felt guilty. I know I hurt him and I felt guilty I put him through that. Could it be I expected my guilt would lessen if I saw that he had moved on?” Elizabeth, again looking at the grass between her feet, spoke softly.

William had to do his best to hear what she said. He thought a little about her question before he said, “Perhaps you wanted your guilt to lessen.”

Suddenly Elizabeth looked up and faced William in surprise. “I wanted to feel happy if he moved on.” She slowly repeated William’s words, connected them with some of her own, and took a little time to let them sink in. “I wanted this divorce to become a perfect one. That is, as perfect as a divorce can be.” She chuckled about her own contradictory words. “What I mean is, I wanted that we would leave each other in relative harmony. No fights about financial matters or personal belongings, no throwing ‘mud’, as you said before. I wanted a ‘we both agreed it was best to split up’, divorce. In that case, I wouldn’t have felt guilty at all, wouldn’t I?”

“It almost sounds as if you regret it.”

“Oh no, no regrets. The bird’s nest had fallen out of the tree and I couldn’t collect the courage to climb up again and refasten it. But I sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t have noticed that things were going wrong. What if I had tried harder to save my marriage earlier on? In the end, it wasn’t worth it.” (note 1)

“Did he hit you?”

“Why do ask that?”

“Well, I guess you were thinking of Jonathan when the almost accident with the horse happened, and when … well…. you slapped me.” Again, William softly touched his cheek.

Elizabeth tried not to look at the red spot she noticed was appearing on his face. “No, he didn’t hit me. It would have made things much easier for me though.”

“Easier if he had hit you?” William asked surprised.

“Yes, at least I think so. If he had hit me, abused me, or cheated on me, it would have been easy to say, ‘okay this is it, I’m gone’. Instead I felt I was slowly drowning in the marriage. I wasn’t happy, but I still do not know precisely why I wasn’t happy, although I have an idea.”

“Could it be that this is also a reason you feel guilty?” William asked the question automatically, he didn’t even have to think about it. “As long as you don’t know why you were so unhappy, you’re not finished with it?” He really started to sound like a professional now. Could it be all the training he received in communication lessons were starting to bear fruit? As far as he knew, those lessons had never included relational therapy; it must be a natural gift. Elizabeth sure knew how to bring out skills he never knew he had mastered.

“That’s a nice thought, and other people are not making it easier for me.” A soft sigh escaped her mouth.

“What do you mean?”

“You wouldn’t know how many people have asked me if Jonathan hit me. ‘Did he hit you?  Was he a bad man? Were you cheated on?’ For all these questions, I have to answer ‘No,’ and if I do, I can see them think, ‘Ah, it wasn’t fun anymore so she quit the marriage, easy as that. She treated him like garbage.’ If he would have hit me, it would have been perfectly all right if I had left him. People want to choose a good side and a bad side and since I left him without a valid reason I’m the bad girl.”  Elizabeth really started to sound as if she was angry.

“Come now, surely not all the people have condemned you! Where there’s a marriage there are two people, and where there’s a divorce there are also at least two people. Two people means there are mistakes from both sides.” William spat it out, as if people who said such things could make him angry as well. Elizabeth looked up in surprise at the fierceness with which he had said it. “You also say ‘no’, if they ask you if he was a bad man.” William continued.

“Yes, of course. He isn’t a bad man. He is good, and I truly think he wanted the best for me. He is a good man, but not for me, that’s all.”

“I think that’s beautiful of you to say so. Not many ex-wives say that about their ex-husbands. It says something about who you are.” William looked at the ground when he said it, so he didn’t notice the warm look Elizabeth gave him.

“Oh well, perhaps I’m overanalyzing myself. Sometimes I wish I was a man.”

“A man, why?” William smiled.

“Men can fight, they smack each other in the face, turn around, say sorry, drink a beer and it’s all over and finished. Women have to analyze why they argue, they discuss it with several friends before they talk to the person they are dealing with, they make up elaborately especially if they were fighting with another woman, but they will never forget, and with every tiny friction in the future, they will touch upon the subject again.” Elizabeth used her hands to underline her words, with swinging movements.

William had to laugh out loud now. He pointed to his cheek again. “Well, at least you started to act like a man on one point this morning.”

Elizabeth cringed again. “Yeah, yeah, rub it in nicely. Do I have to apologize again? You must know by know how sorry I am.” For the first time since the slap, she touched his cheek again, tentatively and tenderly this time. “It’s turning light red.” Her cheeks also turned red, when she thought back to her own behavior.

William carefully took her hand and removed it from his face. “It’s okay, really, you don’t have to say it again. It’s written all over your face,” he said it softly and with a warm voice that seemed to warm up even more by the tender stroke he made with his thumb on Elizabeth’s wrist.

“Oh, yes, me the open book. I wonder how open I am, if I don’t understand myself.” Elizabeth removed her hand from William’s, a bit unnerved by her body’s reaction to his gentle touch, turned around and took the almost empty cup from the table and smothered her cigarette in the last remnants of coffee.

“If you want to, you can always look for professional help; visit a psychiatrist or a relational therapist.” William suggested.

“I don’t want professional help. As long as I can talk about it, I want to find out on my own.” Elizabeth said. “Besides, I have you as my shrink, right?” She looked at him, winked, and nudged him jokingly.

This made William laugh. Him the shrink? He remembered Georgiana screaming at him that he was the one who needed to look for a psychiatrist. “You’re the first one who has ever called me a shrink. If my sister heard this, she would absolutely not believe it.”

“Well, shrink or not, you helped me enormously by listening today.” Then Elizabeth grew silent and serious again. “That is …”she stumbled. “Would you please… I’ve told you all this in confidence. It’s remarkable, I’ve met you only a few times, and I’ve told you something about myself today that’s quite personal. I would appreciate it if you keep it private.”

“Of course. It’s safe with me.” William said very earnestly.

“I hoped so. Last week in the studio, Charles said if anyone was able to keep a secret it was you.” Elizabeth slowly turned her head and looked William in his eyes. She hesitated, but felt enough need to tell, “Euhm, it may sound exaggerated, but I feel I’ve found a new friend today.”

William didn’t break the intense look. “I feel the same.” Suspense, not unpleasant but a comfortable form of tension, slowly grew, until William broke it by saying, “Speaking of Charles,” he took his mobile from his pocket, “let’s call him and figure out where they are. They must be wondering what we’re doing by now.”

It appeared the others were close, and they agreed to meet each other at the tent. Elizabeth insisted she buy the next coffee after she had been treated twice. In the tent, they waited and chatted cheerfully about the horses they had seen so far, till the others appeared and the company came together again.

~ * ~ * ~

 

The mountain stream came to the end of the first meadow, where the steep slope flattened out, causing the water droplets to fall into a small pool which formed a short, natural eddy before finding their course again. Dancing their mutual Waltz in the whirlpool, the rain drops and the liquid from the spring, turned around each other. After having survived their first confrontation in the stream on the meadow, fighting for a tiny place to pass through, they watched each other’s spinning movement. The thunderstorm, which caused them to mingle, was nowhere to be seen, having done his deed and left. The steady tree, at the other end of the meadow, waved them off with the branches that had survived the natural disaster. Short twigs and leaves were their farewell gift having fallen off the tree and into the water, drifting with the stream. The fawn, which had been so frightened by the thunderclap, and had kicked mud and other plants into the stream, was long gone —away with his mother, into the safety of the woods. The first phase of the long journey had ended. Sunbeams touched the surface, tentatively warming the liquid with golden sparks of heat. Gliding into the second stage, the stream left the pool and descended on a new path. Pebbles weren’t as sharp as before, polished by quintillions of drops that had led the way before them. There was no need to fight for a place anymore … broad, flat stones invited all to come and follow the course. The drops went on … stopped pushing, fighting, and turning, and decided to travel together. Not against, but next to each other.

~ * ~ * ~

 

(1) The bird’s nest has fallen out of the tree. As far as I know this is a saying in the region where I live. It means that a marriage is split up. Perhaps the saying is known in more places in the Netherlands, and who knows, even more people all over the world are familiar with it. I don’t know. If others have heard of it, I’d love to know.  (click and go back to text)

 
 

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