‘Come on, Darce! I won’t have you alone in the corner in such a stupid manner!’ Charles Bingley approached his longtime friend Fitzwilliam Darcy sporting an annoying smile. ‘Such a nice party, it’s almost midnight and look at you! Sulking!’
‘Return to your date, Bingley.’ Darcy answered deepening his frown. ‘She’ll waste her smiles if you are not there to appreciate.’
Bingley laughed. ‘You should include ‘loosening up’ in that New Year’s resolution list.’
Darcy averted his eyes from the beautifully art deco decorated salon to the friend he met in boarding school when they were boys. Frequently Darcy regretted having adopted Bingley as his protégée those many years ago. He could be really obnoxious.
‘In fact, I’m working on it now.’ Darcy answered.
‘I wonder.’ Bingley took a sip of his glass.
‘First New Year’s resolution: Don’t allow anyone to tell me what I should do.’
Bingley laughed. ‘So many pretty birds here tonight. Not one is using burkas!’ He wiggled his brows.
Darcy shook his head. More than two weeks in the United Emirates and Bingley was still fantasizing what was beneath the women’s robes. If they had chosen a nunnery to spend the holidays, he would surely have similar thoughts. ‘You are dancing with the prettiest one. Why should I settle for less?’
‘She is lovely, another angel!’ Bingley grinned and winked to his date who was giggling with some friends a few steps away. ‘How about that one in the scanty grey dress?’
Darcy turned his head to the side and crossed eyes with said girl again. They had been stealing glances since he arrived. She was pretty, but… ‘Not enough to tempt me.’ He answered.
‘Brazil is a long way from here, Darce. Chill.’ Bingley tapped his friends’ shoulder and returned to his angelical date.
“Exactly seven thousand, three hundred and seventy eight miles. A sea, a gulf and the evil Atlantic Ocean separating the rich Dubai from the tropical Rio de Janeiro.” Darcy thought and again whisked his cell phone from his pocket. As soon as he unlocked it, there she was. Lovely, smiling, Venice’s sunset behind her.
Second New Year’s resolution: realize things won’t fall at your feet. Chips frequently fell where they shouldn’t.
Seven thousand miles composed a very big distance but it wasn’t impossible. A little effort, a lot of constancy and a handful of persuasion should do it.
With a sigh he closed the photo and pulled up the mail Georgie had sent him that very morning: “Big bruv, you chose to spend the holidays away from home but that won’t keep me from nagging. Here’s a list of resolutions – take note!”
Third New Year’s resolution: if the responsibility is yours, take it. He had messed up and tried to mend things, but it wasn’t easy. Remorse, anger, sexual frustration: all mixed up in him. He groaned and drained his glass. ‘I need another drink.’ He grumbled to himself.
‘All alone, old sport?’ A melodic voice quoted Fitzgerald in a whisper close to his ear. A little too close, in fact.
Darcy turned his eyes to the pretty woman in the gray scanty dress. Amazing legs, great body, full mouth. More than enough to tempt him.
‘Yes. You?’ He asked.
She moved her designed eyebrows and tilted her head to the side. ‘So it seems.’
He raised his eyes to the waiter passing by with a tray of champagne flutes and extended his hand to trade his empty for a new one, passing close to her shoulder. The girl turned, curious of his intentions and the long gray fringes hung from her low neckline to hemline, added to the sparkling sequins beneath it, flattered her figure. He blinked and sipped his new drink.
‘American?’ She asked.
‘British.’ He answered.
‘I’m South African.’ She offered. ‘Ella.’
‘Enjoying the party?’ She flirted blinking her smoky eyes.
He raised his eyebrows. ‘It can always improve.’
Forth New Year’s resolution: No one can have it all. Accept tradeoffs. He was a world away from her, he tried to mend things and was making (slow) progress but why bark at the wrong tree? He snorted to himself; she would flip with the use of a proverb. The pretty girl smiled sideways in question and he shook his head.
Nothing, it was nothing, really.
Except it was. She had a lot of nerve, that Elizabeth Bennett. Fool him for several days and then, literally, shut a door in his face. They flirted – he was sure she did flirt. He was not, could not have misunderstood her the whole time. She did flirt deliciously, and he loved every moment of it. Amsterdam, space cakes, Venice, wellies, Milan, vespa, the Tropic and their night together seasoned with perfectly cooled grappa. And the morning after was heavenly, perfect, hot, unforgettable.
Darcy was a bit afraid to turn into a school girl mooning over a crush. “Tradeoffs, no one can have it all” he repeated to himself. ‘You dressed the part, very Daisy-like.’ He smiled charmingly.
Ella battled her lashes at the handsome man in black tie. ‘We match, you are absolutely Gatsby-like.’ She reached forward and groomed his lapel. ‘White jacket suits you. Better than the traditional black.’ She said based only on her will to flirt – she had never seen him before.
It didn’t matter; she wouldn’t need to try very hard. Darcy was on the mood to let her numb the squeeze in his chest.
Fifth New Year’s resolution: careful with grey, the world is made of black and white. Things were either right or wrong for you. Learn to identify what works and what doesn’t. If Lizzy was that out of reach – geographically and emotionally – it was time to admit it was helpless. The girl in grey beside him, however…
From the corner of his eyes he saw Bingley’s satisfaction in seeing him with this girl. He hated that look and elected it the reason for his vague uneasiness.
The unfamiliar atmosphere of a New Year’s party themed as Fitzgerald’s The great Gatsby was also weighing on him. Art deco room, black and white and… golden – no grey. No indecisions, no unnecessary layerings, all very tasteful and exuberant. White sets of antlers, white feathered boa, black dishware, floating white roses and lilies in crystal glasses. No tulips though.
In his head, he could hear her say ‘Oh, my tulips!...’
Darcy reminded himself to nod and smile agreeing with Ella in grey who was chatting about something.
Tulips had brought Elizabeth to him. An array of colors, pinks, yellows, blues… and a hedge. He chuckled secretly. “Hedge mazes, big helpers.” She was an explosion of colors - no black, no white and no grey in Lizzy.
‘… dance floor?’ He saw her bright red mouth move but didn’t quite get what she was saying. But the girl in grey took his glass from his hand and ushered him to the luxurious salon’s dance floor, her dress seeming to float on.
But if felt foreign; this girl was almost as tall as he was, she moved freely and confidently, the way she hugged him was different of what he craved. Not the same as Amsterdam, La vie en rose, a black dress in a shorter girl, a throaty voice, a sexy tattoo in her right instep, a tasty kiss. Elizabeth.
‘Forty minutes to midnight, let’s find some refreshments and step on the balcony?’
He nodded just as his phone double beeped.
Sixth New Year’s resolution: learn to focus on what matters, stop forgetting your goals and allowing distractions.
Lizzy Bennett sent you a text.
“It is said that whether we won or lost, the old year improves the new with lessons learnt. I say it’s the size of the party that determines how good the incoming year will be. For me, it won´t be that promising. :( Party in Dubai for me! :D Happy New Year, Darcy.”
First his breath caught, then his heart jerked, next his brain commanded and his fingers moved.
“Happy New Year, Lizzy! I can make you as many promises of joy as you wish, my little bird. I can even fulfill most of them.”
Seventh New Year’s resolution: efficiency is the key. Be precise, be clear, quit all curves to reach a straight patch. Be bold, geometrical, direct. Very art deco-ish. How fitting.
“Very tempting… But I feel I have to ask: are you drunk?”
He chuckled. Yes, he had drank a few glasses of champagne, how could he not? Pretty girls in short fringed dresses crossed the salon with enormous champagne bottles adorned with fireworks and flirted more than refilled glasses. Yes, he drank to numb the frustration of not having Lizzy with him. Yes, he drank to not compare the girl in grey with her.
“I may have been drinking for quite a while. But it’s not nearly as nice as the last time. No grappa and worse company.”
Clear, spot on message. Grappa and Lizzy mixed perfectly, the tangy taste and her sweet kisses complimented each other that night making his head spin. Her touch, her caresses…
But also her shouts and the fire in her eyes. Spiteful words, wrong conclusions, stubbornness.
‘There you are!’ Darcy heard.
Eight New Year’s resolution: don’t waste precious time. If it’s not what you want – or deserve, give it up, be it a person or an activity.
He smiled weakly to Ella and she knew this was not the man she would be kissing at midnight. “Ah, well…” She sighed.
Lizzy didn’t answer his message but he was sure she understood him. He was planning to overflow her mailbox with fireworks’ pictures so she could blog as much as she wanted, but he would love to receive one from her. Those eyes, that smile, a white dress … Elizabeth.
When he told her about the Great Gatsby Réveillon in a text a few days earlier, Elizabeth had been ecstatic. Instead of texting back she sent him several voice mails demanding details, pictures, everything. Darcy was not sure he wanted to attend such a big party, it was a Bingley thing. He would rather find an exclusive club with a nice view to watch the fireworks, but Lizzy liked the idea so it changed his inclination.
That’s what she did best; make him see things in a different view.
‘Ah, yes of course. A different perspective on people.’ Darcy told himself. He left the balcony in search of his friend and found him laughing in a group of pretty girls, his angel and the girl in grey included.
‘Bingley, the New year’s resolution list Georgie sent me.’ Darcy said.
‘The b******* you deleted?’ Bingley chuckled.
‘Didn’t yet, I’m still considering it.’ Darcy loaded the mail in his phone. ‘Here.’ He pointed with his middle finger while holding his sweaty champagne flute. ‘Ninth New Year’s resolution: If you’re interested, tell the woman. If it works out, good. If it doesn’t, move on. Act upon it.’ He read and Bingley frowned. ‘Jane Bennett. Weeks ago I told you what Lizzy said.’
If Snoopy Doggy Dog wasn’t singing so loud, one could hear Bingley’s wheels in motion inside his head. ‘What time is it in Rio?’
‘Early evening. They are spending the holidays in Petrópolis though.’ Darcy answered and Bingley nodded and reached for his own cell phone.
When he asked Lizzy her plans and she said ‘home with family’, he considered inviting her to Dubai. She had traded the Holidays shift at the cruise line with a colleague, so she had a few days off. But he lacked the courage, he was afraid she would refuse him again. Now he regretted not trying, she would love to be there, he would love to have her there. Close to his lips, to his hands, to his arms.
Tenth New Year’s resolution: get off your ass and make things happen. Courage and attitude. Progress may not be linear; you may stumble, but pick yourself up and keep on.
As Darcy saw it, Georgie sent only one same message worded in ten different ways.
‘You stay in my mind so I have to make you mine’, Snoopy sang.
Bottom line: Fitzwilliam Darcy was in love with Lizzy Bennett, and would have to make it work.
Thank you for that excerpt Moira, I really enjoyed it. Very appropriate for the time of year - we all make resolutions, whether we keep them or not! Let's hope, for Darcy's sake, that he can keep some of his! Good luck with the book!
Your affectionate friend,