Thank you so much for taking this journey with me! I know it’s a bittersweet thing, but we’ve reached the last chapter. It’s not quite over. The story needs a name, so I’ll have a post next Wednesday outlining a giveaway for that–Make sure you join in! I think the prize is a good one 🙂
In case you are only just joining us, or have missed a part, never fear. Chapter 1 is here. Just follow the “Next Chapter” links at the bottom to read it as a serial. If you only missed last week’s chapter, then just click for Chapter 27.
Maybe this will answer everyone’s questions and appease everyone’s wishes 😉 It’s a little long, but I didn’t think anyone would mind.
Chapter 28: What Happened (Part 2)
6 months later…
Ellie stepped out of the office into the light breeze, leaned her head back to feel the sun on her face, and inhaled the fresh air. It was such a gorgeous day! She looked back once at the sign for the estate agent’s office and smiled. It was so good to take care of herself again! She hadn’t minded spending those first few weeks out of the hospital with Tom, but she felt awkward without him remembering the same past she did—she didn’t want him to think she was using him.
The notion, however, never seemed to enter Tom’s head. He had tried to create a position for her at Pemberley, but in the end, she’d refused to allow it—nothing like getting a job by being the girlfriend of the boss to breed resentment. Besides, if things continued with Tom, she could work at Pemberley later. She was okay at the estate agent’s. Was it the perfect job? No, but it wasn’t terrible and it paid her bills. She was happy and things with Tom were perfect.
With a skip, she stepped down onto the pavement and walked towards High Street. She stopped into Boots and bought some conditioner. She had a date with Tom that evening, and she wanted to wash and dry her hair before he picked her up.
As she left the store, she marvelled at the difference between Lambton before her trip to eighteen-thirteen and now. Sure, it was still a quaint market town, but it was just a little nicer than it was before—buildings were kept up a little better, and it was a bit larger. She’d noticed the difference the day Tom drove her home from the hospital. It was the first thing that jumped out at her then, but over time, she’d become used to it.
When she was able to leave the hospital, Tom set her up in a posh bedchamber at Pemberley. Since she couldn’t pay the rent, her flat in London needed to be cleared before the end of the month, and well, she couldn’t do it with her broken leg, so Tom arranged for her flat to be packed and put into storage in Derbyshire.
Once the doctor said Ellie could return to work, she insisted upon finding a place of her own and a job that Tom didn’t arrange for her. Fortunately, the local estate agent desperately needed an experienced employee, so the job part was easy. After all, she’d been an estate agent in London. But, Tom, even though he tried and tried, couldn’t convince her to remain at Pemberley.
When he knew he’d never get his way, he offered an old gamekeeper’s cottage on the edge of the grounds rent-free. It was adorable! It was tiny, but bigger than her flat in London with window boxes bursting with flowers. She was thrilled when she persuaded him to accept some rent, even if she knew he could get more—much more.
Her phone buzzed and after recognising Theresa’s phone number, she hit the answer button. “You promised to call me yesterday!” yelled Theresa’s irritated voice.
“I got caught up at work. I had a last-minute appointment to show this big house a few miles from town, and I spent the entire afternoon working up the paperwork so they could make an offer.”
“You could’ve called me after.”
“I know, but I was tired and Tom came over to watch a movie on the telly. I fell asleep before it was over. What was so important that I had to call you then?” Theresa was one to exaggerate, so it probably wasn’t important.
“Oh, only that Greg is trying to get in touch with you,” she said a little drawled out.
“You can’t be serious. Why? It’s been forever. Like I’d ever consider getting back together with him.” She had Tom, and he was loads better as a boyfriend than Greg had ever been.
“I can’t tell you why, but he came to me for your new number.” She could just imagine Theresa rolling her eyes. “I told him to go to hell, but I thought I’d warn you just in case he finds some tosser to give it to him.
“Thanks. Knowing him, he wanted a booty call or something equally ridiculous. I’ll be sure to avoid him if he calls.” At least she remembered his number. It should be pretty easy to ignore.
Theresa laughed. “Sounds like a plan to me. What do you have planned for tonight?”
“I have a date with Tom,” she said, positive she was grinning from ear to ear.
“When don’t you have a date with Mr Tall, Dark, and Hunky? Well, I have to go. A group of us are going to the pub tonight.”
“You’re coming up again in a couple of weeks, aren’t you?”
“I’ll be there! I’m looking forward to it. Someone’s knocking at the door. I gotta go!”
“Talk to you later,” said Ellie before ending the call.
When she looked up, she was passing the inn. That always made her smile. She couldn’t help it. It was still so similar that sometimes she stopped as she walked down the opposite side of the street, like she did today, to see it from the same vantage point as she had when they stopped Fitzwilliam in the road. Carriages no longer entered and exited through the gates to the one side. Instead, a lovely beer garden beckoned the locals to have a pint and catch up under the cheerful umbrellas.
“Ellie!” She turned at Tom’s voice and smiled wider as he jogged up to her. “I hoped to catch you when you got off work. Charlotte told me which direction you walked.”
“I had a stop to make on my way home.”
He pressed a quick kiss to her lips, took her bag, and then, her hand, lacing their fingers together while they walked toward the closest car park. “I hoped you’d come straight to Pemberley.”
“But I wanted to change first.”
“Why? I think you look splendid.”
“I’m wearing work clothes,” she complained. “I found this cute little dress when Theresa and I went shopping in Matlock last week. I thought I’d wear that.”
When they reached the car, he tossed her bag in the backseat and drew her closer. “You did? Then, I suppose I’ll have to drive you home first. You know if you lived at Pemberley, this would be much easier.”
“I know, but you have to understand why I won’t.”
He gave a tiny pout. “I don’t care what my family thinks. I don’t care what anyone thinks.”
“Well, I do. After the accident, if I’d stayed at Pemberley indefinitely, they would’ve thought I was only with you for a free place to live.”
He brushed her hair behind her ear and sighed. “I’d know better.”
She hugged him tight. “And I love you for it, but I’m perfectly happy at the cottage.”
“I hope not too perfectly,” he mumbled while he drew back. After another peck to the lips, he led her to the car and opened the door for her. As they rode through Lambton, she leaned back against the headrest and watched him drive. “Tom?”
“You once told me that Fitzwilliam Darcy owned half of Derbyshire and made some prudent investments.”
His eyebrows drew together in that adorable way that made her smile. “Yes, he was very prudent.”
“What were those investments?”
“Oh! I can’t believe I’ve never spoken of it before,” he chuckled. “Nothing crazy really. When talk began of building a railway across England, he invested early on and made a fortune. He also instructed his sons to invest in horseless carriages if the opportunity arose.”
It took everything she had not to laugh. “And they did?”
“Yes, several of them did. They’d thought he was daft when he proposed it, though. He’d already made enough through the railway to see each of his sons settled with estates, but the profits allowed a great deal of the property to remain in the family. He had other investments, but those two were the most profitable. A lot of families with land and estates like Pemberley have had to sell property because of death taxes, but we have managed to retain ours. He also put a good bit of money into the town.”
Since she’d returned from eighteen-thirteen. She’d gotten bits and pieces out of Tom, but never the full story. It looked like Elizabeth told Fitzwilliam a lot about the future and they’d decided to use that information for the improvement of their family’s situation. She couldn’t blame them, really. Anyone in their position would do the same.
“Why the sudden curiosity about it?”
“I’ve wondered for a while now.”
He pulled through the gates and took a side road that led to the cottage while Ellie watched the last of the tourists walking the grounds. Tom had done an amazing job maintaining the house and marketing it. Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth’s wealth had also made them more well-known in this timeline. People flocked to Pemberley for a taste of a different time, movies were filmed on its grounds and within its walls, and locals had yearly subscriptions so they could walk the trails through the woods and gardens whenever they pleased.
She ran inside when Tom pulled in front of the cottage and sprinted up the stairs. She’d somehow managed to remove her work clothes before she heard Tom close the front door. She called down, “I’ll be ready in two ticks!” Her tube of antiperspirant was on the dresser. She didn’t have time for a shower, so she slathered on some more and sprayed a bit more perfume. It would have to do!
Once she’d put on the dress, she ran a brush through her hair, threw on her jewellery, and looked in the mirror. Oh, well! Not what she’d wanted, but good enough. She grabbed her strappy wedge sandals and her hand bag and ran back down to the kitchen where Tom sat on a barstool, checking his phone.
“You didn’t have to hurry.”
“Yes, I did.”
“No, you didn’t.” He grabbed her hand and pulled her between his legs, his hands on her waist. “I do like this dress, though.”
“You can hardly see it with me so close.”
“The bottom of the skirt swishing around your legs caught my attention when you walked through the door. You know I like anything that shows your legs.” His hand snaked around her back, pulled her flush to him, and pressed his lips to the spot over her heart. “But I love what’s in here the most.”
She dragged his face to hers for a kiss, but the moment his hands began to wander, she pushed him back. “Hold on a minute there. Don’t distract me. I’m hungry.”
He laughed. “Then, finish getting ready. We have food waiting for us at the house.”
She slipped on her shoes as they walked to the door and after she was settled in the car, he drove her the two-minute trip to the main house. When they walked inside, he gave her hand a tug. “Can I show you something before dinner?”
“I guess. Is it important?”
His shoulders lifted in a small shrug. “I don’t know, but I’d like to tell you sooner rather than later.”
What was that supposed to mean? Why would he be nervous about showing her something? Was she not going to like it? Had one of his ancestors turned into a Mr Rochester and locked someone in the attic? It was a little fantastical, but who said it couldn’t happen?
He led her up the stairs and down the portrait gallery toward the family wing. She pulled back so he stopped before the portrait of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth. She liked to look at when she missed them. They were about ten years older than when she knew them, but they still looked so happy. Knowing they had a good life helped soothe the ache from missing them.
With a little squeeze to her hand, he drew her attention. “Come on,” he said quietly. They didn’t speak as he led her down a corridor to a door she remembered well. When he opened it, she stepped through and looked around Elizabeth’s room. She even took a deep inhale through her nose, hoping to catch a faint trace of Elizabeth’s perfume.
“This was Elizabeth Darcy’s bedchamber. Very little has been changed since she used it. We’ve kept it in repair, but tried to keep everything intact. Their children left the rooms as they were when they died, but it was later generations that kept them as almost a museum.”
She released his hand and stepped to the dressing table. A worn brush and a several small, crystal bottles decorated the top. She lifted one of them, removed the stopper, and sniffed. Traces of that scent she’d searched for when she entered tickled her nostrils and she closed her eyes. “This was hers.”
“Yes,” he responded as though she’d asked a question. “Ellie?”
“Yeah?” She carefully set the bottle down and turned.
“Do you remember when I learnt your surname?” One of his eyebrows lifted much like Elizabeth’s had.
“Do you mean in the hospital?”
He nodded. “I have a confession to make that I should’ve done long ago. I just couldn’t believe it was all true.”
“What was all true?”
He leaned against the post of Elizabeth’s bed. “Just after the New Year, I was contacted by the solicitors that have handled the Darcy’s legal affairs for as long as I can remember. I was asked to meet with a Mr Dell in regards to a matter involving me and the estate.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Mr Dell explained to me some very unusual requests from Fitzwilliam Darcy’s will. His children and grandchildren ensured the will and its stipulations were remembered and passed along if the family changed solicitors, but were kept a secret after.”
“That is sort of strange, I guess. What could he have left that was so unusual?
He walked to a wardrobe along one wall, opened the door, and removed something. She couldn’t tell what it was until he turned, holding a small wooden chest. “This.”
“A box?” she asked. What was so special about a wooden box?
“I don’t know. I was given a letter from Fitzwilliam Darcy himself. It was addressed to Tom Darcy and the instructions were not to give it to me until twenty-seventeen along with the box.”
Her mouth went dry and it was all she could do to croak, “What did it say?”
“He sent his greetings and requested I become guardian of this chest until I met a young lady named Miss Elizabeth Forrester. When I did, I was to give it to her.”
Ellie grasped a bedpost to keep from falling over. “How had they managed it? So much could’ve gone wrong before she was given this? What if she’d never received it? What if… “But you didn’t give it to me when you met me.”
“No, I didn’t realise you were Elizabeth Forrester. Not at first anyway. I didn’t know until I saw your hospital bracelet that day.”
“But you still waited.”
“The entire thing was mental. How would Fitzwilliam Darcy know about me much less a woman I met two hundred years after his existence? I waited to get to know you before I confessed. I know it isn’t what Fitzwilliam requested, but I wanted to understand why it was you.”
A part of her should be angry at him withholding something that was meant for her, but she wasn’t. In an odd way, she understood why he would hesitate. It must’ve been surreal. “Did you ever figure that out?”
“No, instead, I fell in love with you. I may not have told you everything, but I do want you to know that I never lied to you about that.”
“I never thought you did,” she confessed softly.
He shook his head. “I’ve wondered for months what this contained, but I never opened it. I didn’t feel it was right for me to do so.” He lifted his arm and held out a tiny, old-fashioned key. “If you’d like to open it alone, I can go, but I was hoping I could stay.”
With trembling fingers, she took the key, and he placed the chest on the bed. When the lock turned and the lid was lifted, she gasped at what lay inside. It wasn’t anything of great value to most people, but was priceless to her. She carefully picked up a bundle of letters tied with a ribbon and traced her name, written in Elizabeth’s steady and smooth handwriting.
“How is this possible?” he whispered at her shoulder.
“It’s a long and incredible story that I wasn’t sure you’d believe.” She lifted out several more bundles of letters and a small journal.
“Would you mind telling me now?” Her stomach growled and they both laughed. “How about over dinner?”
“I’d like that.”
She returned the precious letters to the chest and Tom carried it to the library where a candlelit dinner awaited them. While they ate and drank wine, she told him everything—her version of their meeting, what happened when she returned to Lambton, the first trip to eighteen-thirteen, and everything that followed. When she finally reached the point where she woke up in the Lambton Hospital, she sat back with her glass of wine and waited.
He blinked several times and gave an incredulous bark. “It’s almost too bizarre to be true, but how else can I explain that?” He pointed to the chest. “It also explains what you said to me when you first woke up and realised it was me.”
“About saving Lydia?”
“Yes, I couldn’t understand what you meant? Then you asked all of the questions about that time. Elizabeth alludes to it in the letters I published, but you knew information that wasn’t in the letters. I wasn’t sure what to make of it.”
“Do you believe me?”
He shook his head and laughed. “I can’t explain it, but I do.” He reached over and opened the lid to the chest. “Do you mind sharing them with me? If they’re too personal, I understand, but so many little things in their journals suddenly make sense. I just want to know what I’m missing.”
“Lizzy knew that most people would think her a nutter if she mentioned travelling to the future. We managed to convince Fitzwilliam, but only because we knew things we couldn’t have known otherwise—when he wrote in his journal or didn’t, what he wrote, and his feelings. He wasn’t entirely comfortable with it at first, but I think he learnt to ignore it.”
She set her glass of wine down and pulled the first letter from the stack. Afraid she might tear it, she broke the seal gently and took her time unfolding the page.
“September 3rd 1813
“I have had so much I wished to tell you since you departed, yet I have been uncertain of a means to do so. Fitzwilliam, the dear man, has listened to my predicament patiently and proposed a solution. We do not know if it will be successful, yet we feel we must try. We know we shall not receive your responses to our correspondence, but we can speak to you by what means we have available to us. It is all we have and we must be content with it.
“Fitzwilliam and I have discussed our travels through time often since our marriage. He is of the same mind as I am and believes the past was altered to such an extent, Tom will not remember when you return. I apologise for not saying as much when we last spoke, but you were so full of promise. I could not take your hope from you when I did not know for certain.
“I know you missed Tom while you passed that time with us, and I hope your reunion was all you hoped it would be. Until I write again,
He stood and walked over to Elizabeth’s portrait, staring while he ran his hand through his curls. “What was she like while visiting twenty-seventeen?”
Ellie giggled. “Curious, funny, and not frightened of anything really. She was fascinated by the ‘horseless carriages,’ which is probably why they told their children to invest in them. She rode the tube with me in London, and told a bloke off for trying to pick her up on Gracechurch Street.”
She walked up behind him and wrapped her arms around him. “You liked her a lot,” she whispered near his ear.
“I wish I could remember.”
He turned and took her in his embrace. His lips caressed hers and his fingers trailed along her neck, sending shivers down her back. “I wish I remembered what happened between us, too. It didn’t take long for me to realise you are perfect for me, but if I knew what had happened, I would’ve known sooner.”
“But I returned before you helped us. You lost memories, but not time.”
“I want to keep all of my memories of you—especially this one.” He released her and slowly dropped to one knee. “Miss Elizabeth Forrester—Ellie, will you marry me?”
Her vision blurred and she choked back a sob. “Yes,” she whispered. “Yes!”
When he stood, he picked her up and twirled her around. After her feet were back on the floor, he reached into his pocket, pulled out a small box, and opened it. She laughed and sobbed all at once when she recognised it. “It’s Lizzy’s.”
“Now, it’s yours if you’d like it.”
She nodded and wiped the tears from her cheeks with one hand while he put the ring on her other finger. “Do you think Elizabeth would approve?” he asked.
“She told Fitzwilliam that you were my Mr Darcy. She called you my ‘great love,’ so yes.”
A brilliant grin appeared on his face. “Did she really call me that?”
He blew out a long breath. “This is still so strange. I thought the chest was some sort of oddity. I kind of thought it would be empty and would be something we could never explain.
“Did it make a difference? Would you have proposed even if the chest didn’t exist?”
His eyebrows drew down in the middle. “The letter I received only made me more sceptical when I first knew you were Elizabeth Forrester, but I always liked spending time with you. At first, I made the excuse that you weren’t ready for it all. I mean, how do you tell someone they have a one hundred and fifty-year old inheritance?
She laughed. “I just need to be sure you want to marry me for me and not because of Lizzy and Fitzwilliam.”
He pulled her so close she was pressed against him. “I know. I’ve given it a lot of thought as well. As fast as things progressed between us, I never thought it was fast enough. I always want to be with you. As much as I’m fascinated by the story of Elizabeth Darcy, my feelings for you are separate. I want to be with you—forever.”
“I love you, Tom Darcy.”
He gave her a side-long glance. “You never thought about Fitzwilliam? Some say he was a handsome man.” he teased.
“Never,” she laughed. “You’re my Mr Darcy. There’s no comparison.”
That low chuckle rumbled against her chest. “Just checking.”
Again, I can’t thank everyone enough for joining us. This has been so much fun. Look out next week for the giveaway! I’ll want your input!
Thanks for reading everyone!