Chapter Five! 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 here’s Chapter 4.
So how will Ellie answer Elizabeth’s question? Can she tell Elizabeth about her future or should she keep everything to herself while she straightens out the mess she made? Only one way to find out 🙂
Part 5 – Lighting the Flameless Candle
What a loaded question! Playing for time, Ellie got up from her seat and rushed to the kitchen, holding her mug of tea in one hand and opening the cupboards with the other. “You said you were hungry. You must be if you woke here this morning and haven’t eaten. Do you like pasta?” asked Ellie as she turned. She jumped back when she found Elizabeth standing directly behind her.
“You have not responded to my question.” Elizabeth’s head was slightly tilted to one side, watching Ellie as though she could see right through her.
What was she supposed to say? Could she tell Elizabeth about her future? Should she?
If Greg hadn’t dragged her to every dull as dirt science fiction film that came to the cinema, she wouldn’t be so worried, but he had. She was no fan of space travel, time travel, multiple dimensions or all those other insane plots writers dreamed up, but weren’t there rules about this sort of thing? wouldn’t telling Elizabeth upset some balance? A disturbance in the force? No, that wasn’t it – that was Star Wars. The space-time continuum! Yes! She probably wouldn’t have remembered if it wasn’t for that fitty Chris Pine, but that was one of the films she had actually enjoyed. What was it called again?
“Ellie, if we are to deduce what has occurred, we must be honest with one another.”
Ellie closed the cupboard. “I don’t know if I should tell you. What if by telling you, I change the past?”
“You altered my history, rather inconsiderately, when you threw yourself into the path of that coach. While I do not believe you should tell me everything you learned from my correspondence—if I should return, I would not wish to know too much of my future, and conversely, I should not want to know what I have missed if I must remain here—but if we are to discern a way for me to return to eighteen-thirteen, I believe must be party to certain information.”
Elizabeth was right. Ellie didn’t have the first idea of how to fix this mess, but she had to admit the two of them were more likely to work it out together, rather than on their own. Two heads were better than one, after all.
“Okay,” she sighed, “yesterday, while I waited for a mechanic to fix my car, I toured Pemberley.”
“With my aunt and uncle?”
“No, before I met them, and in my time.” She waved both of her hands in front of her. “The point is, I was drawn to a picture of you in the master’s study.”
“A portrait of me?” Elizabeth shook her head. “I have never had an artist take my likeness before. My family could not afford such an expense.”
“But Fitzwilliam Darcy could, and did, after you married.”
“Married to Mr. Darcy. Impossible!”
“Why is it impossible?”
Elizabeth’s hands went to her stomach and she began to breathe like she’d been running. “I did hear you refer to me as Mrs Darcy, yet I do not understand how such a match came about. I treated him so abominably at Hunsford, accusing him of ruining Jane’s hopes with Mr. Bingley, and of having a disreputable character. I know him as a man of immense pride. I must have wounded it so severely. I don’t believe he would forgive me…”
“But he did.” Ellie grasped Elizabeth’s arms. She needed to calm her down. What if she passed out? Ellie had a few plasters and a hot water bottle, but those wouldn’t do her any good.
A line formed between Elizabeth’s eyebrows and she glanced down to Ellie’s hands. “Do you fear me being violent?”
“No, you started to pant. I was afraid you’d pass out.”
“Pass out?” Elizabeth stared, puzzled. “Oh! You must mean swoon!” she laughed. “I shall have you know I never swoon. I was momentarily overwhelmed by your revelations. I am well now. I will also have you know that I have never panted. Such methods of breathing are for dogs and dogs alone.”
Ellie promptly let go of Elizabeth, picked up her tea, and held it in her hands. The warmth of the mug calmed her. “Sorry.”
“I fear I should apologise as well. I must remember that we will only solve our dilemma with rational minds.”
“Perhaps we should both sit down,” Ellie offered. Once they were again seated before the window, she looked Elizabeth in the eye. “You must understand. I don’t know everything. I read maybe a third of the book before I fell asleep, and it was gone when I woke up.”
“You refer to the book of my correspondence?”
“Yes, one of your, I don’t know how many greats of a grandson, put all the letters you wrote while you were married in a book. He gave it to me when I toured Pemberley.” Ellie blew her fringe from her face as she leaned back in her seat “In one letter, you mentioned how grateful you were that Mr and Mrs Gardiner took you to visit Pemberley—Mr. Darcy came back early and you met him there.”
“Oh, how embarrassing.”
“Embarrassing? How?” Ellie noticed Elizabeth blush and fiddle with the cross and chain around her neck.
“When my aunt first spoke of touring Pemberley, she claimed that those great men were never at home, but I was still uneasy. Our argument at Easter was intemperate, you see. He proposed, but I had reason to despise him then.” Elizabeth turned to gaze out of the window.
“Do you still hate him?”
“No, I was wrong. He was innocent of the accusations I made against him.” She reached down and a moment later held a folded and slightly battered piece of paper in her hands. “He wrote me a letter, you see. While it was quite improper for him to have done so, and even more improper for me to have accepted it, I could not resist. Till that moment, I never knew myself.”
They both jumped when Ellie’s mobile rang and began skittering across the table as it vibrated. She looked at the display. Crap! It was Theresa. If she ignored the call, Theresa would keep trying day and night until Ellie answered. There was nothing for it. She pressed the green circle on the touchscreen.
“Well? Are you back? You woke me up this morning, texting me that you’d be back in London by mid-day, and that’s come and gone. I’ve been smoking like a chimney waiting for you.”
Ellie chuckled. “I’m home. As it turns out, nothing was wrong with Mildred, she was just being stubborn.”
“But that’s good! You didn’t have an expensive car repair you couldn’t afford anyhow.”
“I suppose that’s something to be chuffed about,” grumbled Ellie as Elizabeth rose and began to walk around her flat.
“You bet it is! So, what time did you want to head out? We’ll stay well clear of The Bell since that’s Greg’s favourite pub, but we still have all of London. Should be simple to find a place to get you pissed.”
“About that,” Ellie began, her voice a little hesitant. “I can’t.”
“You can’t what, drink? You didn’t get ill out in the rain yesterday, did you?” Before Ellie could reply, Theresa gasped. “Oh, God! Tell me you aren’t pregnant.”
“I’m not pregnant.” That was all she needed! She might be living out of Mildred in a few weeks, but at least she wouldn’t be homeless with a baby. “I just can’t go out tonight.”
“But you have to! You can’t skive off now!”
“Theresa, I just can’t. I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to get drunk another night.” Hearing a click, Ellie looked over at Elizabeth who had turned on the bathroom light and was peering inside. With another click, the light was off and Elizabeth gasped before switching the light back on again.
“You have to come! I found this little occult bookstore near the Tottenham Court Road tube stop that actually has supplies. We could put a curse on Celeste. You know, make her boobs shrivel up or have her grow a big hairy mole on her nose,” Theresa said.
Ellie grinned. “It sounds like fun, but we’ll have to do it another night.”
She opened her mouth to speak, but before she could say a word, a high-pitched male voice and a fast dance beat blared through her tiny flat. Elizabeth came dashing out of the bathroom, covering her ears with her hands.
“I have to go,” Ellie yelled and hung up, before running over to press the power button on the small wireless speaker Elizabeth had turned on. When Ellie’s windows were no longer rattling with the noise, she picked up the old mp3 player Greg kept next to the speaker for music, rather than running down the battery on his phone. “He took my espresso machine and left Beiber. Brilliant—just brilliant!”
“What was that…that racket?”
Laughing, Ellie chucked the mp3 player in the bathroom bin. “Some call it music, but I might argue when it comes to Justin Beiber.” Ellie turned down the volume, opened the music app on her phone, and pressed play.
Elizabeth’s eyebrows rose when an Adele song filled the air. “You can listen to music when you choose, without attending a performance?”
“We still have concerts, but I’m sure they’re very different to what you’re used to.” She tossed her phone on the sofa. “I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.”
Elizabeth followed her to the small kitchen where Ellie searched through the refrigerator. “I have left-over Chinese takeaway.” She glanced at Elizabeth, who was pressing the lever on the toaster down and watching the insides glow. “You’ve probably never eaten Chinese, have you?” Elizabeth jumped when the toaster popped.
“I can only assume you mean the Orient. I have never travelled so far, so no.”
Ellie shifted the chow mein out of the way. “Ha!” After checking the expiry date to be certain it was still good, she unwrapped two ready meals and popped them in the oven. “We’ll have a bit of a wait, but we can start thinking of how to send you back to your own time while it’s cooking.”
When Ellie turned, Elizabeth was opening the door to the microwave, and then closing it again. “Do you have difficulty with your vision?”
“No,” Ellie answered, as Elizabeth again opened the microwave door and closed it, watching it like Ellie watched the TV. “Why?”
Once she straightened, Elizabeth pointed to a lamp, and then the light which hung from the ceiling. “Well, every room has these odd-looking candles, which can be lit instantly. Then, the inside of this… box, it lights when you open the door, as well as that larger box you just opened. Good candles, those that do not smoke, are costly, so you must require a great deal of light to have so many. I thought, despite your lack of spectacles, your eyesight might be poor.”
It was hard not to laugh. Elizabeth’s question wasn’t stupid, just funny. “The lights aren’t candles, they’re light bulbs and they can be expensive, but some last several years.”
“Years?” Elizabeth’s voice was full of wonder as she gazed at the lamp. “I cannot imagine. May I ask, how does the flame appear and disappear so swiftly?”
“Um, I don’t know the particulars of how they work. As long as I am not sitting in the dark, I don’t worry about it.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “We really have to get you back to your own time.”
Elizabeth scanned the tiny flat. She suddenly appeared more interested in exploring rather than discussing their predicament. “You killed me, if you remember,” Elizabeth reminded her. “What if I cannot return and must remain here?”
“We still have to try. Wouldn’t you rather see your family again? Marry your Mr Darcy and live happily ever after?”
“Of course, I wish to see my family, but as for Mr Darcy, we disagreed more often than not.” She eyed Ellie doubtfully as she began to wander about, studying objects and fingering things as she passed. “I find it difficult to believe we had a harmonious marriage.”
“Well, you did, and we need to get you back to that life, back to eighteen-thirteen.”
Elizabeth picked up the TV remote and pressed a button, when nothing happened, she pushed another. “How do you suggest I do so? I awoke here, in your home, and in this time. I no more planned my journey here, than you did yours to my time. Would you have me go back to sleep in the hopes I vanish during the night?” With the press of one more button, the TV came to life and Elizabeth’s eyes widened. “At the moment, I am not tired in the slightest.”
Ellie huffed as she strode over, turned the TV off, wrestled the remote off Elizabeth and almost slammed it back on the end table. “Best not look at that, they say it rots your brain. It might blow yours.” Elizabeth moved closer to the TV for an inspection, but Ellie stepped in front of her. “What does make you sleepy? Exercise? Wine? I think, once we’ve eaten, we should both try and sleep and hope that whatever strange twist of fate brought you here returns you to Lambton straight away.”
“You slept at the inn in Lambton?”
“Then I wonder if, in order to reverse the process, you must be in Lambton and I must be here?”
Ellie hadn’t thought of that but she definitely wasn’t driving to Derbyshire now! “Let’s try sleeping first. If it doesn’t work, we’ll have to think of something else.”
“I hope you will forgive my scepticism. Your idea has merit, yet it seems too simple. You believe all will be well if we just go to sleep?” Elizabeth was standing beside the bathroom door. She turned on the light again before taking a cautious step inside. The sound of water starting and stopping muffled out the sound of the soft music still playing on Ellie’s phone. Her visitor was turning the taps on and off. Ellie put her head in her hands.
“What to do? What to do?” she whispered. “Think, Ellie.” But what would, or could, work? She was no scientist, but then even the world’s cleverest boffin might be stumped—people didn’t shift through time. It couldn’t happen! “I need a drink!” Ellie strode back to the little kitchen and began rummaging through the cupboard where she kept the wine.
“And Greg strikes again,” she groaned. Of course, he had taken all the expensive bottles and left her the plonk. Wanker! She was pouring herself a glass of wine when she heard the sound of the toilet flushing and a surprised laugh.
“Ellie, what need have you of this low swirling basin of water?”
“It’s the lav, the little girls’ room, the toilet, you know… the chamber pot.” She took a large gulp of red wine. “The food should be ready any minute. Why don’t you come and eat?” She poured a glass of wine for Elizabeth in the hopes it would help her sleep when the time came. The sun was beginning to set, so it would be dark. That would help, too.
After another gulp of wine, she pulled their food from the oven and set each plastic tray on a tea towel to protect the table. She put a knife and fork next to Elizabeth’s place, and as Elizabeth sat, Ellie placed the wine in front of her.
Elizabeth frowned at the food in front of her, carefully touching the hot and misshapen plastic packaging. “Is this what people utilise as plates in two thousand and seventeen?”
“No, I have plates.” Ellie pulled one from the cupboard and set it on the table, thinking it might make Elizabeth more comfortable. “But the trays don’t have to be washed. I can throw them in the bin.”
One of Elizabeth’s eyebrows lifted into a high arch before she began to dish her food from the ready meal package to the plate, placing each bit just so. When she was finished, she turned back to Ellie. “Well, are you to stand and gape at me or shall we eat?”
Ellie stared as Elizabeth delicately cut her meat, without any ear-piercing, metal meets china, scraping noises, and then lifted it to her mouth gracefully. She chewed two or three times, made a face, and swallowed.
“This is… interesting.” She took a sip of her wine. “It appears to be beef, but has not the flavour, nor the texture, to which I am accustomed.”
“At least I didn’t cook it in the microwave, or it would’ve been like chewing rubber.”
“Microwave?” asked Elizabeth, peering at the kitchen curiously.
“The small box with the light.” Ellie tensed, waiting for the long list of questions that were sure to follow. “It cooks food really quickly, but not very well.”
“Ah! I thought it for storage.”
Ellie felt guilty as she watched Elizabeth try to cut into another piece of the horrible beef. “Sorry, it’s not great, is it? Mental note to self—keep cupboards well stocked, because you never know when somebody from two hundred years in the past might show up for dinner.”
“Are you expecting it to be a regular occurrence?” Elizabeth smiled before they were both surprised by a banging on the front door. “It seems a little late for visitors?”
“Yeah,” Ellie replied, going to the front door and peeking through the spy hole. It was Theresa. What should she do? She couldn’t turn her best friend away.
“Ellie, I got through the security door by slipping past a pizza delivery man who was on his way out. If you are eating pizza without me, I may never forgive you.” There was some more banging. “Open up! You’re acting weird, and you sounded weird on the phone. I need to check you’re okay.”
“Hey, you’re weird all the time,” Ellie called out. “I don’t feel the need to get in a cab and come over to check up on you. Listen, thanks for caring. I appreciate it, but I’m fine. I’m going to get an early night.”
“Just let me in for five minutes, one glass of wine. What’s up with you? Oh, do you have a guy in there? The guy you mentioned on the phone, Tom Darcy?”
“No!” Ellie glanced over at Elizabeth who raised a questioning brow at her, before she sighed and released the catch on the door. “Oh, alright, come in.”
Theresa stepped into the flat, out-of-breath and suspicious.
“See, no guy, just…” Ellie trailed off as Elizabeth stood up from the table.
“I am Elizabeth Bennet. You are a friend of Ellie’s, I believe. ‘Tis a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” Elizabeth curtsied.
Theresa’s lips were pressed together and she appeared to be holding back a laugh when she glanced at Ellie, looking for an explanation.
“Theresa, this is Lizzy Bennet, a friend of mine from school. We haven’t seen each other for years, but I bumped into her and she needed somewhere to stay for a night. So… here she is.”
Leaning over, Theresa whispered frantically, “What’s with the clothes?”
Ellie was relieved Theresa could see Elizabeth too. Though she had prodded her, talked to her, and believed her to be real, a small part of Ellie had still worried it was all an insane delusion.
“Lizzy, this is Theresa. Theresa, Lizzy is an… actress, who’s in London to audition for a part in a play—a Regency play. Yes, that’s it. And, she’s one of those method actresses, you know, so she’s staying in character until after the audition.”
“Oh, right.” Theresa smiled but was obviously still doubtful. “It’s a great costume, and you’re really convincing. You’re a shoe-in for the part.”
“I thank you.”
“So, has Ellie told you all about Greg? I came over to take her to the pub, to cheer her up. You look like you could use a drink, why don’t you come too?”
“A tavern? Yes, I think I would like that.” Elizabeth’s face was animated, her eyes were bright with excitement.
Theresa laughed. “A tavern, yeah. Let’s all go.”
Ellie was horrified. Leaving Theresa with a swift, “excuse us,” she took Elizabeth by the arm and marched her into the bathroom, shutting the door behind them. It was the only place where a private conversation was possible in her tiny flat
“You can’t go to the pub,” she insisted in a furious whisper.
“Oh Ellie, I am a traveller through time! I don’t know how it has happened, or why, but you cannot expect me to go meekly to my bed and hope I awake the next morning back where I began-not without allowing me some adventure first. Before I went to Derbyshire with the Gardiners, I had never been more than fifty miles from home, and now I am in the year two thousand and seventeen, a completely different world. If I am to fall asleep and return to eighteen thirteen, may I not at least seek out some new experiences first?”
“But what about the space time continuum?”
“The what-what?” Elizabeth asked, puzzled. “Ellie, as unhappy a prospect as it might be, you admit you may have killed me, meaning I may be bound to this place and time. In which case, I shall require some instruction in your ways and customs.”
Ellie tried to think of a sound reason, a really good explanation as to why Elizabeth should not leave the flat, but then, she began to see the situation through the eyes of the girl in front her. The impossible had happened. The big long thread of time had contracted or expanded, or got rolled up into a ball, or something-and how had she, Ellie Forrester marked this incredible, momentous occasion? By dishing up a ready meal and a cheap bottle of plonk- wine she now remembered winning in a raffle. She hoped she hadn’t actually killed Elizabeth, so they could return her to her happy ever after with Mr Darcy but meanwhile, the least she could do was buy her a drink and entertain her for a few hours. “Alright, okay, you win,” she conceded. “We’ll go to the pub, but first, you’ll have to change.”
“I understand, yes. I shall try and alter my behaviour so as not to draw attention to myself.”
“No, I meant, you’ll have to change your clothes.”
What will Elizabeth think of a night out in London? Will she be shocked and appalled? What if she likes it so much she doesn’t want to return to 1813? Got any questions for her? Go ahead and ask in the comments section below – she may well answer you.
And, don’t forget to tune in same time next week for Chapter 6: “Two Bottles of Wine and a Booty Call.”
Caitlin and Leslie X