Hi, everybody! Welcome back for Chapter Sixteen! 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 16.
So, what is Elizabeth doing on the roof? Well, we’ll finally see what Elizabeth has to say.
Chapter 17: Fears and Revelations
“And how do I get up there?”
“Through a staircase at the end of the family wing. Just pass the corridor for the attics and take the stairs to the left.” Tom paused and then added as though it was an afterthought, “Fitzwilliam used to take her up there to watch the sunrise over the lake.”
Ellie glanced over her shoulder at him. “Does she know that?”
He shook his head. “Not that I’m aware of. I haven’t mentioned it, and she hasn’t been around her journals since that first day. It’s possible she could’ve read it then I suppose.”
“Or it could just be a coincidence.”
“That’s possible, too.” He watched Elizabeth a moment more. “Why do you think she went up there?”
“I don’t know,” she answered with a shrug. “To be alone? To think? I know she’s upset, but I don’t think she intends to jump if that’s what you’re asking.”
His eyes met Ellie’s and he lifted his eyebrows. “It did occur to me.”
“She knows that if she ceases to exist, so do you and a lot of other people. I know she wants to go back. If she…” Ellie waved her hand in front of her as though she was speaking of something dirty. “If she… well… She’s sensible, you know. I just don’t think she would do it.”
“You’ve known her longer than I have, so I’ll have to agree with you I suppose.”
After a big breath in and a noisy exhale, she decisively nodded her head. “Okay, I’m going to go up there,” she said, as though she knew exactly what she was doing. “Could you keep an eye on her until I find my way?”
With his eyes back on Elizabeth, he nodded. “Okay, but be careful.”
Ellie jogged up the front steps and inside the front door. Finding her way to the family wing was simple enough. She’d become pretty accustomed to getting around the large house in the past couple of days, so it didn’t take long for her to pass Elizabeth’s room, her room, and then Tom’s. When she reached the window at the end of the corridor, an open door to her left appeared to lead into a servants’ passageway, and headed up until she reached the attics. With that final turn and the last set of stairs Tom told her about, she finally reached the door that led outside.
Elizabeth hadn’t moved since Ellie left the ground and still stared out into the peaks. Ellie, however, cautiously peered over the edge and waved down to Tom, who held up his hand in response.
“I had not thought you would find me.” Elizabeth’s voice was soft and had a brittle quality Ellie was not used to hearing.
“It’s almost time for dinner.” Ellie hoped she sounded upbeat and happy. She definitely didn’t want to sound as petrified as she was. Elizabeth was definitely out of sorts, but why the roof of all places? Ellie needed to snap her out of it if she could—she just couldn’t look down. “Tom and I hoped you would join us.”
“I thank you for your consideration, but I am afraid I do not feel much like eating.”
“Tea then?” asked Ellie. “I know how you love the tea here.”
Elizabeth turned to her with her jaw dropped and an incredulous stare. “Nothing has happened for two days, and you ask if I desire tea? Are you addled?”
“No, but I do not see how standing up here helps anything.” She leaned forward just enough to peer over the edge again. Why did she look? She wasn’t supposed to, but something always made her do it!
One side of Elizabeth’s lips curved. “You are afraid of heights,” she observed.
Ellie crossed her arms over her chest. “Why is that funny?”
As she shook her head, Elizabeth laughed. “Do you not see the humour? You are exceedingly independent, you have braved ever situation before us without flinching. You jumped before a post coach for goodness sakes, yet you are cowed by such a simple thing.”
“Cowed? Are you comparing me to one of those daft creatures in the field?”
“Gracious no! I mean you are intimidated by it,” she cried, frustrated. “You were suspicious of me when you found me in your home, but you never showed fear. I have seen many emotions from you over the last week—worry, excitement, nervousness—but never have I thought you scared.”
Ellie stepped back another foot from the edge. “So? I am afraid of heights. You should’ve seen me when Theresa dragged me on the London Eye after some guy she thought was hot. I spent an hour with my eyes closed and trying to pretend I was anywhere but there.”
“I can only assume the London Eye is tall.”
“It’s that big, round ride we passed when we left London.”
“Ah, I believe I understand now.” Elizabeth returned to staring at the scenery before her and not speaking.
After a minute or so had passed, Ellie threw up her arms and let them fall to her sides. “Is that all?”
That annoying eyebrow quirked upwards. “Is what all?”
Ellie huffed. “I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal if I’m afraid of something. Doesn’t everyone fear something? You’re scared of not going home, aren’t you?”
“I did fear never returning at first, but I have discovered I now fear something more.”
“What do you mean?” asked Ellie, confused.
Tears pooled along her bottom lashes and she took a shaky breath. “I once thought Mr Darcy was the last man in the world I could be prevailed upon to marry. Now… Now I am terrified I may never see him again. I am terrified he is somewhere thinking ill of me.”
“The man loves you, Lizzy. Even with my bizarre behaviour by the standards of your time, the man still adored you. He couldn’t think badly of you if he tried.”
“What if I never have the opportunity to beg his forgiveness? I was unpardonably rude when he proposed.”
Ellie grasped Elizabeth’s hand and tugged so that she looked at her. “I don’t know how, but we’ll get you back. You will have your chance to apologise. I promise.”
“You cannot promise what you cannot control,” cried Elizabeth, who now had tears trailing down her cheeks. “I once thought him so proud. I prayed that he was far from home when my aunt wished to tour Pemberley—not because I still carried a dislike for him, but because I was too embarrassed by my treatment of him in Kent. I should not have presumed I knew his character from one meeting.”
Elizabeth shook her head. “I have been such a fool. At the assembly, he drew my notice from the start. His tall bearing and handsome visage were like no other and made my insides flutter when he looked in my direction. When he insulted me, I laughed and pretended he had not hurt me, but I lied. I may not have spoken the words, but I lied just the same. Vanity, not pride, has been my weakness, and should I not return to my own time, I will pay dearly for it.”
“Do you mean when he said, ‘She is tolerable, I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me?’” At Elizabeth’s nod, she chuckled. “You shouldn’t blame yourself, you know. He was terribly rude and according to Tom, bemoaned his stupidity often in his journals—he knew he was wrong, too.”
“But I should not have allowed his behaviour to prejudice me so. He carried himself so stiffly and he was so formal. He said he was ill qualified to recommend himself to strangers, but I never thought to discover what lay behind his behaviour. If I had, we both might have acted differently at Hunsford. Perhaps, I would have accepted his proposal.”
“Do you regret telling him no?” asked Ellie, hoping Elizabeth would finally admit to her feelings, whatever they were.
“I suppose.” She bit her lip and bounced a bit in place. “I just do not know. I could never accept such a declaration as he gave at Hunsford, but I…” Her shoulders slumped. “I love him. I do not know how or why it has happened, but when faced with the prospect of never seeing him again, my chest is so tight I cannot breathe.”
That was when Ellie noticed Elizabeth’s chest and shoulders almost shaking she was panting so. Crap! If she didn’t slow down her breathing, Elizabeth would have a panic attack. “Calm down.” Ellie put her hands on Elizabeth’s shoulders and looked her in the eye. “You need to inhale nice and slow.” Elizabeth did as Ellie wanted and then they exhaled together, blowing it out of their mouths. “Good!”
“How is this good, Ellie? I love him, but I can’t get back to eighteen-thirteen to tell him.”
“We’ll figure it out. We have to. You can’t stay here forever without drastically altering everything, and I refuse to live my life in stays and dresses. I can’t do it. I have to have jeans, and fancy espresso machines, and my own handsome Darcy with a great bum and sexy glasses.”
“You do not care one jot for propriety, do you?” laughed Elizabeth through her tears.
“I am completely proper for the twenty-first century, which is why I couldn’t survive in the nineteenth.”
Ellie looked up at the sky that almost appeared to be fading. “Lizzy, look at the sky.”
As they gazed upward, the clouds and sky sort of swirled and changed until it turned that strange purple-grey shade they’d both seen before. A rush of wind blew one side of her hair in her face, and she drew a finger along her cheek to pull it behind her ear as the first star shot across the sky.
“Is that…? I do not understand. Why now?”
She grinned at Elizabeth. “We always seem to learn something or discover something in order for it to happen. Maybe you needed to say you loved him. Who knows?” The wind began to blow in gusts and a few raindrops began to fall, making Ellie take Elizabeth’s hand. “I do think we should go inside. Don’t you?”
“What if we are supposed to stay here?” yelled Elizabeth over the wind as it began to howl.
“Whether I’m inside, outside, or in a car has never mattered before. I don’t know why it would make a difference this time. Besides, the other day it hailed. I don’t want to get knocked out by an over-large chunk of ice.”
“Ellie!” Tom’s voice could barely be heard between the distance and the crazy weather. “You need to get inside!”
“See!” she exclaimed. “Even Tom thinks we should wait before the fire instead of staying here.”
The rain picked up and began to come down in sheets—nothing like typical misty English rain—and Ellie began to panic. Where was the door? She couldn’t see a foot in front of her face much less across the roof. The only reason she knew Elizabeth’s location was because of their clasped hands.
“I cannot see!” yelled Elizabeth.
“I know, I can’t either.”
“Which way do you think?”
Ellie squinted and tried to make out anything. “Do you see what looks like a shadow? Could that be the top of the stairs?”
“I cannot be certain, but I suppose it could be.”
With tiny steps, Ellie began moving in towards what they hoped was the way inside, but when the hail began to fall, she pulled Elizabeth forward, her strides longer.
“Can you see where you are taking us?” called Elizabeth over the pinging of hailstones off the roof and the wind whirling around them.
“No, but one way or another we’re going to find that door!”
Ellie’s foot hit something hard, but she was walking too quickly. Before she could prevent it, she tripped and fell forward, expecting to meet the hard surface of the roof, but instead her shoulder gave a jolt that felt as though her arm would be ripped from the socket.
“Ellie!” came Elizabeth’s blood-curdling scream.
With an oomph, she hit a stone wall and her foot struck something that gave just as she heard the sound of glass shattering to bits. Oh no! No, no, no! Her heart began beating a mile a minute as she managed to make out the trim around Pemberley’s roof above her.
She looked down, but with the rain and what seemed like fog below her, she couldn’t see the ground. When she looked up, Elizabeth, who was hanging over the edge, held her arm. “I don’t know if I can hold on!” she cried, as they struggled to clasp their other hands.
Her feet scrambled along the limestone wall in an attempt to find any sort of a foothold, but she couldn’t get any sort of traction no matter how hard she tried. “What if you try to pull me up? If you can get me even part way, I might be able to climb the rest.”
Elizabeth gave a huge heave, and Ellie felt herself being dragged a few centimetres up the wall only to drop right back down where she was. “I cannot,” she sobbed. “I do not possess the strength.”
The toe of Ellie’s Converse caught something. She had no idea what it was, but it didn’t matter what it was. As long as it gave her that boost she needed. She made sure her foot was planted well and pulled Elizabeth’s arms as she tried to hoist herself up. Elizabeth cried out as though she hurt her and after a loud crack from below, her whatever her step was suddenly fell away.
She dropped like an anvil in an old Looney Tunes cartoon, her arm jolting painfully when Elizabeth lost one hand and grabbed the one arm she still possessed with both of her hands. As she almost bounced, Elizabeth’s grip tightened, but Ellie, with a sudden plummet, realised Elizabeth wasn’t preventing her fall, but was sliding over the edge with her.
Elizabeth’s scream echoed through the storm around them as they both fell. Ellie pulled Elizabeth to her and wrapped her arms around her. A weird light seemed to shine through the fog and Ellie turned her head to the side a little so the glare didn’t hurt her eyes. All of a sudden, the light and the car it was attached to, emerged from the haze, headed directly for them. Wait! Was that the car that almost hit her after she met Tom? And how in the world was a car driving without the ground?
She closed her eyes tight, bracing for impact. If Ellie could manage it, she would hit the ground first so Elizabeth would live. Tom would have to see to it she was returned to eighteen-thirteen, but he was smarter than Ellie. He could do it.
Only, the impact she expected never came and everything went black.
Ellie gave a great inhale and jolted awake. She blinked once… twice… and stared at the site across from her. How in the bloody world?
Carefully, she lifted onto her elbow, shook her head, and looked again. No, Elizabeth was definitely lying beside her in a bed of all places. How did they go from hanging from the side of Pemberley to a bed?
She scanned the room and it was all she could do to keep her eyes in the sockets as she sat up. It had been a while since she’d been in the room at the inn in Lambton, especially looking like this. When she looked back down at Elizabeth, she suddenly noticed her friend’s nightgown was that same frilly white cotton one Ellie had worn when she first woke up in eighteen-thirteen last time. When she glanced down at her clothes, she was wearing the jeans and blouse she’d worn in twenty-thirteen—almost a reversal of eras from when she first found Elizabeth in her flat.
Elizabeth’s eyelashes fluttered and her eyes slowly opened. Her forehead creased when she saw Ellie, and she rose to sit. “Where are we?” She glanced around the room, and her eyes widened much like Ellie’s had before. “We are back!” she cried.
She clamped a hand over Elizabeth’s mouth. “Not so loud. We don’t know exactly when and I can’t be found wearing these clothes, can I?”
After giving a quick once over to Ellie’s ensemble, she smiled. “No, we must see you properly attired lest you be considered a heretic of sorts.”
Ellie bounced from the bed and peeked out the window, hoping no one could see her from the street below. Men on horseback plodded down the dirt road while a few ladies and their children walked into a building across the road.
“I think this is the morning of the accident,” whispered Ellie loudly. “How…?”
With a scramble from the bed, Elizabeth joined her staring out the panes of glass. “I do not believe it. Why would we come to this point in time? Would we not return to Pemberley after the accident? This makes no sense.”
“When has any of this made sense?”
“Truer words have never been spoken.” Elizabeth shook her head as she gaped at the scene before them. “But how do we know for certain whether this is the morning of the accident? We cannot walk into the street and hope Mr Darcy comes along.”
Ellie glanced around them, hoping to find something to prove when and where they were. Well, they did know where, so when was the major problem.
A knock came from the door and Ellie’s head jolted to Elizabeth, whose eyebrow lifted in silent question. The latch began to sound and Ellie panicked, jumped across the bed, and leaned her weight against it.
Mrs Gardiner had come into the room the morning of the accident. What if it was her? She couldn’t find Ellie dressed as she was.
“What are you about?” asked Elizabeth while she hurried over.
“If it’s your aunt, she can’t find me here like this.”
That was when they both heard it. Ellie couldn’t say that she hadn’t known it would happen, but something inside her still jumped when she heard Mrs Gardiner’s voice.
“Lizzy? Are you awake?”
Their both back! Now, what do you think they should do first? Somehow I wonder if bacon will be involved 😉 I live for your comments, you know!!! 🙂
Thanks for reading everyone!