Can you believe we’re on Chapter 27! 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 26.
Where did Ellie go? Or should I say when? Let’s find out!
Chapter 27: What Happened (Part 1)
With a giant heaving inhale, Ellie startled awake, but two strong hands covered her shoulders, preventing her from moving. “Careful, you don’t want to jar your leg.”
She pressed her palm to her forehead and blinked hard as she strained to look around the room—not that she could see a thing! “Where am I?” It probably sounded like a silly question, but her eyes weren’t focussing. Everything was just one big, hazy blur.
“You’re at the hospital in Lambton.”
“Hospital?” She concentrated on the dark blob that was just beginning to clear a little. She was certain it was him, but she couldn’t see his face. After a few more blinks, the blurry form of what she thought was a dark-haired man stood over her. She squeezed her eyes shut and opened them one more time. It was him! “Tom,” she breathed in relief. “We did it. We saved Lydia, and I saw Lizzy marry Fitzwilliam. But, I don’t understand how I got here. I should’ve returned to Pemberley after the fall.”
Now that her vision had focussed completely, she scanned her surroundings. She didn’t frequent many hospitals, but this one was the poshest one she’d ever seen. She appeared to be the only person in the room. There wasn’t even another bed. The niggling ache that had been annoying her since she woke suddenly began to throb. She groaned and reached down to try to touch it.
“What hurts?” he asked with concern etched on his features.
“Just your leg?”
“Yes. Why? Should something else hurt, too?”
“I was just making sure,” he soothed. “Let me tell the nurse you’re awake. I’ll be right back.” After he stepped outside for a moment, he returned to sit on the side of her bed. “Do you remember how we met?”
“Yes, of course.” She cleared her throat, trying to get rid of the last of that gravelly sound from her voice. “We met in the study at Pemberley. I had crept past the barrier because I was fascinated by Elizabeth Darcy’s portrait and wanted to get a closer look. You asked me for a drink.”
A corner of his lips lifted in a small smile. “I did. Do you remember what happened after?”
He suddenly looked really concerned. She knew exactly what happened after, but she was beginning to wonder if he did—well, at least if he remembered her version of things. “I talked to Marion in the gift shop. Then, I started walking towards Lambton when Theresa called. That’s when that bloke tried to run me over with his car.”
He jerked like she surprised him and leaned a bit closer. “Can you describe the car? I am certain the police would be very interested.”
“Police? Why would be police be interested? It’s not like he hit me. He was just a prick who was driving too fast and nearly hit me.”
Tom appeared confused and tilted his head. “If he didn’t hit you, then what do you remember happening after that?”
“I walked back to the inn. The weather was so strange. You must’ve seen it. The sky got all cloudy and everything had that bizarre purplish-grey colour to it. I thought the rain would start coming down in buckets, but I was still dry when I made it to Lambton.”
He took her hand while he shook his head. “Ellie, you never made it back to the inn.”
Something flared in her stomach, and she began to breathe a little quicker. “What do you mean I never made it back to the inn? Of course, I did.” She knew the timeline would be changed when she returned, but did he really not remember the time she and Elizabeth spent at Pemberley?
“Ellie, you were found by one of our gardeners along the road. No one saw what happened, but you were unconscious along the verge. An ambulance was called, and you were brought here.”
“And no one knows what happened?” she asked quietly, the truth suddenly hitting her like a punch in the face. He had forgotten when the timeline changed. He didn’t remember any of it—the long conversations in the library, the kissing, their holding hands. She wanted to cry!
“No, but with the broken leg and your other injuries, they assumed you were hit by a car.”
Other injuries? She gulped and shifted as best she could without jostling her leg. When she moved, her body suddenly ached in places she hadn’t noticed before and when she rubbed her arm, she winced. She lifted it to find a good-sized abrasion stretching along the outside of her forearm.
A thud that sounded like a door shutting made her turn as a smiling nurse seemed to appear beside her. “I see Mr Darcy is correct and you are finally conscious. Are you in any pain?”
“My leg aches and I feel as though I’ve exercised, but I know I haven’t.”
With a chuckle, she straightened the sheets and wrapped something to take her blood pressure around her arm. While she pumped it up, she asked, “What would you rate your pain?”
“Huh?” What did that mean? Rate your pain. What blooming idiot came up with that idea?
“Is it a two or a three—annoying but doesn’t necessarily hurt too badly, or is it five where it hurts a fair amount?” The nurse picked up a piece of paper and wrote on it for a moment before watching Ellie expectantly.
“How high does this rating go? I mean can you give it a hundred?” The nurse stood straight and put her hands on her hips. Tom looked down to his lap while his shoulders shook.
“Excruciating pain would be a ten.” The nurse didn’t sound too thrilled. Perhaps she should just answer her question.
“I don’t know. Six for my leg, I guess, and four or so for my body? It’s not terrible, but it’s definitely more than a little annoying.”
“I’ll bring you something for the pain. Are you hungry at all?”
She shook her head while she swallowed at the thought of food. “No, I’m a little queasy really. It’s not bad though.”
She checked the bag of fluids hanging on a nearby pole, and Ellie, for the first time, noticed the tubing running to a vein on the back of her hand. She froze. How bad had she been hurt?
“I’ll be back in two ticks.”
When she hurried out, Ellie looked at Tom. “How long have I been here?”
“You’ve been out of it for three days. That lump on your head has gone down considerably since they brought you in.”
“What lump?” She reached for her hair, and Tom steered her hand to the spot. She sucked in a breath at a stinging jolt when she found the spot. Just barely grazing it with her fingers hurt! “I’m surprised I don’t have a huge headache with that there.”
“Me too,” he commented with his eyebrows raised.
“May I ask you a question?”
He nodded. “Yes.”
“What happened to Lydia? I mean after Lizzy and Mr Darcy saved her.”
He gave a wicked hot grin. “So, you read some of Elizabeth Darcy’s letters?”
Crap! He really didn’t remember any of Elizabeth being in twenty-seventeen. A small part of her had still held out hope he would ask what happened when they fell from Pemberley’s roof. Why couldn’t he know it all, so she wouldn’t have to quickly think of something to tell him. “I read a little.”
“Where did you leave off?”
What if she said something that wasn’t in the book? She couldn’t say the last thing she knew was their wedding. Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam were both there. Elizabeth wouldn’t have written to him of that. “I don’t remember. But, didn’t Lydia run away with some bloke named Wickham?”
“She did,” he confirmed, giving her a strange look. “She was staying in Brighton with friends, and he persuaded her to elope. He had no intention of marrying her, but he used her money to get them to London. He used her as well.”
“But Fitzwilliam Darcy helped Elizabeth find her sister.”
“Yes, they found her in a seedy inn in Saffron Hill. Fitzwilliam had Wickham jailed for his debts, and they took Lydia to her uncle’s house on Gracechurch Street. Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam married several days later to help hide her sister’s transgression. They claimed Fitzwilliam sent a carriage for Lydia, and her note, saying she eloped with Wickham, was nothing more than a poorly done joke.”
It took everything in her not to become impatient. She knew all of this already! When was he going to get to the rest. “But what happened to Lydia? Did she get pregnant? Did she die in childbirth? What?”
He laughed at her enthusiasm. “No, she returned to Meryton with her parents and sisters. Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth spent the fortnight after their wedding at a nearby estate called Netherfield, long enough to know Lydia wasn’t going to have Wickham’s child. Then, they left for Pemberley.”
The Tansy tea must have worked. Thank goodness! Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam didn’t need to worry about Lydia any more than they already had. “Did Lydia ever marry?”
“Not right away. She remained with her parents until they both died and the cousin, Mr Collins, took possession of the estate. That was when Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth hired her a companion and let her live in the Dower house at Pemberley. She lived happily there until she was about thirty-five when a local widower took an interest in her. They were married a month after he came out of mourning.”
“Did she ever have children?”
“No, but the letters I have of hers seem content. She was not as selfish and spoilt by then and she didn’t seem to want for anything. She only lived another ten years after her marriage.”
“How did she die?” It came out almost whispered. Unlike when she read Elizabeth’s letters that night at the inn, Lydia was real to her now. She’d touched her and talked to her and now, she was gone. So were Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth, but she shoved that to the back of her mind. She couldn’t think of that right now or she’d cry.
“From what Elizabeth said in her journal, they believed Lydia died of consumption.”
“Well, I suppose that’s better than before,” she mumbled.
“Nothing.” The nurse entered, gave her an anti-inflammatory and something for the nausea, and left again straightaway. Once she was gone, Ellie scanned the controls on the bed. “How do I sit up?”
“Right here,” said Tom, pressing the button for her. When she was comfortable, she covered his hand with hers. He started and stared as she whipped her hand away. He didn’t remember! She couldn’t forget that or he’d think her an idiot.
“Did the lie about the letter work?” Maybe that would distract him from her mistake? How she wished he knew everything!
“That Lydia made a terrible joke by saying she eloped with Wickham.”
“Oh! Yes, for the most part, it did. Elizabeth mentioned several families questioned the story, but none of them shunned the Bennets. They didn’t want to offend the Darcys, and later, once Elizabeth’s sister Jane married Fitzwilliam’s friend, the Bingleys.”
“That’s good.” What a relief! They hadn’t gone through all of it—travelling back and forth in time, the fall from Pemberley’s roof, the endless ride from Pemberley to London in a carriage, the sore bum—for nothing!
“Yes, it was good. Elizabeth was very satisfied with her sister’s lot. I remember in one journal entry she commented, ‘Lydia would never have lived this long if we had not changed her circumstances so drastically.’ I can’t explain it, but it was a peculiar entry.”
It wasn’t peculiar at all to Ellie. She understood what Elizabeth meant and agreed.
“Did you want to know anything else about Elizabeth?”
She bit her lip while she thought. She knew how many children they had, or did she? “They had eight children, right?”
“Yes,” he confirmed. She picked at the blanket on the bed. What else could she ask without giving anything away? He’d think she was mental if she told him the truth of it all. She startled when a warm hand covered hers. “Are you okay?”
Ellie nodded. “Yes, just a bit tired, I suppose.”
His warm hand covered hers and she inhaled at the pleasant shock of his touch. “Why don’t you lay there and close your eyes?”
“Will you stay and talk to me?”
“I could tell you more of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth if you like?” Her eyes were closed, but his tone was hopeful. He always did love to speak of them, and considering how much she wanted to know every detail of their lives, she didn’t want to stop him.
“That sounds lovely.”
“Since you’re interested in Lydia’s situation, I could tell you more of what happened. Both Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth chronicled that time thoroughly in their journals.”
It was all Ellie could do not to crinkle her nose. She knew all of it, but she couldn’t tell him that. “Okay.”
He gave her a side-long look. “You aren’t humouring me, are you?”
Yes and no. She did want to hear of Elizabeth, just not the part she had been a part of. “No, I’d like to know more about Elizabeth.”
He told her the story in great detail while she faded in and out. His accounting from the journals was exactly what had happened—except the truth of Elizabeth’s time travel and her presence. Could it have all been a dream? What if it had been some bizarre, crazy-realistic dream? They hadn’t mentioned her at all in their journal? It’s not like they could call her by name, but they could’ve at least said that they had the help of a friend.
When he finished the story, their eyes met, and he ran his thumb along the back of her hand. It brushed the hospital bracelet that shifted up her arm, so he started to adjust it on her wrist when it angled in his direction, making him pause. “Your surname is Forrester? You didn’t mention that when we met.”
“I didn’t know it was important.”
“Not necessarily important,” he said, shaking his head.
“I don’t usually mention it because I never thought it was significant, but Elizabeth mentions a friend named Miss Forrester in her journals from time to time.”
What? She did mention her? Elizabeth never mentioned knowing anyone else by that name and neither did her relations, so it had to be her. “What did she say about her?”
“I can show them to you sometime if you like. Miss Forrester helped Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam find Lydia. Both of them also credit her with bringing them together.”
He nodded. “She was with Elizabeth in Lambton when Fitzwilliam found Elizabeth there. She travelled to London with them and remained long enough to see them married. They both mention how they wished she hadn’t had to depart the day of the wedding, but they understood her need to go and wished her well.”
Ellie’s vision blurred with tears. “They did?” It was real! She knew it was real! She used her free hand to dab the tears from her face until he handed her a tissue. “Thank you.”
They sat in silence for a short time, but it wasn’t awkward or strained. Finally, she looked down at her leg and sighed. “Did the doctor say how long I’ll have to stay?”
“I would imagine you’ll have to stay here for a few days more. That bump on your head really knocked you out.” His brows drew down in the middle. “Are you in a great hurry to go?”
“Not exactly, but I don’t have a job, and I’m not far from being out of money. I can’t pay rent, so I’ll have to get my things from my flat before the end of the month.”
With a squeeze to her hand, he covered their joined hands with his free one. “Well, you can’t exactly go running back to London with that leg. You have two weeks, so why don’t we take things a day at a time. When you’re released, you can stay at Pemberley until you’re healed. I can even make arrangements to have your flat packed and put into storage here until you are well.”
“I can’t let you pay for that,” she exclaimed.
“If it means that much to you, you can pay me back when you find a job.” He leaned closer and grinned. “Besides, it will be a lot easier for us to have that drink if you’re staying at Pemberley.”
She couldn’t argue with that, but did she want to be dependent on him so early in their relationship? She’d need to get onto her own two feet and soon.
“I can see the gears turning in that brain of yours,” he teased. “There’s nothing you can do at the moment, so there’s no point in worrying.”
“Are you sure I can’t work somehow at Pemberley? I could work shifts in the gift shop or something?”
“With a broken leg?”
“There has to be something.”
His gentle fingers brushed a wisp of hair from her eyes. “Let’s get you well, and then, we’ll talk about it. It won’t do you any good to press yourself before you can manage it.”
A low growl escaped from her throat. He was sweet, but so stubborn!
“I hope that isn’t how you feel about me,” he laughed. “Because I’m afraid you’re stuck with me.”
She couldn’t help but grin. “I believe I can live with that.”
Tom doesn’t remember diddly squat, but it does seem like Darcy and Elizabeth sent Ellie a message through the pages of their journals. The story isn’t quite over yet. We’ll learn more in the next chapter when we wind things up.
Thanks for reading everyone!