A few week ago, I posted a missing scene from “Darcy’s Voyage” that I had rediscovered on an old thumb drive. (You can read it here.) I mentioned that I had found another story and would post it shortly. Well, this is it. It is a modern Christmas story I wrote about 10 years ago. Because it is a “Pride and Prejudice” inspired story, you ought to be able to fill in the beginning and the end. It’s long, but I hope you enjoy!
A Modern Christmas Story
William Darcy rose from his leather chair and walked to the window. He stood with his hands tucked casually in his trouser pockets as he gazed out at the grey sky, wondering when it might begin snowing. It was cold enough. From the 7th floor of his office building, he could readily see people below bundled up with coats, mittens, and scarves, hurrying about as they tried to finish their Christmas shopping before the storm arrived. Despite being only two o’clock, the gaily lit decorations from the shops and street below twinkled brightly, a sharp contrast to the dreary day.
He walked to his office door and slowly opened it. He peered out, meeting Mrs. Reynolds’ eyes as she immediately looked up.
“Yes?” she asked, but then looked at the phone as it rang.
He shook his head and waved for her to take the call.
He waited to see if the call was for him. He heard Mrs. Reynolds say, “Good afternoon. Darcy Enterprises.” After a pause, she began to ask, “Do you want to…” and then she stopped. She didn’t say anything else except muttering an occasional ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
When it was obvious he wasn’t needed, he turned to gaze out at the large office before him. Despite the fact that most of the employees had already left for the day, there were still signs of that afternoon’s Christmas party. A decorated tree – complete with ornamental fake gifts beneath – blinked colored and white lights, various Christmas decorations still rested upon several desks, now vacant, and a table was strewn with remnants of the catered lunch. Those few employees who remained were eating some of the leftovers as they finished up their work. He could just hear the Christmas music playing. Someone had brought in a stack of Christmas CDs, and he heard everything from Rudolph to Celtic to a song someone said was a duet sung by Bing Crosby and David Bowie. He could not believe that last one. He grimaced. He was glad the day was over and he would have four days of peace.
He had not always felt like Scrooge, but two years ago, just before Christmas, his world came crashing down around him. He retreated, finding little reason to celebrate the holidays. That was when Elizabeth Bennet told him emphatically – and quite vehemently – she had no interest in him.
Upon reflection he had realized her accusations — some of them, anyway — had merit. He had wrongfully meddled in her sister’s and his friend’s relationship, causing Charles to doubt whether Jane truly loved him or was even suitable for him. And yes, he did tend to put his work before relationships. When he met Elizabeth, it was the first time he truly wanted to make someone a priority in his life, but he found that he didn’t know how. He was so entrenched in every aspect of his businesses that he found it difficult to let things go.
But she had been wrong when it came to George Wickham. Will had been so angered at the man that he could not even refute her allegations against him. If she only knew what that man had done! Deep down inside he hoped that one day she would find out. At least he knew she had never seriously considered dating him. The last he heard, George had moved to Canada; most likely to get away from the fathers of the 15-year-old girls he frequently attempted to lead astray.
Will had found Elizabeth so lively and genuine; he had wanted their relationship to work. Unfortunately, she claimed he was the last man in the world she wanted anything to do with.
Will knew he could attempt to explain himself to Elizabeth. He had considered writing her a letter, emailing or texting her, but every time he tried, he sounded defensive. He wanted to justify his reasons for his actions and how she perceived his character, but in the end, he decided to let it go. Unfortunately, he found it very difficult to let her go. As a result, he threw himself even more into his business, effectively bringing his social life to have to a standstill. Not that it mattered; there was very little that seemed appealing to him.
He shook his head. He and Elizabeth were too different; like opposite sides of a magnet. He was corporate America, living in an expensive townhouse in an upper class suburb of Chicago, and working 60-80 hours a week. He had very little contact with his staff, communicating mainly through his valued assistant, Mrs. Reynolds.
Elizabeth, on the other hand, was director of a day-care for underprivileged children. She lived in a modest home, close to Meryton day-care and near many of the children. She was able to keep her hours to a mere 35 or 40 at the most, because her employees enjoyed working for her and helping out when they could. Most were students in college, and while getting their degrees, Elizabeth gave them practical education in the area of child growth and development.
Family was important to her and she spent a lot of time with them – particularly Jane, with whom she was very close.
Mrs. Reynolds finally ended the phone call with, “I am certain he will figure something out. You take care of yourself.”
Will turned and looked at her questioningly.
“I think everyone enjoyed the party today, Mr. Darcy,” she said, instead of providing any information. “I’m sure everyone appreciated you coming by and presenting their Christmas bonuses, and giving them Christmas Eve off from work made them very happy.”
Will nodded, noticing that she ignored the fact he attended the party only briefly. He barely knew their names, let alone anything about them. Idle conversation with people who were practically strangers was not his strength. And he lacked the festive Christmas spirit that everyone else seemed to have.
He had, however, told his employees they could leave any time after the party. With Christmas on Tuesday giving them Christmas Eve off meant they had a four-day weekend. They couldn’t accuse him of being a Scrooge with time off, at least.
He would spend most of those days in the office, until Georgiana arrived in the late afternoon Christmas Eve. Christmas Day they would spend it together with extended family.
He finally recollected the call Mrs. Reynolds had just taken. “Who was on the phone?”
“It was your cousin, Richard.”
“Oh. Why didn’t you give me the call?”
“He is sick. He could barely talk. He just wanted me to convey some information to you.”
“I am sorry to hear that. What is it?”
She looked up at him as if she was reluctant to reveal the matter.
Will pressed his lips together as he waited for her to continue.
“Richard was scheduled to play Santa at the Meryton day-care Christmas party this afternoon. Obviously, he can’t do it with his cold.”
Will’s heart gave a sudden lurch at the reference to Elizabeth’s day-care. He thought a man his maturity wouldn’t suffer love pangs, but he still did at just the slightest reference to her.
She tilted her head and smiled. “He would have called earlier, but hoped he would feel better by this afternoon. Unfortunately, he seems to be worse.”
“Is there anyone else who could do it?” he asked.
Mrs. Reynolds looked out across the office as the last employees walked out the door. “Well, I think everyone here has left.” She smiled. “You know I would do it in a heartbeat, but I do not think I would fool the children one bit — even with a pillow under the suit, the long white hair, beard and moustache.”
Mrs. Reynolds continued. “The Santa suit is here in my office, along with the toys for the children.” She eyed him knowingly. “It isn’t that difficult to play Santa, you know. All you have to say is ‘ho, ho, ho’ in a deep voice. Anyone can do it. The child sits on your lap and you ask them what they want for Christmas. We even have thick white eyebrows and facial glue to keep everything firmly in place!” She looked at him, and he knew she felt strongly that he should do this. “No one has to know who you really are… that is, that you are not really Santa Claus.”
Will took a deep breath and held it while he examined his options. His company had done this for the day-care for the past three Christmases, but it was all done under a different company name and without any reference to the Darcy corporations. Elizabeth only knew that a man from F&D Enterprises came as Santa bringing a bag filled with toys for the children, not just token toys, but some of the most popular ones that season. The day-care staff truly appreciated this company that took such an interest in helping these hurting children have a merrier Christmas. They had no idea who was really behind it and he wanted to keep it that way!
He looked at Mrs. Reynolds; she knew some but not all of what happened between him and Elizabeth. He had been pretty tight lipped about it, not even telling his cousin Richard. All Richard knew was that when he went to the day-care as Santa, he was not to mention anything about Darcy Enterprises and was to give F&D all the credit. This was easy for him; he was vice president over the company, just one of many that fell under the larger Darcy conglomerate.
“No need to worry, Mr. Darcy,” Mrs. Reynolds said with a wave of her hand. “We’ll just pack up the toys and have a courier deliver them. I know the children will be disappointed if Santa himself doesn’t come, but they’ll soon forget when they get their toys in their precious little hands.”
Will looked at Mrs. Reynolds as he raked his fingers through his hair. “No, no. I can do it.”
“Oh, I know you’ll do just fine!” Mrs. Reynolds assured him with a smile and a glimmer in her eyes. “Now, you are supposed to be there at four o’clock, so you have a little less than an hour. Do you need any help getting into the costume?” She walked over to a box that was sitting in the corner. Reaching in, she pulled out the big red shirt trimmed in some sort of imitation white fur. Beneath it was a pillow to add a little girth so Santa would not appear to be as physically fit as Will.
“Thank you, Mrs. Reynolds, but I am certain I can manage.”
“Good.” Pointing to the corner of her office she said, “There is the bag of toys. I assume you don’t need directions.” She looked at him over the rim of her glasses.
“No, I…, no.”
“Splendid!” she exclaimed with a clap of her hands. “Oh, our lawyers stopped by the day-care today and gave them the news about their new facility. He said Miss Bennet was overjoyed and so grateful.”
“I am glad to hear it.” And he was! The city was taking over a 20-square-block area to build a new convention center, which was going to displace Elizabeth and the kids. He had been determined to find something else for her and he had found the perfect place. “Thank you for all you have done, Mrs. Reynolds.”
“It is my pleasure, sir. Merry Christmas.”
“Thank you. I hope you and your family have a very merry Christmas, as well.” He started back into his office and then stopped and turned back to her. “Don’t stay too late. I know you have family coming in today.”
“Thank you, sir. I just need to do something to the Santa suit and then I am gone.”
Will nodded and returned to his office, collapsing into his chair. Closing his eyes, he asked himself, “What did I just get myself into?”
At three thirty, dressed as Santa, Will walked out of the building carrying a bottle of water and the bag of toys. He hoped no one would see him. He began to walk toward his BMW and then suddenly stopped.
Probably not the most appropriate thing to drive in that part of town, especially when dressed as Santa. Besides, Elizabeth might recognize it.
He jingled the keys in his hand and fingered through them, finding the key for the company car, which was parked next to his. He unlocked the trunk and placed the bag inside. Shutting it firmly, he opened the car door and climbed in.
He looked around the dashboard of the car, reacquainting himself with it. It had been a long time since he had driven it. “Probably time to replace it,” he said aloud, as he discovered it lacked most of the BMW’s amenities, even though his car was three years old.
As he drove through the busy streets towards the day-care, he took the time to mentally prepare himself to see Elizabeth again. But could he emotionally prepare himself? If the nervous churning in his stomach was any indication, he was not ready.
Occasionally he would notice people looking at him and pointing. He encountered a variety of reactions, but found himself smiling when a child would excitedly wave. He was surprised how easy it was for him to wave back. He also rehearsed his “ho, ho, ho.” He tried several different voices and finally decided upon the one he would use. He was quite certain Elizabeth would not recognize it as it was deeper than his normal voice. He glanced up at his reflection in the mirror and hoped the disguise was good enough that she wouldn’t recognize him, either. Or did he really hope she would?
When he finally pulled up to the old brick building, he was flooded with memories of the times when he came here to pick her up. He had never really understood why she wanted to do what she did for so little money when she was so intelligent and could easily get a high paying job anywhere. He had even offered to hire her and start her off at a relatively decent wage. But she refused. She told him she was exactly where she wished to be. The where was what concerned him. He had never felt assured of her safety.
The day-care had a small parking lot and he found a place to park just outside the door. He looked into the rear view mirror and pressed his thick white eyebrows and moustache to ensure the glue was still sticking and that they covered, along with the beard and long flowing curls of the wig, most of his face.
He stepped out of the car and straightened the suit, plumping up the pillow and adjusting the big black belt.
He walked to the trunk and opened it. “Ho, ho, ho,” he said as he pulled out the bag of toys. “Ho, ho, ho,” he said again as he closed the trunk. “Here I go!”
He paused, not knowing what to say. Finally, in his deep and resonating voice he said, “Ho, ho, ho! It’s Santa Claus here for the party.”
“Good!” an unfamiliar high-pitched female voice exclaimed. “The children are expecting you! Come on in.”
A buzzer indicated that the door had been unlocked and he walked in. He was met by a young girl who introduced herself. “Hi. I’m Hannah. I’ll show you where to go.”
As they walked down the hall, she said, “We received some good news today. We thought we would have to close because of the new convention center being built. Elizabeth has been so worried!”
Will pinched his brows. “But something good happened?” he asked, feigning ignorance.
“Yes! We were told today that a company is purchasing a building for us that will give us more space and allow us to have more children.”
“I am glad to hear that.”
He followed the young girl into the cafeteria, which also served as a meeting room, conference room, and anything else that was needed. He looked around and saw a tree decorated with handmade ornaments — most likely made by the children.
His eyes scanned the room. The children were gathered around a table and were drawing on a large sheet of paper. He continued his perusal of the room and finally his eyes landed on Elizabeth. She was seated next to a young girl who appeared to be quite upset. Elizabeth combed the girl’s hair with her fingers as she spoke softly, trying to soothe her.
Elizabeth suddenly looked up and her eyes widened with joy as she saw Santa. She turned the little girl and pointed. “Look, Sara. Look who’s here!”
The sight of Elizabeth arrested him and he seemed to lose his peripheral vision. He was solely focused on her and did not see the swarm of children that descended upon him.
When he felt the crush of the children against him, his hands went instinctively to protect his beard from being pulled off. There was actually no need; he towered above the children.
Elizabeth immediately called the children away from their guest and gently reprimanded them for behaving so disrespectfully. She walked toward him and extended her hand through the throng. “Hello, Santa. It’s so good of you to stop by and visit us when I know you are so busy!” A wink to him, while innocent, made him almost forget what he was doing.
Will’s mouth went dry at her close proximity, but fearful of discovery, he let out a boisterous, “Ho, ho, ho!” He could think of nothing else to say.
Elizabeth smiled and Will’s heart ached. He wished her smile was meant for him, instead of the man in the Santa suit.
“We have a special place over here for you to sit with the children.” She pointed to a chair and then gave directions. “Now boys and girls, you must be on your best behaviour. Get in a line and when it’s your turn, you can sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what you want for Christmas.” She looked back to him and said, “I am going to be in the kitchen getting the treats ready.”
Will nodded and watched with a sense of disappointment as she walked away.
He reluctantly turned his attention to the two assistants who directed the children, sometimes placing them on his lap or holding their hand if the child seemed nervous. Most of them came quickly, however, and sat on his lap, told him what they wanted, and then hopped down. A couple of them truly tugged at his heart as they told of wanting their mom or dad or brother or sister to be released from prison for Christmas. Some wore tattered clothes that were either too large or too small, and some were too shy to utter a single word. He found himself talking gently to these children, hoping to persuade them to tell him what they wanted, while frequently glancing towards the kitchen door.
In the kitchen, Elizabeth hurried to get things ready; all the while something nagged at her thoughts. She shook her head as she remembered her surprise when she learned that a new facility for the day-care was being purchased by a local company. It was only three miles away, and would be larger and allow her to expand, which she had always wanted to do.
She smiled as she thought that it would be safer, too, as it was located right next door to a community police headquarters. She chuckled at the thought Jane would be delighted and wouldn’t have to worry about her or the children anymore.
As she finished putting ice cream on the last piece of cake, Hannah walked in. “The kids are almost through the line. I don’t think this is the same Santa as last year. He has the most gorgeous eyes.”
Elizabeth laughed. “Yeah, but wait until you see the rest of him.”
“I would love to see what he looks like without that beard!” She let out a sigh. “And oh, does he smell good! I am pretty sure it’s Old Spice.”
Elizabeth jerked her head. “Old Spice? Are you sure?”
Hannah nodded. “My dad wears it.”
Elizabeth suddenly noticed her hands were shaking. “Hannah, would you mind taking these out to the table?”
As Hannah took the plates, Elizabeth walked out and looked at Santa as he patted the last child’s head. He looked at her and started to stand up, but she put up her hand. “I have not had my turn yet, Santa. I have a Christmas list, too, you know.” She fought her nerves, walked over to him, and sat down on his lap. She could readily smell the familiar scent that she had come to associate with Will Darcy. She looked into his eyes, not really comprehending how this could possibly be him.
“Are you not going to ask me what I want?” she finally asked.
He was silent for a moment. “Ho, ho, ho!” His voice cracked. “And what do you want for Christmas?” he asked in an odd mixture of Santa’s deep resonance and his own mellow voice.
It took a moment for Elizabeth to respond. Her heart pounded as she tried to make sense of this. “I would have said, a new facility for our day-care, as we have to be out of here by the end of the year when the city is scheduled to break ground for the new convention center. But we just received word that a facility has been found and is being provided for us.” Her voice softened. “But then, you already knew that, didn’t you, Will?”
He opened his mouth, but did not reply.
Elizabeth leaned in to him, whispering emphatically. “I do not know how you are involved in all of this, so I am asking you to remain until after the party when we can discuss this matter privately.”
Will did as he was told, all the while wondering whether Elizabeth would lash out at him with the same furor she had when she had thrown her accusations at him. For the remainder of the time at the party, all he could mutter was an occasional, “Ho, ho, ho,” and attempt to read the expression on her face when she glanced in his direction.
He was not certain how she had discovered it was him. It had been all he could do to ask her what she wanted for Christmas, let alone do it in Santa’s voice. He was fairly certain she had already suspected it was him when she came and sat on his lap. He gave his head a slight shake. As much as he enjoyed it, it had also been tortuous having her so close – yet so far!
The parents soon arrived to pick up the children, and Darcy handed their gifts to them as they walked out. Once the last one was out the door, Elizabeth told her two assistants they could leave. They argued that they would help her clean up, but she insisted. As they left, he noticed the looks that passed between them and Elizabeth.
When he heard the door close behind them, Will turned to Elizabeth. “Look, I know…”
Elizabeth put up her hand. “Please, Will, before you say anything else, would you do me a favor and please take off the Santa outfit?” A smile escaped her lips. “It makes it very difficult for me to say what I want to say with you looking like that.”
“Gladly!” Will began removing the pieces of clothing and facial disguise. Once it was all removed, with an occasional, “Ouch!” as he pulled off the brows and mustache, he looked at her apologetically. “I am sorry if I upset you. I can only imagine what you’re thinking.”
“You have no idea what I am thinking, Will. But I will tell you what I am wondering! Why did you feel that you could not let me know of your involvement in this? I suspect F&D is some part of Darcy Enterprises. Am I correct?”
“And it was you who provided someone to pose as Santa the past two Christmases, gave large donations to our program, and now purchased a facility for us to move into?”
Elizabeth began to absently pick up the empty paper plates and cups from the table. Will did the same.
“I thought you would not accept it from my company, knowing how much you dislike me.”
Elizabeth looked up at him. “Will, there may be many CEOs that I dislike, but that does not mean I will refuse their money if they wish to support the day-care.” She stared at him silently for a moment. “Besides, I do not dislike you.”
Will started. “You don’t?”
Elizabeth shrugged and said, “At first I did, but when Charles and Jane got back together, all I ever heard from him was praise for you.”
“I was wrong in misguiding him. How are they doing?”
“They are drowning in wedding details. It’s just three months away.”
After clearing off the table and making sure the leftover food was put away, Elizabeth said, “I think that is good enough.” She looked at Will. “Would you walk me to my car?”
Will smiled, feeling a little less apprehensive. “I would be happy to.” He stuffed the Santa suit into the empty toy bag, and they walked to the front door. He held it open for Elizabeth, and as she stepped out, she suddenly stopped, saying, “Oh, look! It’s snowing!”
She turned and looked back at Will. “And you don’t have a coat on!”
He shook his head and smiled. “It is rather difficult to put on a coat over a Santa suit.”
“I would imagine. Do you have one in your car?”
He nodded, and then they stood silently for a few moments. Finally, Will said, “You know, I really enjoyed the party. The children are precious.”
Elizabeth drew in a deep breath. “Yes, they are.”
Will watched as the snowflakes drifted down, several resting on Elizabeth’s face. He tentatively brushed them away with his finger. “How did you know it was me?”
Elizabeth shook her head. “If you had truly wished to remain unknown to me, you should not have worn so much Old Spice.”
He pinched his brows together. “I haven’t worn that since…” He let out a huff and shook his head. “It must have been Mrs. Reynolds!”
“Mrs. Reynolds?” Elizabeth asked.
“She told me she had a few things to do to the suit before I left. I still had some Old Spice in the executive restroom. I bet she added a little to the Santa suit.” He shook his head. “You know how poor my sense of smell is. I cannot believe she would do such a thing!”
They both laughed as they walked over to Elizabeth’s car. She unlocked the door and turned to face him when he opened it for her. “Thank you for doing this. It really means a lot to the children. And the facility will be perfect – especially next to the community police station.” She let out a breathy chuckle. “You always were concerned for my safety down here. It makes me wonder just how much you had to pay someone to move out of that place so we could have it.”
“I will never tell!” Will smiled and then shook his head. “No. Trust me, it was vacant.” As Elizabeth slipped into the car, he began tapping his fingers on the door frame.
“That was always a sign that there was something else,” Elizabeth said teasingly, pointing to his fingers. “What is it?”
Darcy swallowed. His throat was suddenly dry. “Do you think, would you consider – in the near future – possibly after the holidays, going out for coffee or something… with me?” He winced. Why was he so bad at this?
Elizabeth pouted and twisted her mouth. She began to shake her head and finally said, “In the near future? I don’t know, Will…”
“Well, I just thought I’d ask. I understand.”
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes and looked up at him, making quotation marks with her fingers. “I think ‘in the near future’ sounds far too vague. How about tonight? Do you have any plans? I am really hungry, and the little café near my house is so cheerily decorated for Christmas with lights and a big tree filled with sparkling ornaments.” She leaned in to him. “And they have a small band playing festive Christmas music.” She tilted her head. “Are you still in the Christmas spirit after having to endure an afternoon playing Santa?”
Will pounded his hands on the top of the door. “I most certainly am! I can think of nothing I would rather do!”
“I will meet you there, then.”
He watched Elizabeth drive away and suddenly felt all the joy of the Christmas season pour back into him. He wasn’t sure how things would turn out with Elizabeth, but he was thrilled that he was going to have a second chance to find out.
In the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” on Day 10 the true love gives 10 Lords a Leaping. I can just see Darcy leaping for joy at the end of the story.
I actually love Christmas music, and begin listening the day after Thanksgiving! If you aren’t familiar with the duet by Bing Crosby and David Bowie, it is “Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy” and here is a link to it.
If you comment below, you will be entered to win in my giveaway, and I am giving you a choice! The winner will be able to choose between an autographed novel of mine, a “Pride and Prejudice” Journal (with the whole text of P&P that makes up the lines in the journal), or a toddler’s counting “Pride and Prejudice” Board Book. Click on the links for product details.
I will announce the winner on Saturday, December 26.