“Why aren’t there any stories about Darcy and Elizabeth after they get married?”
I heard this question asked at the first JASNA event I ever went to, in Washington D.C., back in 2016 or so, and it stayed in my head. An answer to the question started percolating in my imagination and before I knew it, out came a short story about newlyweds and the silly arguments they get into, even when the couple is experiencing a happy ever after. With February, the month of Valentine’s Day, almost upon us, it seemed like the perfect time to post this excerpt. I hope you enjoy it!
Darcy stretched lazily as he slowly awoke, absentmindedly reaching out to his wife, Elizabeth, where she lay in bed next to him. It was early morning for him, around eight o’clock, his customary time for awakening, and the sun was shining brightly in through the open windows of his bedroom. His hand, however, discovered that his wife’s place was empty, though a little residual warmth showed that she had not been gone long. Darcy was not disturbed. Elizabeth typically woke before he did each morning and, with her high level of energy, could not stand to wait for him before taking a long walk through the park, her first of several on a typical day.
He rolled over languidly instead and looked on the floor for the irrefutable proof that Elizabeth had come to his bed the night before- the pair of pink satin indoor slippers which she normally wore with her night ensemble. Darcy had come to love those slippers. On the nights when Darcy sought out Elizabeth’s bed the slippers would be primly in their place in her own room, lined up next to her side of the bed, where she could put them on first thing in the morning. But on the nights when Elizabeth came to his bed, freely, unsummoned- ah, those were the sweetest moments of all in their young marriage. On the mornings after those encounters Darcy relished the sight of the pink slippers randomly arrayed in his room, a silent token of the bond they shared and the desire his wife felt for him. For some reason she never remembered to pick them back up before repairing to her room the next day. Darcy did not know that the location of Elizabeth’s pink slippers each morning was the source of speculative mirth among his observant staff.
He shaved and dressed for the day quickly, with his valet’s help, and in a trice he entered the sitting room where breakfast was laid out on the sideboard. His swift arrival meant that he had to eat by himself for several minutes before the sound of the front door opening announced Elizabeth’s return. With a warm smile he welcomed her into the room and pulled out a chair for her before she sat down, noting how the glow in her fine eyes had been increased by the early exercise.
“Good morning, Elizabeth,” he began, conversationally, as he sat down again. “I missed you when I woke up this morning.”
“You speak as though it is an unusual occurrence to awake alone,” she replied mildly as she looked back at him. “But I hardly ever sleep later than you.”
“It may not be unusual, but it is a sensation to which I have never grown accustomed. I always reach for you and find that you are not there.”
A playful smile appeared on her face. “We have only been married six months, and we did not marry until you were eight and twenty years old. How did you survive without me all that time?”
“I have no idea. My life was empty before you came into it. Waking up alone is a pointed reminder of the time before I knew you, and one that I would rather do without.”
“Are you saying that you would like it if I stayed with you until you awake each day?” Elizabeth asked, glancing aside to be sure the servants had left the room. They had.
“What would you say if I did make that request?” Darcy’s tone was serious, but his eyes had begun to twinkle.
“That would depend. Are you referring to every morning, or only the mornings after an evening spent in each other’s company?” She arched on eyebrow.
Darcy pretended to consider this for a moment. “At first I was referring, I believe, to the second circumstance you described; but the more I think about it, the more certain I am that I would enjoy your company every time I am in bed.” His smile broadened wickedly as he waited for her response.
“Then you are not as astute as I first thought you were, Mr. Darcy.”
Darcy was enjoying the flirtatious banter more than he could express. “What have I said that lowers your opinion of my intelligence, Mrs. Darcy? Whatever it is, I must take care to reverse it immediately.”
“Why, it has apparently taken you six months to realize that you could have me in your bed as much as you want, simply by asking.” She smiled sweetly at him.
Darcy was glad that she had ensured their privacy before making such a provocative statement. “You have not answered the question, my dearest wife,” he reminded her. “What would you say if I were to ask you to remain in bed until I have risen each day?”
“I would answer that if my company is that important to you, instead of me staying in bed with you, you might try rising early with me!”
She spread butter on the toast in her hand with an impudent smile, and Darcy knew he had been beaten. He could think of only one way to make his defeat a pleasant experience, and so he stood abruptly, preparing to move to his wife and show her exactly why he missed her every morning. But just then a light rap came on the door, and a moment later his steward ceremoniously bowed as he entered the room.
“Begging pardon, Mr. Darcy, but your tenants are here for their meeting with you.”
Darcy and Elizabeth are in love, but everyday life still has to go on, as they are about to discover. You can read the rest of this short story here. Thanks for reading, and see you next month!