Time loops and confusion continue in this wacky short story! I’m combining Groundhog Day and Persuasion–and if you have a title suggestion, leave it in the comments! I started really enjoying this story, so I believe it needs a name
If you missed Part 1, you can read it here!
Summary: Poor Anne Elliot has gone through the same day twice, and has woken up again in the hotel in Lyme. Must she again see her cousin fall off the slick steps of the Cobb? Must she watch Captain Wentworth falling in love with another? She’d felt at times in the past nine years that her life had become a circular repetition of busy nothings, but she had never expected that complaint to turn shatteringly true.
Anne woke at the hotel in Lyme with her hands tucked under the pillow. She woke to the murmur of voices as the gentlemen’s boots were delivered first thing in the morning. She definitely did not feel the same sense of relief she’d felt the last time she woke up here.
Her head did not hurt, thankfully, after her dreadful fall on the Cobb, but she hadn’t saved Louisa at all–only doubled the trouble for her friends!
Only… she rose slowly and looked at her clean dress hanging on the peg. She looked out her small, thick-paned window and saw the same sloop toot its horn as it docked at the small harbor. The same ship which had docked yesterday at this time.
What was happening to her?
She dressed in a daze, smoothing her hair and washing her face more thoroughly than she had done during her last frightened morning. She heard Mr. Elliot–whom she now knew to be her neighbor across the hall–exit his room. No doubt going for his morning walk.
Anne had rarely been so perplexed in her life. Forcing herself to look for a bright lining to this very dark and confusing cloud, she pressed the back of her head and said a quick prayer of thanks that she was not lying in bed with a concussion today. Unless she had bruised her head and this was the jumbled imaginings of her fevered brain?
She smoothed the somewhat tattered lace of her shawl over her shoulders. She pressed her stockinged feet into the rough texture of the braided mat next to her bed. She pressed a hand against the cold panes of glass in her window and took in the smell of ocean, fish, and beef that permeated the hotel.
There was simply no way to believe this wasn’t real. If this was fake, all of her life might be an illusion, and to think that way could only lead to madness, blasphemy, and probably cold tea.
She joined Henrietta in their private dining room, and–contrary to her normal custom–gladly accepted Henrietta’s offer to share her small pot of morning chocolate. Anne wrapped her hands around the unusual luxury, and sipped the thick, bitter chocolate.
By careful but casual questioning, she determined that it was indeed the same day as the previous, Wednesday, November 23, to be exact.
That fact rolled around in her mind like a pebble in her shoe. It would obtrude, and it would leave a bruise, and yet no one else could see it! No one else seemed to be troubled at all.
When Henrietta asked Anne (again) to go for walk on the Cobb, she agreed a little helplessly.
This time they came upon Captain Wentworth and Louisa rather sooner. Louisa’s dashing dark curls blew in the wind and were riotous down her back. It was a little improper not to have her hair pulled up, as she was no longer a schoolgirl, but there could be no denying that she looked very lovely, very young, and very engaging. Captain Wentworth clearly thought so, though he happily turned back to walk with them when Henrietta and Louisa requested it.
Anne had never met such good-natured girls. She had always thought so, and now all the more, as she had seen their sisterly affection challenged by the presence and charm of Captain Wentworth. She attributed most of their recovery to Henrietta, but Anne could not dislike Louisa either, even if she wanted to.
Today, however, she was less concerned with their predicament and more with her own. She did not even shrink back when she was left momentarily alone with Captain Wentworth, as Henrietta and Louisa rushed ahead to watch a sea bird diving for his breakfast. She had avoided such moments alone, just as he had done, but today her self-consciousness was diluted by her quandary. What wouldn’t she give to have him as her friend again! A friend she might confide in and take counsel from. She could give him to Louisa with almost complete peace if only she could still be his friend!
She might as well wish for the moon.
Captain Wentworth cleared his throat. “I expect my old friend Harville and his wife will walk over to say goodbye in an hour or two. Captain Benwick, also.”
“I’ll be sorry to take leave of them.” Except she wouldn’t really leave, would she? Anne sighed. “Excellent people.”
“Yes, Harville is the best of good company. Benwick seems more like himself these days.”
Anne smiled a little at this. Captain Benwick had spent the last two days discussing poetry and literature with her, and Captain Wentworth was too observant and too kind of a man not to see and appreciate the difference. She hadn’t thought he would speak to her of it, however. He hadn’t done so on the first day–er–the first version of today.
He didn’t seem to expect a response. He stooped in mid-step to pick up a stray rock that must have been kicked up by a carriage, and he tossed it underhanded toward the shale that led down to the water. “The tide comes in and moves the rocks; the tide goes out and they fall into a new place. Cycles and seasons, eh?”
“Indeed.” Feeling encouraged by this, and rather surprised, Anne said, “I’ve given much thought to cycles and repetitions lately. Do you ever find–do you think there might be whirlpools in life which swirl as vehemently as they might in the ocean?”
He didn’t look at her, but cast his eyes out toward the beach and headed toward Henrietta and Louisa, dashing back and forth with the waves. “Scylla and Charybdis type of quandary, you mean? Sucking you in either way?” He smiled wryly. “I wouldn’t describe them like that.”
“Oh, no! I am sincerely fond of Henrietta and Louisa. I didn’t mean–”
“I know.” He looked a little shocked at how much he had said to her. He shook his head as if to clear his eyes. He strode on without saying anything else.
Anne was equally shocked that he’d come so close to speaking to her as a friend, particularly in referencing how she might feel about his pursuit of Louis and Henrietta Musgrove.
Anne hung back as he collected the young ladies before they got soaked by salt water. Her life might be entering an unprecedented tailspin, but her boldness with him was fleeting and fast burned out.
On the walk back to the hotel, she was still alive to the danger of the steps, though she had realized that–at least the first time–Louisa had not been hurt until later in the day. Anne couldn’t help squeezing her eyes shut as Louisa mounted the steps to the Upper Walk.
When she opened her eyes, she realized Captain Wentworth was waiting for her with a furrowed brow. Anne blushed and mounted the steps ahead of him.
“Take care,” he called. “I somehow feel as if any of you ladies might fall at any moment.” He shook his head again, as if to clear a ringing in his ears, and came up the steps with his own energetic stride.
At the top, a gentleman was waiting to go down the steps. It was Mr. Elliot, of course. He smiled at her, as he had that first day–the smile of a gentleman who knows he can’t be introduced on a sea wall, but likes what he sees.
Anne, feeling a little giddy at having Louisa safely on the Upper Walk, greeted him with a slight bit of underhandedness. “Oh–you are Mr. Elliot, are you not?”
Captain Wentworth gave her another sharp look.
Mr. Elliot doffed his hat, his short curls blowing in the wind. “Why, yes! Do I have the honor–and great shame–of having forgotten our introduction?”
“No, I know of you through family circles. I am Miss Anne Elliot, daughter of Sir Walter.”
His eyes widened with pleasure. “Why, of course! One of my cousins! You have a look of your mother, whom I met once as a boy.”
Louisa and Henrietta were all smiles and joy to meet a cousin of Anne and Mary. “In fact,” said Louisa, “as Mary is our sister and your cousin, that must surely make us all cousins! Do come back to the hotel with us? He must, must he not, Captain Wentworth? Do persuade him.”
“I doubt he needs my persuasion.” Captain Wentworth’s low words were lost in Louisa’s further chatter.
Anne began to regret her decision to speak to Mr. Elliot when they returned to the hotel.
“Oh!” Mary cried, so loudly as to cause her husband to wince. “But you are our Mr. Elliot! I declare it to be the greatest thing. And that I should have met you first! How Elizabeth will be green. Do you sit here beside me, sir, and I must learn all about you! Oh, yes, this is my husband, Charles. But where is your estate, sir? And how have we not come to see you long before?”
Anne blushed and protested, but Mary was deaf to her quiet hints.
“No, but how is this, sir? My father, Sir Walter, must have expected you this five years!”
Ugh! Mary was too young to hear how Mr. Elliot had once slighted their older sister Elizabeth, who had been quite ready to marry him. Mr. Elliot would inherit their beautiful home of Kellynch, but he had (so she had been told) been more interested in a rich wife than an old estate.
But then, Anne knew better than to take every word of her father and elder sister as absolute truth. They saw the world through glasses tinted with arrogance.
Mr. Elliot bore Mary’s inquisition well. “I’m afraid your father must think very poorly of me now,” he admitted with an assured smile, “but I was actually on the point of going to Bath and making his acquaintance. I was informed he has set up a house there.”
“Going to Bath?” Mary said in dismay. “But it is so dull! And I shall be trapped in Sussex!” She turned to her husband. “Charles, we must go to Bath! At least for a month.”
“What, even though it is so dull?” he asked.
She sniffed at his quip. “Don’t be tiresome, dear! You know the waters would be excellent for me.”
Mr. Elliot broke up the potential marital spat with another smile. “I don’t need the waters, I confess, but my spirits have been sadly depressed since my wife’s untimely passing.”
“Oh—that is why you wear mourning bands!” Mary exclaimed, more pleased at the answer to the puzzle than sympathetic.
“I’m so sorry,” Anne said quietly.
He smiled at her, a very different smile than he gave to her sister, but didn’t follow it up.
“Indeed,” he said to Mary. “I hope to make my bow to your father and be accepted despite my youthful follies. I assure you, life has taught me at least a little wisdom.”
He didn’t display the least grief, and Anne felt a little unsure of him. He was certainly every inch the gentleman, but did she read him truly? It was probably unfair to judge him during a conversation with her sister.
Eventually the painful conversation ended with the arrival of the Harvilles and Captain Benwick. Another walk was proposed, before their party had to leave for Uppercross. Now Anne grew nervous again in another way. Truly, she would have to adopt the diet of an invalid if her anxiety remained at this level.
When they arrived at the fated stairway, she pushed her way to the front, thinking that if she could get in front of Louisa, all might be well.
She needn’t have worried however. Something seemed to have changed in Captain Wentworth’s eyes. He watched each of the ladies carefully, and when Louis said something about jumping down while she waited for Anne’s slow progress, he turned sharply.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “It is not safe.” His brow furrowed and they all descended safely.
Anne was so relieved to be on the Lower Walk, she turned impulsively to Mr. Elliot. “You have been a blessing to us today. We would all have been terribly melancholy to leave our short holiday, but you have given us something else to think of.”
“I can think of no greater service. I do hope you will think of me far longer than today.”
“Oh, I didn’t tell you that I am to join my family in Bath.”
His eyes lit up. “But this is perfect.”
Mary limped over to lean heavily on Anne. “I have got a rock in my shoe, Anne. You must fall back and help me. And it is not perfect, for I shall not be in Bath. Not but what I shall pester Charles to death if he does not agree. Everyone knows my health is poor, I am sure if anyone deserves to go to Bath, it is me.”
Mary’s weight on Anne’s shoulder nearly tipped her over. She obediently stayed back with Mary as Mr. Elliot walked on with an expressive look to her. The man could certainly talk with his eyes. Was it a learned skill, she wondered, or an innate one?
She shook her head. “Alright, Mary, hold up your foot.” She stooped to slide her finger in Mary’s soft shoe.
She was completely oblivious to the sound of the ocean as a larger wave came towards the wet pavement they stood on.
Anne was taken completely off guard as a wave of ice-cold water slammed into her stooped form. She was knocked off her feet.
And her head collided yet again with the wall of the Cobb.
Anne woke with her hands tucked under the pillow.
End of Part 2
Thanks for reading! Let me know if you can think of a good title! 🙂