The gray days of March were sliding into the yellow-green of April. Elizabeth Darcy stood at the window in the morning room at Pemberley and smiled at the promise of spring in the budding trees spread out before her. Her eyes strayed to the pond in the distance and her smile turned mischievous as she recalled the first time she had seen her husband in his natural habitat, recently emerged from that very pond, dripping wet and embarrassed to be seen in such a state. She blushed momentarily at the memory and returned to her writing desk.
She dipped her pen in the inkwell and began a letter to her Aunt Gardiner. 2nd April. She started and stared at the date. What was it? "Oh, yes," she whispered to herself, "this day a year ago." She put down the pen and sat back, her gazed fixed on an indiscernible point in the middle of the room, as her mind traveled a year into the past and many miles into Kent. This day a year ago, Fitzwilliam Darcy first proposed marriage to Elizabeth Bennet. It was an event that had been painful to both. But the pain of Darcy's arrogance and Elizabeth's predisposition to hate him had been mitigated over time. It had, in fact, been the engine of transformation, leading to a second proposal being both tendered and accepted.
The thought of how close she had come to throwing away this wonderful man left Elizabeth restless. She put down her pen and paced the room, thinking of the events since that day at Hunsford Parsonage. Her thoughts raced forward to the day Darcy had come to Longbourne to ask her again to be his wife and to the whirlwind of events that succeeded it, culminating in a marriage that had brought her satisfaction and delights she had never even dreamed existed.
The memories of her wedding night and the nights that followed flowed through her mind. Darcy had been so gentle, so kind, so patient and yet so passionate, so full of love. His love had awakened a reciprocal passion which had surprised her then and continued to surprise her. She could almost feel his touch. Alone with her thoughts, Elizabeth felt her face flush.
She left the morning room, wandering the elegant rooms of Pemberley and found herself in the gallery, staring up at her husband's portrait. She stood thus for a long while, gazing at the portrait and thinking of the original. She had lost all track of time and came to herself only when she heard booted footsteps mounting the stairs from the music room and the sound of her husband's voice asking for Mrs. Darcy.
Out of the corner of her eye, Elizabeth watched her husband mount the stairs, admiring his elegant figure while trying to order her thoughts. By the time he reached her side, she was relatively composed.
"Mrs. Darcy." He bowed to her, formally, and then looked up to catch her eye.
"Mr. Darcy." She dropped a brief curtsey but found she could not match his serious expression. Her eyes danced and a smile played around her lips, threatening to spill over into laughter.
Her husband was enchanted. "My dear Elizabeth, what brings you to this very peculiar spot in the middle of the morning?"
"I am celebrating an anniversary, sir; one which you may wish to observe yourself." Elizabeth's face clouded momentarily and then the smile returned as she observed her husband's puzzlement.
"An anniversary? Surely we have not been married a full year already. It seems but yesterday"
"No, Fitzwilliam, we have not been married a full year, but we might have been close to that if I had accepted you a year ago today."
Darcy groaned. "Hunsford." he said, "Oh good God. You can't be meaning to celebrate that dreadful day."
"Indeed? Why may I not?" Elizabeth was now fully enjoying herself. Any debate with Fitzwilliam Darcy was cause for happiness. "It is the anniversary of the day you first let me know how very dear I was to you. . . ."
"Elizabeth, I beg of you. Do not remind me of my awful conduct. I cannot bear to think of it, even now."
Elizabeth's smile had become almost unbearably enticing and Darcy could drag his eyes away only long enough to appraise the rest of his wife's many gifts. His gaze passed swiftly over her body and back to her face. The effect was immediate.
Elizabeth had felt that brief glance almost like a caress. The stirring within that had brought her to this place in front of the portrait had been rekindled by a single look from her husband. By the time Darcy's eyes returned to hers, the playful smile had given way to a look that left no doubt of her desires.
Darcy, who could scarcely look at his wife without wanting her, was electrified by the moment. The thought that was with him during almost every waking moment became paramount. "This woman is mine. This lovely woman whom I thought never would have me. . ." Today she had reminded him how close he had coming to losing this treasure. His joy was compounded by the nearness of loss. He looked into those eyes and responded without any further thought.
Regardless of who might enter the gallery, Darcy drew near to his wife and slipped one arm around her waist, pulling toward him. His mouth descended on hers with all the force of a passion that had increased daily since their marriage. His free hand slid up her back and buried itself in her curls.
Elizabeth wound her arms around him and returned the kiss with eloquence. His sudden nearness made her doubt her ability to stand and she clung to him for support as the kiss continued and deepened. His hand left her hair and began to move along her neckline, inching downward.
Elizabeth regained herself enough to pull away. "Not here, Fitzwilliam, not . . ." the rest of her sentence was lost against his lips.
Darcy was aware enough to realize that the portrait gallery of Pemberley was not the correct place to continue this activity, but he was in no mood for proprieties. In one motion, he swept Elizabeth off her feet and strode toward the upper floor, passing at least one amazed and envious chambermaid along the route.
Hours later, Mr. And Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy descended to the main floor for their evening meal. They sat at the table silent and smiling, both still resonating from their recent occupation. Neither could look at the servants who fluttered around them with food and wine. In fact, neither had eyes for any but the other.
Well into the first course, Darcy finally spoke. He kept his voice very low and looked directly into Elizabeth's eyes, his smile a portrait of pure contentment. "Mrs. Darcy, you must be sure to inform me of any future anniversaries that should be celebrated." Elizabeth raised an eyebrow and returned his smile. They proceeded with their dinner, completely oblivious to the sounds of the household around them.
© 1997 Copyright held by the author.