My Best Friend’s Wedding: A Pride and Prejudice Short

By KaraLynne Mackrory

Approx. 5000 words

Blurb: What if Darcy and Elizabeth were better known to each other?  What if they grew up as best friends?

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Everyone was excited for Darcy’s arrival, not the least of which was Elizabeth.   He had been her best friend as long as she could remember.  She often took trips with her father to visit his friend from first Eton and then Cambridge, the old Mr. Darcy, at their estate in Derbyshire.  As children, she was first drawn to William when the shy older boy defended her against the bullish steward’s son.  From that day forward, when she was five, she and William were fast friends.  She liked how they could talk about anything.

Through the years, during their separations, they would write to each other.  It wasn’t strictly proper, especially as they got older, but their fathers had been best friends and allowed the correspondence.  This time though, she had not seen him for five years.  Not since his father’s funeral, when she and her father traveled to Pemberley to be there for him.

His most recent letter, that she had read again that morning, told her that he was coming to Hertfordshire with a few friends, one of which was to lease Netherfield.  It was by his recommendation that his friend, Bingley, take the property.  According to his letter, it also gave him an opportunity to visit with her and her family.  She knew he had been overwhelmed and under so much responsibility when his father died and made him Master of Pemberley.  His letters were often filled in those early years with doubts about his abilities and worries about his competence.  She was, of course, always encouraging and was gratified to see after five years, that her dear friend was finally getting his bearings enough to be pleasure bound and visit her.

The sound of a carriage on the gravel drive brought Elizabeth to the present and she shrieked with excitement when she saw his carriage pull to a stop in front of her home.  Jumping up from the windowsill where she sat, she ran happily from the room and down the stairs to the front door.  Her family followed more sedately behind her.

Swinging open the door, Elizabeth rushed out just as Fitzwilliam Darcy stepped out of the carriage.

“William!” she cried as she ran to him and threw herself into his friendly open arms.

Darcy chuckled amiably as he buried his head into her hair and returned her enthusiastic welcome.   There was nobody, save Georgiana, that meant more to him then his best friend, Elizabeth.  It had been so long since he saw her and the reunion was sweet.  After a moment of muffled words in each other’s shoulders, Darcy became embarrassingly aware of the changes in his best friend’s figure since the last time he had seen her.  She had been all elbows and knees before and now… well she was not.

Realizing this, along with becoming aware that his traveling companions had descended from the carriage and were now watching with astonished eyes at his actions with Elizabeth, he gently released her to resume a more respectable distance.  Her eyes were bright and he smiled at her.

By this time, her family had joined them and he affectionately returned their welcoming hugs.  When he turned to Mr. Bennet, the words of welcome caught in his throat as the man’s countenance and smile lines reminded him of his late father.  Understanding his feelings, Mr. Bennet put an arm around Darcy and patted his back.

“Welcome to Longbourn, my boy.  It has been far too long since we have seen you.”

“Far too long,” William agreed, finally able to speak.

“William, dear, come and give your Mama Bennet a kiss!” Mrs. Bennet exclaimed with arms extended towards Darcy.

Darcy smiled, although often silly, Elizabeth’s exuberant mother always held a part of his heart.  When his own dear mother died, Elizabeth’s mom had assumed for herself the role of surrogate.  Though not exactly comfortable calling her mama, he did anyways, for her sake.

“Mama Bennet, it is good to see you again.” He replied, extending the embrace she requested.  Looking around at the rest of the family he exclaimed, “You have all grown so much!”

Everyone laughed and his eyes drew to Elizabeth again, noting how her face had matured, softened and beautified considerably.  She was a very handsome lady now, and would make some gentleman a very lucky man.  Shaking his head to clear his mind, Darcy wondered, where that thought came from.

“I have grown, haven’t I.” Lydia chirped, drawing his attention.  “I am nearly as tall as Kitty now.”

Darcy looked at the girl, surprised at how true her words were.  Although, only fifteen, she was womanly in her figure.  Not like Elizabeth had been, he thought again for some reason.

“What a lovely young woman you have become.  But you are not yet old enough to be out of the schoolroom, I am sure of it.”
Lydia scowled, “I am too!  I am fifteen now and am full out!”

Elizabeth laughed, “He is teasing you Lydia.”

The gentlemen behind Darcy cleared their throats and Darcy was reminded of his manners.  Turning to the Bennets, he said “Forgive me, I have neglected my friends.  Will you allow me to introduce to you Mr. Charles Bingley and Mr. Fredrick Atwood.  Mr. Bingley will be your new neighbor at Netherfield.”

Mrs. Bennet squealed and clapped her hands as he affectionately accepted the proffered hands of Darcy’s guests.  Darcy noticed then how Bingley seemed only to have eyes for Jane.  The corners of his lips turned up, having not considered such a possibility.  Looking at Jane, he noticed her shy glances at his friend as well.

Elizabeth leaned into his shoulder and whispered then, “I see it too. From what you have written of your friend, I think they would do well together.”

Darcy looked down at her and smiled.  “We will have to see what happens there.”

At that moment, Mr. Atwood stepped forward and said, “Darcy, would you do me the honor of introducing me to your lovely companion?”

Darcy laughed at the way his friend often used charming words around ladies.  Lovely? Elizabeth is… he turned towards her.  Lovely.  Frowning only slightly, he remembered himself and made the introduction.

Elizabeth smiled at his friend and began talking with him.  Darcy could see that they immediately seemed to be comfortable with each other and for some reason he was not sure he liked it.  After some moments, he decided it was just that he had not seen Elizabeth in so long and did not like sharing her attention.  So she had grown into a beautiful, lovely woman.  She was still his best friend and meant nothing more.  He attributed his new found awareness of her person to simply being that he was, after all, a man and not a blind one at that.

***

After visiting a few hours, Darcy and his friends left Longbourn to go to Netherfield.  Immediately upon entering the carriage, his two friends accosted him.

“You never told me the Bennets had such charming daughters.” Atwood said.

“The eldest, Miss Bennet, is especially beautiful.” Bingley exclaimed.

Darcy laughed at his friends.  He had never said anything because he had never considered the fact before.  Turning towards Bingley, “Jane is a very sweet, wonderful lady.  You could do far worse.”

“I should like to think I could not find better!  She is an angel!”
Darcy frowned, “But I must warn you Bingley, the Bennet ladies are like sisters to me.  And as such, I will not have you trifling with any of their feelings.  You are often ‘in love’ and I will not allow you to make Jane another one of those ladies.” He turned to the other gentleman “That goes for you too, Atwood.”

Atwood put his hand on his chest, “You wound me, Darcy.”

Darcy did not smile at his friend’s light manner.  “I am serious about this, gentlemen.”

Bingley laughed in his jovial manner, “We have only just met the ladies, Darcy.  Though, I must say I am looking forward to that assembly Mrs. Bennet invited us to next week.”

Atwood leaned forward.  “Darcy, what about Miss Elizabeth.”

Darcy scowled, “What about her, Atwood.”

“Well, do you have claims on her?”

He had never thought of Elizabeth as anything but a friend, but still she was very dear to him. “Elizabeth is my best friend, and of all the ladies at Longbourn, I will ensure her heart is not broken, Atwood.”

“So, are you staking a claim then?” he queried.

Darcy shook his head, “We are just friends.”

He watched his friend nod his head, satisfied.  “Good, because I am quite taken with her.”

Atwood was a good man, with a good income and an independent estate in Surrey.  He would be considered an excellent match for Elizabeth.  He was also a friend to Darcy and he knew that his friend was honorable, upstanding and kind.  He could make Elizabeth very happy.  Why then, did Darcy feel suddenly possessive of her?

***

The week before the assembly went quickly for the gentlemen who between many days of sport, estate inspections and visits to Longbourn, found their visit to Hertfordshire quite enjoyable.  Darcy had spent many mornings walking with Elizabeth and catching up.  They were allowed more freedoms than they would have normally been granted because of their close friendship.  Mr. Bennet did not see any reason to require them to have a chaperone on their walks as he trusted the son of his late friend.  Darcy was, after all, almost the son he never had.

Standing before the assembly hall, Darcy swallowed his distaste for the upcoming evening.  Excepting being again in Elizabeth’s company, the evening held little appeal for him.  He disliked dancing, simpering misses and their matchmaking mamas and did not enjoy large gatherings in general.  His friends, however, he could see were very pleased with the night’s prospects and were eager to begin the festivities.

Entering the hall, Darcy scanned the room for the Bennets.  He saw Mary, Kitty and Mrs. Bennet standing on the side of the room watching the dancing.  Looking towards the dance floor he spotted Jane and Lydia dancing with local gentlemen.  He continued scanning until he spotted Elizabeth.  She was standing talking with a gentleman he thought he remembered to be Sir William Lucas’ son.  He would have just finished university.  He said something to her and she laughed.  Darcy smiled at the picture she made.

He walked towards her, his friends following quickly behind.

Elizabeth turned to Darcy when he arrived and gave him a bright smile.  In a lower tone, just for him, she said, “It was a great sacrifice for you to come tonight, William.  I know how much you dislike dancing.”

Darcy sighed, “I confess, I am not anticipating an enjoyable evening.”

“Miss Elizabeth, are you engaged for the next dance?” Atwood stepped forward.

“I am not, sir.”

“I am glad to hear it.  Would you do m e the great honor of standing up with me?”

Elizabeth curtsied, saying “It would be a pleasure, sir.”

They stood together until the set ended.  When Jane’s partner brought her back to stand next to Elizabeth, Bingley wasted no time securing her hand for the next dance as well.  Darcy watched his two friends lead the ladies out to the floor shortly thereafter.  After procuring a glass of wine for himself, he strolled around the hall to stand next to Mrs. Bennet.

“William, dear, why are you not dancing?”

“I do not wish to, ma’am.” He kept his eyes on the dancers though.

Mrs. Bennet followed his gaze and said, “Your friend, Mr. Atwood, pays Elizabeth a fair bit of attention.  Elizabeth thinks he is a charming, handsome man.”

Darcy head turned abruptly towards Mrs. Bennet then.  Elizabeth had said nothing to him about charming Mr. Atwood.  Though he had never brought up the subject with her either.  He looked toward the dancers again with renewed interest.  He could not understand why at the moment, he felt animosity towards his friend.  But he did.

As the evening wore on, he watched with equal animosity towards all of Elizabeth’s partners.  His scowl growing graver as the night grew late and her dance card grew full.

Elizabeth drew up next to him when the assembly was nearly over.  Concern was evident on her face.  Placing a hand on his arm, she said. “William, what has you troubled?”

Darcy shuffled his dancing pumps across the polished wood floor and mumbled, “Nothing at all, I assure you.”

“Fitzwilliam Darcy, do not lie to me.”

Darcy looked at his friend.  He could not account for the source of his foul mood.  What should it matter to him if Elizabeth danced every dance, with Atwood twice even?  Suddenly, he realized the astonishing truth.  He wanted to dance with Elizabeth.

Realizing she still waited for him to speak, he lowered his head closer to hers and said, “Are you engaged for the last dance.”

Elizabeth looked into his eyes and then looked about the room.  “I am not.”

“Would you dance with me, Lizzy?”

Surprise and wonder infused her features as she looked up at him dumbfounded.  He rarely ever called her Lizzy outside of when they were alone and he never danced as far as she knew.

“Will you dance the last set with me?” He asked again.

Elizabeth began to laugh causing Darcy to feel foolish and become upset.  “Did I hear you correctly, William?  Are you asking me to dance with you?”

Darcy grumbled.  “It is not as if I do not know how to dance, I generally do not like to, that is all.  But I can see the idea is ridiculous to you.” He turned to stalk off irritated with her.

Elizabeth did not hesitate to stop him.  “Do not go off and sulk, William.  I did not mean to offend you.  I would be happy to dance with you.”

Darcy hesitated only a minute. “Thank you, Elizabeth.”

“It is not as if we are brother or sister.” She shrugged as she scanned the room casually.

“No, we are not.” Darcy looked at her then.

Elizabeth was uncommonly affected by their dance, though she would not have admitted it to William.  He was a handsome man, and she well knew it.  Since his return, she had found her mind often occupied by the fact.  She felt tingles now that they rotated around the dance floor.  That she should be attracted to her best friend was most unexpected.  Considering, she knew he did not feel similarly, Elizabeth contented herself to enjoy the dance without dwelling too heavily on the new emotions surging in her breast.

***

One morning, a few weeks after the assembly, while on a walk with Elizabeth, Darcy stopped near the great oak tree they often rested on.  It had a large low branch that offered an excellent seat.  They had been talking about his friend, Atwood.  Elizabeth had asked about him and Darcy had answered her, albeit reluctantly.  It seemed to him that Elizabeth was developing a tender for his friend.  He tried to be happy that at least he knew he could trust Atwood to be good to her.

“What is wrong, William?”

“Nothing at all.”

“Then why do you scowl at me so?”

“I am not scowling.” He countered with a scowl.

Elizabeth laughed out right.  She reached up and smoothed his brow.  Her innocent gesture made his heart skip a beat.  “Now you are not.  Is it Mr. Atwood?”

Darcy said nothing.

“You do not like when I talk about him.  Does he have a secret?  A gambler, perhaps?”

Darcy shook his head and led her to the branch to sit before seating himself beside her.

“Does he keep a mistress?”

Darcy gasped and turned towards her, “Elizabeth, however do you know of such things?”

Elizabeth shrugged.  “I know many men have them.  It is quite accepted, I believe.”

“Not honorable men.  And proper ladies should not know about these things.”

Laughing, Elizabeth pushed into him with her shoulder.  “Since when have I ever been a proper lady, William?”

Darcy laughed too.  “You are quite the lady now, Elizabeth.”  Seeing her blush, he continued, “You have grown into a beautiful lady.  You will make some man a very lovely wife.  Perhaps even Atwood?”

Elizabeth’s brow pulled together.  Her heart had began to beat wildly when he complimented her but she had no intentions towards Atwood.  She enjoyed his company for her friend, Charlotte, who was interested in him.  Although she could not account for it, she was disappointed that Darcy wished her for his friend.

“Thank you.  But  I am not interested in Atwood for myself, William.  Charlotte likes him.  I asked you about him so that I could find out if he was good enough for my friend.”

For some reason, Darcy felt a great relief wash through him.  He looked down and washed the swish of her skirts as they brushed against his pant leg each time she swung her feet beneath her.  She was too short for her feet to reach the ground like his.  He was mesmerized by their waves, rolling and crashing around his calf like the sea.

For a while they sat perfectly content not to speak.  She allowed her thoughts to drift to the beginning of his visit to Hertfordshire many weeks ago.  Although it was wonderful to have her best friend around, he often seemed troubled by something or startled whenever she came too near him.  She tried to remember if there was anything in his letters from before he came that might give her some insight into his behavior.  The only thing she could think of that had been upsetting him before was the recent trouble Georgiana had had in Ramsgate with Wickham.  Suddenly convinced that he must still be worried about that she decided to broach the subject.

“How is Georgiana doing?”

Darcy started and lifted his eyes from the delightfully distracting swish of her skirts to look down his shoulder to her face beside him.  “She is not doing well.” He sighed, “Wickham has damaged her view of the good in the world.”

Elizabeth watched him struggle with emotion.  Gently she lifted his arm between them and snuggled into his side. “I am so sorry, William.  I know how difficult it was for you to be so betrayed by him once again.  Georgiana will heal from this, I know it.”

A little hesitant at first, Darcy allowed his arm to rest around her shoulders and pull her closer.  They had often embraced before as their friendship made them as close as siblings.  But his growing awareness of her made him uncomfortable sometimes with it now.  It made him feel guilty because he knew he enjoyed it more like a man enjoys a woman’s embrace than a friend receives the comforting hug of another friend.

Forcing his mind to ignore that avenue of thinking, he replied, “I know you are right, Lizzy.  That is why I am bringing her here.  I think getting to spend time with you and your sisters will help brighten her up.  I did not bring her immediately because I was selfish and wished to visit with you first for a few weeks.  It had been such a long time since we last saw each other.”

Elizabeth pulled back enough to look up at him. “I missed you too, William.  Your letters were not enough.  You know other than Jane I do not have anyone I can talk to like I can with you.”

“Nor I.” They remained there for a heated moment, looking in each other’s eyes.  Darcy swallowed.  For the first time in his life, the absurd thought of kissing Elizabeth crossed his mind.  It was probably because of the brilliant smile that looked up at him then and the beautiful feeling of peace that he felt when he was with her, there on their tree.  That is what he told himself as to why he thought about kissing her.  He cleared his throat and looked away from the temptation.  His mind was in such a jumble and he felt confused as to why all these new emotions were assaulting him.  Pulling his arm from about Elizabeth, he stood up and offered his hand to assist her down from the branch.

“We should be getting back to the house.  Bingley and Atwood plan to call soon.”

Elizabeth blinked, trying to dispel her own confusion over what just happened.

“Bingley seems quite taken with Jane.” Elizabeth offered by way of easing the weirdness.

Darcy relaxed and smiled at his friend.  She always had a way of putting him at ease.  “Yes, I think he is a fairway to being in love with her.”

Elizabeth beamed, “I am glad to hear it because Jane, I believe, feels the same way.”

Together they discussed the possible union all the way back to Longbourn where they met his friends, just arriving for tea.

***

“William, will you accompany me into my study for a moment?” Mr. Bennet startled Darcy when he came up beside him.

“Of course, sir.” He frowned as he looked once more over at where Elizabeth and Atwood were laughing together before he left with her father.

When they reached the study, he turned to the older man. “Is there something you wished to speak to me about, sir?”

“Come, my boy, do not ‘sir’ me.” Mr. Bennet laughed, “Why do you not have a seat?”

Darcy nodded and took up the companion leather seat to Mr. Bennet’s.

“You are much like your father, William.  He would be proud of you.”

Darcy was taken aback by the sudden praise and colored in embarrassment.  “Thank you.”

“You have done a fine job with the responsibilities you have had to take on at such a young age.”

“My father prepared me well.” He said trying to deflect Mr. Bennets praise to his father.

“That he did,” he cleared his throat, “I miss him sometimes.”

Darcy nodded his head in understanding. For a few minutes the two men sat quietly lost in their thoughts.  When Mr. Bennet spoke next, his words startled Darcy more than the man’s previous topic of his father.

“When did you fall in love with Lizzy, William?”

“Pardon me?” he choked.

“When did you fall in love with my daughter?”  Mr. Bennet’s face was kind and Darcy blinked again, too shocked to say anything for a minute.

“William, son, I am not blind.  I see the way you look at her and, likewise, I see the way you shoot fire from your eyes whenever any other man talks to her.”

Darcy sputtered, disbelief numbing his ability to think clearly.   He looked at his companion with shocked eyes.  “I do not…”

Mr. Bennet chuckled and cut him off.  “I figured as much.  You know your father had the same hard time realizing he was in love with Anne when they first met.  It seems that disconnect from your heart to your mind runs in the family.”

He stood to walk out of the study, leaving Darcy staring back at him.  He smiled in amusement and said before he exited the room, “Take your time, my boy.  I think if you allow yourself to see it, you will know how you feel.  I could not have asked for a greater man for my dear Lizzy.  I am sure you will take care of her.”

It took several minutes for Darcy to compose himself.  Certainly he could admit he was attracted to Elizabeth now.  But that did not mean he was in love with her.  He thought about their time together, and he knew that as a friend, he admired her greatly.  Then a stirring in his breast reminded him about the unaccountable feelings of animosity that he often felt whenever Atwood or anyone else charmed Elizabeth.  Could he be jealous?

Shaking his head, he stood to rejoin the others in the parlor.  His mind was in great turmoil as he entered the room.  When his eyes fell upon Elizabeth, she looked at him and smiled.  It was as if he was struck by lightning.  Suddenly everything was clear and his heart beat wildly in his chest.  Gats! When did I fall in love with my best friend?  All the tenderness he felt for her as a friend was magnified tenfold and he was nearly engulfed by his feelings causing him to seek the edge of the door frame for support.  Never had he struggled for composure more than at that very moment. His eyes drifted from her to her father standing some feet away.  Their eyes met and he knew at that moment that his efforts to hide his sudden realization was for naught.  Her father read it all on his face and smiled tenderly.

Elizabeth watched William with a bit of concern as he seemed to be battling with some intense inner struggle.  Her heart reached out to him as it always did.  She was his best friend and nobody knew him like she did.  Immediately she excused herself and went to him.  When she came to stand in front of him, she looked up at him.  Their eyes met and she saw the storm in his eyes.  Silently she allowed her eyes to communicate her concern for him before she walked around him, out the door.

She knew he would follow her, they did not need to use words sometimes to express themselves.  Darcy looked at Mr. Bennet for only a moment after Elizabeth left.  The older gentleman nodded and mouthed, “go.”

Darcy turned around and exited the room where he found Elizabeth donning her pelisse again.  She handed him his hat and gloves and then took his hand in hers as she began walking at a brisk pace back down the lane.  She did not stop pulling him along until they reached their tree.

Turning on him she took his face between her hands and pleaded, “William, what is wrong!  What great burden are you struggling with?”
Darcy slowly reached up and pulled her hands down to hold them in his own.  He looked at her for a moment as the shock wore away to a joy so encompassing that he was nearly lost for words.  Nearly, but not entirely.

“Lizzy.” He breathed.  His eyes drifted all over her face, her beloved face.   How could I have been so blind?  “I…I love you.” He expelled the rest of his breath in a sigh of relief.  It was as if all that was inside him had been building, begging to be released.

Elizabeth puzzled.  “I love you too, William.  You know I do.”

Darcy shook his head.  He understood what she was saying and it was not what he was saying.  “No, Lizzy, I love you this way.” And he captured her face in his hands and brought his lips down upon hers.

When they parted, Elizabeth was silent, astonished and stunned.  The longer she said nothing, the more Darcy began to feel foolish.  Slowly he removed his hands and stepped back from her.  He looked all around them, refusing to meet her eyes.

Elizabeth felt as if she had awoken from a dream only to find that it was no dream.  Her heart awoke as well to her own feelings.  She loved him too!  How could she not?  There was no other man like him and she had always used him as her standard for every other gentleman.  Stepping forward, she reached up to place her hands upon his face once more.

“I love you too, William.  That way.” She blushed.

“Really?” Darcy’s heart was soaring.

“Really.”

He laughed and wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her to him as he lifted her and swung her around.  Giggling she held tight around his neck.  When he placed her feet back on the ground, he said, “Will you marry me, Lizzy?  Will you be my wife?”

“Yes, a thousand times, yes!”

Darcy smiled radiantly before bending to kiss her again.  “I cannot believe this is happening, Lizzy.  Will you think me foolish if I tell you it was your father who knew I loved you before I did?  I do not know how I could have been so blind.”

Elizabeth laughed.  “And I did not know I loved you until you kissed me.”

Darcy laughed and smiled tenderly down at her.  “I will remind you of your love often then.”

Blushing, Elizabeth said, “I will depend upon it, sir.”

“Shall we go and tell the others?” Darcy asked.

“Yes, let us go.”

They began walking happily back to the house hand in hand when suddenly Darcy stopped short. “What about Atwood?  I told him I had no interest in you.”

“Well that was foolish of you.” Elizabeth teased.

Darcy smiled at her, “Well at the time, I did not realize that I might.  But this is serious, love, he is my friend.”

“Do not worry, William.  After our talk earlier today, I realized that he may think my attention towards him was for my own interests.  I discretely told him that I looked to him only as a friend.”

“Poor Atwood.  He is a good man.”

“Your sympathy for your friend is endearing.  Perhaps it is not too late for me to…”

Darcy stopped her with a finger on her lips.  She laughed causing him to smile.

“Come, my dear.  Leave Atwood be, you have other matters to concern yourself now.”

“And what is that.”

“Planning your best friend’s wedding, of course.”

 

Thank you for reading!  Feel free to leave any comments.  I love to hear from my readers.

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