Renee Olsthoorn

Bed of roses

Renée Olsthoorn

Nocturnal torments...

... I shall endeavour to find some opportunity of putting this letter in your hands in the course of morning. I will only add, God bless you.  Fitzwilliam Darcy 

When Mr. Darcy signed his letter to Elizabeth Bennet he was utterly and completely exhausted. His right hand felt numb, his body cold and his mind empty... but he did not care. It did not signify that he had not slept all night; In fact, he cared not for anything but the woman who seemed to be lost to him forever.

Her lovely face haunted him; her fine eyes, her rosy cheeks, her red lips, her sweet smile... Softly he let her name flow over his lips: Elizabeth, Lizzy, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth. 

This handsome, intelligent woman, who kept him awake night after night, the one who aroused feelings in him he never knew existed, hated him and refused quite decidedly the offer of his affections. The love, tenderness and admiration he felt for her were all for naught. He wanted to hold her, cherish her and... not least of all, love her passionately.

He ached at the thought that he would never be allowed to kiss those beautiful lips, to touch the silky skin of her shoulders, to caress her soft full breasts and while casting a glance at the four-poster bed, he meditated on the very great pleasure a vision of Elizabeth reaching out for him could bestow. His mind started wandering towards all the pleasurable activities he would love to share with her...

No, he tried to drive such thoughts from his mind. I must check myself - she will never be mine. 

He realized that his initial feelings of anger and hurt pride had faded away during the course of the night, and had been replaced by an emotional mixture of disappointment, nausea, yearning and desire. Desire, oh yes, even more ardent than before. But alas, his love for her would remain unrequited; how was he ever to conquer this? 

Tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me... he had said that about her when they had first met, and he had haughtily refused to dance with her! In that despicable fashion, he had treated the woman he now desperately wanted by his side. He congratulated himself... Fitzwilliam Darcy, rich, powerful, handsome... one of England's most eligible bachelors had ruined his chances to marry the only woman he had ever loved or would love, apart from his mother and sister. 

Elizabeth, the most precious woman in the world to him, held him in contempt. He laughed bitterly at the irony of it all. During her stay at Netherfield, he thought it better not to give her too much attention as not to put ideas in her head, despite his growing attraction. Leaning backwards in his chair, he moaned at the very idiocy of his state of mind at the time. He had been the only one who had ideas; she was not interested in him in the least! How could he have made such a miscalculation? Insufferable presumption that is what it was!

Thinking of his appalling experiences in London society where mothers almost literally threw their daughters into his arms, he realized that in general he did not hold women in high esteem. He was all too aware of how his marriage prospects were viewed by the ton. Thus, he did not have any doubts about the reception of his proposal. 

Why could he not have foreseen that he had proposed to a woman of utter integrity, a woman who would not marry but for mutual love and respect. She was not interested in his station in life; she did not care for his riches. She did not like him, which was for her the very reason to refuse him. No wonder he had fallen in love with her! From the very beginning of their acquaintance, he had known unconsciously that she was different from the young women he had known thus far. 

He cursed himself for having acted on impulse; so very unlike him! After this long night of reflection, he knew very well why he had. Jealousy had got the better of him. When he saw her again at Hunsford Parsonage, the passion - which he thought would lessen in time - almost immediately came back to him in all its force. He could not keep his eyes from her and his memory had not done her justice; she looked even lovelier than he remembered. 

While observing Elizabeth and his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam so comfortably conversing together, he desperately wanted to have his share in the conversation, but could not bring himself to it. He felt maladroit and awkward. Later, at Rosings Park, they were playing music together, laughing - sometimes at his expense. The very idea that Fitzwilliam might become her suitor was well nigh unbearable. How could he have been so stupid, so short sighted? Honesty forced him to admit that he wanted to claim Elizabeth as his own before his cousin could have seized the opportunity to do so. 

The painful recollection of the proposal kept intruding. My feelings will not be repressed... he had said, but what about hers? Did he ever wonder what she felt?

You were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry...

Gradually, he came to the conclusion that he had behaved in an unbelievably naive, insensitive, arrogant, selfish and indeed, shamelessly ungentlemanlike manner. Ungentlemanlike behaviour... Could a gentleman be censured more severely than that? He closed his eyes as in pain at the recollection of her words. He dearly wished the letter would make her think better of him. Whether she could forgive his interference with the relationship between her sister and his friend remained to be seen. But he was convinced that, at least, she would believe his account on his dealings with that scoundrel, George Wickham. 

He groaned as he stood up and poured some water into the basin on the dresser. He splashed his face with cold water and extinguished the last burning candle with his thumb. As the morning sun threw its first rays through the windows, he decided to dress without the help of his valet and get some fresh air before breakfast. He put the letter in his pocket in the event he would meet Elizabeth during this walk; an encounter he both feared and longed for...

©Renée Olsthoorn

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