Chapter One: Mr. Darcy's non-existence
Elizabeth peered into the mirror and rubbed the shadowy circles beneath her azure gaze. Grimacing slightly, she suppressed a yawn and splashed her face with icy water. Leaning against the bathroom sink, Lizzy absently cleaned her teeth and brushed away the dark strands of hair that framed her face.
Petulantly, she stuck out her at her reflection and left the room. Downstairs, Angela Sinclair was hastily flipping the burning pancakes and when she spotted her daughter bounding down the stairs, she gestured hurriedly with her hands.
Lizzy sighed and plunked herself at the kitchen counter. Immediately, a plate of semi-burnt pancakes was pushed in front of her. Lizzy wrinkled her nose, her stomach churning uncomfortably at the sight.
"Mom, I'm not really hungry…"
The plastic spatula made a resounding smack against the marble counter as her mother glared.
"I make all this effort to take the day off from work to cook you breakfast and this is…"
Elizabeth rolled her eyes heavenwards and took one hesitant bite to appease her mom and almost gagged when the strange flavor assaulted her taste buds. Again, her mother had mistaken the salt for the sugar.
Chewing slowly, Lizzy waited till her mom had turned and quickly spat the offending material from her mouth. A loud knock interrupted her silent gagging. Bounding from the kitchen, she flung open the front door and smiled brightly and the figure within the doorway.
Bethany Andrews smirked with ill humor at the sight of her best friend.
"Ready for another day of the icebergs?"
Elizabeth laughed lightly. The icebergs were a nickname they had invented to describe their fellow classmates. Rich and snobbish, they were the ice kings and queens of the world and from the very first moment that Beth and Lizzy had earned scholarships to their posh little prep school, they had been outcast and ignored. Now in their final year, their skins had thickened and the barbs and insults simply slid past them unheard.
With a bright smile, Lizzy grabbed her frayed bag loaded with crinkled notebooks and ran towards the exit and away from her mother's terrible attempt at gourmet cookery.
"ELIZABETH VICTORIA SINCLAIR!"
Lizzy cringed at her voice and darted quickly into the kitchen area. Taking a quick assessing glance, she launched forward to the fruit bowl and snatched a green apple from under her mother's nose and ran for the door.
"I'll eat on the way! Bye mom!"
She slammed the door on the way out while her mother muttered something that sounded suspiciously like 'that girl'.
Parked in the short driveway was a small lime green beetle shimmering proudly in the sun. Despite Elizabeth dubbing it the Nazi car due to its less than savory origins, it bore an uncanny resemblance to the Mr. Bean car, hence its nickname, Beanie.
Elizabeth grinned manically as she slid into the passenger seat and flicked the switch for the radio. Immediately, the atmosphere in car was sparked by the lively country music, which over flowed from the speakers. She wrinkled her nose in distaste and turned to stare at her best friend.
Bethany returned the look playfully. "Some like it!"
"You like it." Elizabeth returned flatly. This was yet another phase for Beth. Last year it was hard-core metal music, she had turned up at school with eyeliner, chains, piercings and all. Scared the hell out of the posh little preppies and Liz would be lying if she didn't get a similar vibe herself. A few months ago it was disco. Elizabeth didn't even want to think of that, the memory of the hairspray fumes still gave her headaches. Identity crisis Beth. Yep, that was her best friend.
Did she mention that Beth was a maniac on the road? Road rage and all!
"You MORON! Don't you have eyes? Little shit!"
Elizabeth sighed and tiredly closed her eyes as she leaned against the cool window. She was so used to the constant string of profanities that emerged from Beth's mouth that she was almost lulled to sleep.
But it wasn't to be. Beth swerved dangerously as she pulled into the school lot and parked haphazardly in the nearest empty spot. Jumping from the car in her usual bright manner, Liz smoothed down her plaid skirt and uniform blazer and hurriedly grabbed for Beth.
"We're late! Late, late, late, late, late! Oh, Mr. Denton is going to kill me!"
Beth smirked and swung a lazy arm over her shoulder. "Relax Elli! I bet the halls are filled with people just rushing to homeroom…"
The hallways were eerily deserted, even for that time. Liz and Beth exchanged startled glances as they walked through the entrance.
"What the hell…"
Beth's eyes widened. "Oh shit! The assembly!"
Both girls looked alarmed and sprinted for the wide double doors of the amphitheatre. Screeching to a halt just before the doors, Liz silently pried open the side door and prayed desperately for a silent entry.
Apparently, luck had abandoned her today. The door squeaked loudly and the entire population of Glenbrook Prep was alerted to their late entrance. Simultaneously, in horror movie fashion, 3000 heads turned to scrutinize them. Liz blushed and sent the silent principal an apologetic smile before grabbing Beth and taking the nearest vacant seats. A frustrated shuffling of papers occurred before the principle restarted the morning assembly.
"As I was saying before Miss Sinclair and Miss Andrews interrupted…"
Sniggers went through the crowd. Beth turned to sneer at them and those surrounding her shuffled away cautiously.
"…the soccer game against Dovedale Prep will be the event of the year and coach Batley will be holding try outs this Friday. Go eagles!"
The males of the room each raised a fist and beat it to their chest in salute.
Elizabeth nearly snorted in derision. And they say we have evolved beyond the cavemen stage.
"Now, onto our last and most important matter. We will soon have a new exchange student from England."
A wave of hushed whispers swept through the room. Beth herself turned to Liz and raised a curious eyebrow.
"Why do we care if some British pomp has come to join the ranks of the icebergs?"
Liz snickered and shrugged. The crowd quieted at the principal's glare and immediately turned back to the balding, grotesque man at the podium who sniffed in annoyance. Liz shivered in disgust and suddenly felt a wave of pity for his poor long-suffering wife. It was moment like these that made Liz swear off men and marriage.
"I want all of you to be on your best behavior and show our guest the utmost courtesy. Now you may be curious as to why such a fuss is being made about one student…" Principal Dunst paused dramatically, obviously expecting more reaction than the blank gazes he received. Clearing his throat awkwardly, he shared a secretive grin with the vice principal before swinging his arms with a dramatic flourish.
"We are to receive a young man…"
The girls perked up.
The girls leaned forward eagerly.
Eager squeals echoed through the room.
Beth and Liz rolled their eyes. Trust the icebergs to mention wealth and position before they even got a name.
A girl in front raised her hand and waved eagerly. Liz recognized her immediately as Ashley White. Alpha female of senior year and the entire school.
Elizabeth sighed and resigned herself to a profound comment that would most likely stick in her memory for all eternity. Not.
"It's Prince William isn't it?!"
And she didn't fail to deliver. Elizabeth was tempted to start the sarcastic applause.
Loud, piercing screams immediately echoed through the room, the effects of the amphitheatre magnifying the sound till all the males had cringed away in fear.
Beth snorted and threw a miscellaneous item at Ashley's head. An indignant gasp was heard from the alpha female as she turned to search the crowds for the offender. Her eyes immediately found Beth's hazel gaze.
"What the hell…"
Beth smirked and waved gleefully. "It isn't Prince William, ice queen!"
Ashley glared. "Why not?"
An exasperated sigh was emitted before Beth deigned it appropriate to continue. "Because Prince William is 24 years old, hardly the age of a high school senior now is he?"
Heartbroken moans filled the silence and almost every female turned to sob silently against their neighbor's shoulder.
The principal actually had the audacity to chuckle.
"No, no, it isn't Prince William, though you're not far off Miss White. We are in fact receiving the Marquess of Hartington, the eldest son of the Duke of Devonshire."
The girls of Glenbrook Prep leapt from their seats and screamed with excitement. Speculations and whispers ran wild as the possibilities emerged from the depths of their imagination. Suddenly, from within the raucous crowd emerged a single, breathy exclamation.
"Does that mean he'll be a duke one day?!"
The intensity and volume of the screams trebled. Elizabeth and Bethany covered their ears in freight and huddled together for safety. The surrounding boys looked as if they were close to doing the same. Especially the freshman, boy did they look freaked out.
Excited whispers ran riot through the room. "Duchess! I could be a Duchess!"
Liz nearly died from her hysterical giggles. The poor guy hadn't even stepped foot in the country yet and already, his marriage was arranged for him. Ah the fate of yee old blue bloods.
Beth leaned over and yelled over the noise. "What's the bet that he's hideous with yellow buck teeth, a pot belly and as tall as a midget from the traveling freak show?"
Elizabeth gave an evil chuckle. "Serves them right. God, I'd love to see that!"
Just when it seemed that the crowd was on the verge of a riot, principal Dunst once more raised his hand for silence.
No one paid him a speck of attention.
Frowning darkly, his double chin wobbled. "SILENCE!"
The crowd jumped and quickly turned to face the red faced man.
"As I was saying…" A dark glower was sent to the audience, "Mr. Xavier Cavendish…"
"Xavier!!!" Screams once more erupted from the silence. Beth looked like she was on the verge of lapsing into an epileptic fit. Frothing, spasms and all.
"Oh god, that name is sooooo cute! A duke…"
"A Marquess! Soon to be duke…"
"As soon as his dad kicks the bucket!"
Beth lowered her head into her hands and whimpered quietly. Liz just sighed. "My goodness, the respect we hold for our elders these days is astounding!"
Beth continued to whimper. Liz was close to joining her.
"SILENCE! Good…now, Mr. Cavendish will be in senior year and will remain with us until he graduates. Please, and I emphasize this, please be polite and do not speak about the present duke 'kicking the bucket' as you say. If you are going to wish for such an event, please at least do so with the discretion and grace befitting Glenbrook."
Liz lowered her head and joined in the quiet chorus of whimpers.
"He will arrive next Monday, so I shall expect you all here, dressed sharply in the appropriate school uniform to greet him in our morning assembly. Alright, dismissed, please proceed to your first class."
From the looks on faces of all the girls, the rest of the week was going to be devoted to how to jazz up the uniforms to look sexy. Although, how a plaid skirt and a blazer could look attractive really was beyond Elizabeth.
It was the last class of the day and Liz was itching, just itching to hop in Beanie and speed off home. As her eyes glued itself to the torturous timepiece upon the wall, her teacher was exclaiming wildly about the latest text they were to dissect in class. English Literature, the bane of her existence. How could she focus on writers and time periods long passed when the second hand of the clock was torturously frozen? Wait! It had just moved backwards! It had!
Groaning silently, Lizzy tore her eyes from the clock to focus on her over-enthused teacher who was at that moment prostrate on her desk, dramatically bemoaning the non-existence of some guy called Darcy.
Quickly, Mrs. Barton jumped from her undoubtedly uncomfortable perch and set onto the somewhat frightened students.
"Has anyone guessed the identity of newest and may I add, my most favored, novel?"
The icebergs watched silently with apathetic eyes. Elizabeth could not help but sigh as she straightened in her chair and raised her hand.
"Yes! Miss Sinclair!"
"Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Barton."
The enthused teacher beamed. "Well done, Miss Sinclair. Pride and Prejudice! Quite possibly the most romantic story ever to be written! Mr. Darcy, the stuff of dreams children! Look alive!"
Mrs. Barton smiled secretively as she continued. "However, I have another surprise for you! Rather than simply letting you study one text, I have convinced the school board that it would be beneficial for you to study two!"
A cascade of groans protested the announcement. Liz grinned, their pain is my pleasure, god I'm sadistic bitch. Not that she liked the idea of two texts but she still relished the taste of pain and misery that suddenly hung in the air.
"The second text will of course be at a parallel to our first as to allow assessment and comparison. Who can think of a text bearing similarities to Ms. Austen's genius…anyone?"
Elizabeth sighed. Please no more romance novels.
"It's a story of love…" Mrs. Barton prompted.
Elizabeth quietly banged her head on the desk.
"Look alive children!" Look alive. One of Mrs. Barton's favorite expressions.
"Ok, the main female protagonist is Margaret Hale…"
"…The main male protagonist is John Thornton…"
No flicker of recognition.
"…come on children! It was written in the 1850s…"
No movement whatsoever.
"…you know this! Written by Elizabeth Gaskell…"
Lizzy grimaced, she knew of only one book by Gaskell. What were the chances? Eh…she shrugged her shoulder apathetically and raised her hand.
"Yes, Miss Sinclair." This was said with a sigh of relief. Perhaps her class was not full of hopeless illiterate potentates with no taste in romantic literature short of Harlequin novelettes.
"North and South?"
"Yes!" Mrs. Barton gasped in relief and clapped her on the shoulder.
"This, ladies and gentlemen, is a true connoisseur of romantic English literature!" A few sniggers were heard in response and Elizabeth nearly moaned from despair. Way to go Mrs. B! You have officially just worsened my position of social pariah in this school. If it was even possible.
"So, I want you all to have read both novels by this time next week and we'll start discussion and analysis! Perhaps if you're lucky, we shall pick out a few nice scenes to re-enact!"
The bell went. A dramatically archaic bell, which seemed to belong more on top of a church spire than at a school, and signaled the end of the class and the school day. With an eagerness, which had been lacking all day, Elizabeth gathered her things and headed for the classroom door.
Elizabeth paused and turned reluctantly to face her teacher. Quietly bemoaning her foiled exit from her prison…errr classroom.
"Miss Sinclair, you showed an excellent grasp of romantic literature of the nineteenth century. Are you particularly interested in any piece?"
Elizabeth shook her head frantically.
"Because if you are, I'd be more than happy to volunteer you for a few scenes when we re-enact the…"
Elizabeth's eyes bulged. "Nope! That won't be necessary!"
Mrs. Barton looked rather surprised. "Why ever not?"
"Mrs. B…I have no interest in romance. Or love. Period."
Mrs. Barton looked momentarily stunned before her eyes began to glisten with emotion. "You don't believe in love?"
"Mrs. B! It's just an awkward chemical reaction, which fries the brain cells and raises your blood pressure! Who needs it? Besides, I'm more interested in becoming a surgeon than attaching myself to a sorry excuse for a Y chromosome and settling down to a whitewash house, picket fence and 2.4 kids."
Mrs. Barton's lips quivered and Elizabeth took a step back in fright. "Uhh…Mrs. B, are you ok?"
"Oh…oh…I'm quite alright child."
Elizabeth bristled at being called a child when said woman launched herself from her seat and hugged her closely.
"We are going to have such fun!"
Elizabeth patted the elder woman carefully. What was the expression? Humoring the maniac. Something like that. Slowly, Elizabeth backed away. She sent the teacher a weary smile before bolting surreptitiously from the room. If you could bolt surreptitiously that is.
Eagerly exiting the school, Liz immediately spotted the old lime green bug. It stood out like a sore thumb against the backdrop of designer European cars but Beanie was reliable and vintage, surely nothing could top that. Well, except Elizabeth's dream car. She was salivating just thinking about it.
Beth walked up behind her and leant against her friend.
"Whatya drooling over? The would be duke of pomp?"
Elizabeth scowled. "For your information, I was dreaming of the day when I can finally afford my dream car."
Beth grinned. "Ah yes, a metallic slate grey Aston Martin DBS V12, you've been in love with that thing since you saw that new James Bond movie. First time I've ever seen you want something so…material. Should I mourn for you now? Am I losing my best friend to that pompous crowd of icebergs?"
Lizzy gasped in mock horror and swung around to meet Beth's gaze. "How could you even contemplate such a thing?"
Beth eyed her best friend, a strange expression plastered on her face. "No, you're right, they wouldn't welcome a girl who likes to eat grass."
With that, Bethany descended the front steps of the school leaving Lizzy spluttering in the doorway.
"For your information, I stopped eating grass when I was seven!"
Curious eyes turned towards her as Beth laughed. Smiling with sickening sweetness, Liz turned towards Beanie and promptly began to chase down her best friend. Upon reaching the car, Liz slid into the passenger seat and changed the radio station before Beth could protest.
"I had to listen to that god awful stuff you call music on the way here, it is only right that I get to pick the music on our way home."
Beth raised a sardonic eyebrow. "May I remind you that this is my car?"
"So, I could easily leave you at the side of the road and drive off."
"And leave me at the mercy of serial killers and rapists? I think not."
"It's four in the afternoon!"
"They're not vampires Beth, the sun doesn't melt them! Besides, mom will never forgive you."
"Damn, you're right. Your mother would murder me with her spatula and her terrible cooking. Best not to risk it. You're safe…for now."
Elizabeth grinned. "Cue evil laughter."
Beth gave an amused chortle but otherwise ignored her.
Liz gave an offended look towards her best friend. "Was that it? That was your evil laugh? What a disappointment."
Beth's eyes momentarily flickered to Elizabeth as she grinned. "I'd like to see you do better!"
With no hesitation, Elizabeth steeped her fingers and gave it her best try.
Beth spluttered and nearly swerved off the road as she giggled. "You look like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons."
Elizabeth grinned and shot her best friend a wink. "Liver spots and all!"
A/N: And that was chapter one. I hope you liked it. Please review! I will be heartbroken if you don't…
Oh and just for clarification, all the titles for the Marquess and the duke are real, however I do not refer to them in any other way than as a use of their titles. Otherwise they're totally unrelated. But in the future, it is likely I'll use a few more little tid-bits about them to support my story.
There is nothing left for me to say except REVIEW! Pretty please…