JA quotes and intro

"I should infinitely prefer a book." -- Chapter 39, Pride and Prejudice
"...I wish my collection were larger for your benefit and my own credit..." -- Chapter 8, Pride and Prejudice
"I shall be glad to have the library to myself as soon as may be." -- Chapter 20, Pride and Prejudice

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Ferris Wheel


(2008)
Pride and Prejudice   
"Hot August Nights"
At the state fair, Liz Bennet faces her fear of heights...with a little help from a stranger.


Liz gazed at the enormous double rings of steel with their giant spokes and swinging seats. The most benign feeling she could muster was growing apprehension. "I don't like heights." An understatement if ever there was one.

"Your sister couldn't wait to get on. She's not afraid of heights."

"Jane doesn't get motion sickness just thinking about going up in that thing.”

"You're kidding."

"Not at all." Why was it so hard for people to understand she preferred to feel the ground under her feet?

"Be a sport, Liz. Your sister has already ditched me, and I don't want to ride all by myself."

Liz laughed. She'd didn't mind being today's consolation prize one bit.

Jane and George had been talking near the entrance gate when Liz had wandered by. It was hardly unusual to see her beautiful sister being chatted up by a guy, but the hint of relief on Jane's face at her approach told Liz this was the wrong guy. Jane had been gushing all week about her newest infatuation; it sounded more like love, actually, even though Jane hadn't known him very long. Liz, for her part, had been happy to have her share of the conversation with George so her sister could discreetly keep an eye out for Charles.

They hadn't had long to wait for Charles to come. He and Jane had locked eyes, and that had been that. After a couple of hurried introductions, the two were off to the Ferris wheel, leaving George stuck with Liz. Life is full of disappointments, she chuckled to herself, too pleased with her circumstances to drum up much sympathy for him.

Liz hoped George wasn't very disappointed, though. "Are you sorry Jane got away?" She couldn't blame him if he were; she figured most men would be.

"I guess I should be offended she didn't succumb to my charms, but since she left you here to keep me company, I can't complain." His eyes sparkled. "Come on, Liz! Will you go with me?"

"I don't know," she said, being drawn in despite her fear. "I don't like being shaken up, either."

"It's not like they'll turn you upside down or anything. And don't forget, I will be right beside you if you get a little scared. It'll be fun! You can see the world from up there. You'll love it."

Liz was still very nervous, but George's assurances and killer smile won her over. "Okay. I'll try it."

"Good." He swung his arm toward the other rides. "The wait's twice as long everywhere else." As they got in line, he looked down and patted his clothing. "Uh...I can't seem to lay a hand on my tickets."

"No problem. Why don't I get this one? You can spring for the next ride."

"Deal." He flashed those teeth again, and her insides did a happy, squishy, melty thing that was probably causing her to look like a goo-goo-eyed dork. She covered her mouth with her hand, thankful and a little surprised she wasn't in fact drooling.

Her attention was diverted as a little boy bumped into her. "Mommy, the wheel is slowing down!" He grinned while reaching for the hand of the lady on his other side. Liz couldn't help but catch some of his excitement. I can't let a five-year-old make me look like a wimp, can I? She pulled her arms tighter across her chest and stood up a little straighter. Her courage rose a teensy bit.

George caught her eye and winked.

She had been incredibly lucky to meet up with him here! Lydia would have been soooooo jealous. Thankfully, she-of-the-raging-hormones was home in bed recovering from a summer cold. Liz didn't wish her ill by any means, but knowing the illness wasn't alarming, she was glad not to have to watch her fifteen-year-old sister flirt with this handsome stranger, who was clearly too old for her. Major embarrassment potential there.

He's little more than a stranger to me, too, she reminded herself. Other than that one time she had stood behind him in the grocery checkout line a few weeks ago, she had never had occasion to talk to George before now. Even Jane only knew him as a passing acquaintance. Liz wished she and George were more than acquaintances. She could have used a real friend to hold her hand and make her believe she was going to survive a dozen or so revolutions on the intimidating contraption in front of her.

So much for my courage, she thought, trying to ignore her mounting nausea. She took three deep breaths and looked up. It's just a ride. Just one ride. Everything's going to be fine.

Soon, most of the seats had emptied and been refilled. Liz continued to move forward against her inclination. She dropped her hands to her sides and tried her best to look calm, because she felt anything but.

As she got closer, she glanced around, wanting to arrive at the platform at the same time as George. She didn't see him anywhere. Where in the world did he go? She craned her neck, looking for that knee-weakening smile, but the line was moving, and, anyway, she couldn't see around the guy directly behind her - he was just that tall. She doubted she came up to the top of his shirt pocket, if his shirt had a pocket.

Just get in, Liz! You can do it! Her stomach tightened, but there was nothing to do but to keep going. "George?" She turned around and around again, really worried now. "I can't believe this." Knowing he was in some random seat on the same ride wouldn't provide anywhere near the comfort of having him right next to her. "George!"

"I hope I'm not offending you when I say that unless George has changed a great deal in the last few years, you're probably better off without him."

Liz looked up into the face of the tall guy she had seen a moment ago and started to yell, "How dare you!" She only got as far as opening her mouth when she shut it again, too shocked to protest as he helped her to get situated. No sooner had she settled in than everything began to shift. "Oh... Oh, no!" The seat rocked and rose, and Liz's sense of panic rose along with it.

"Why did you get on this ride if you..." His expression changed to a smirk. "Oh. That figures."

"What are you talking about?" Liz gripped the back of the seat, wishing it would just stop swaying.

"That's definitely George's style." the man muttered.

"Where is he, anyway?" She scowled, remembering it was her current companion's presence that had blocked her view of George. Besides, now that she'd heard him speak (he had a very nice voice, she admitted), she recalled where and when she had seen this man and his smirk before: two Fridays ago at the bank. She had run into a family friend there, Mr. Lucas, who had asked her - as he had at least once a year since she had reached adulthood - whether she still danced. This guy had been standing next to her at the counter and had glanced in her direction with that same amused disdain while Mr. Lucas talked on and on about how she had excelled at dancing as a child. Liz had grabbed her receipt and fled the building as soon as she could, half-afraid if she lingered a millisecond longer, Bill Lucas might suggest she give a brief performance for the entertainment of the people still waiting in line.

She looked up at the unperturbed, very handsome, smirking man...who was no longer smirking. She stopped scowling and just stared.

Then the seat pitched and rose again as more people prepared to get off and on. Liz held onto the bar in front of her for dear life. She would have jumped out if she'd thought she could have done it without breaking any bones.

The man pointed to her left. "He's over there by the fountain, if you're interested."

She was on this ride because of HIM, and now HE wasn't here? Oh, she was interested, all right. Soon she saw the red shirt. It was definitely George. He was talking to someone that looked familiar, even from this distance. Liz would have leaned over to the edge and peered down if the idea of edges and peering down over them had been at all palatable. Finally, she figured out who the woman might be. "Is that Mary King?"

"Our local celebrity. You've heard about her good fortune?"

Liz nodded. Who hadn't heard? In the past week, Mary's face had been plastered across the front page of the Meryton Voice, and she'd appeared on the six o'clock news, all because her random act of kindness to a low-profile millionaire had landed her a small fortune of her own.

Liz watched as George slid an arm around Mary's shoulder. She gritted her teeth, furious with the jerk for giving her the slip and even more furious with herself for having gotten into this predicament. "He...he abandoned me for a chance to get cozy with Mary King." And left me to die a horrible death, most likely death by mortification due to puking my guts out in front of a total stranger. She clutched her stomach with one hand and her forehead with the other and willed herself to calm down.

"Miss King doesn't seem like the type he used to go for." The guy was mumbling now. Maybe he had forgotten she was listening. "I wonder if he's strapped for cash again."

She remembered the 'misplaced' tickets and groaned. Had that been a ruse? Or had George never intended to ride with her at all? She couldn't make him out. Thinking about it made her feel even dizzier.

The seat rose higher. She closed her eyes and tried not to focus on where she was.

"Our fathers were good friends," the man continued as if she'd asked for details of his private life. "Too bad their sons couldn't follow suit. George's idea of friendship doesn't jibe with mine and usually comes with a price. We lost touch a while back. I had no idea he lived in this part of the country."

"He said he just moved here a couple of months ago and was temping."

"Funny. My job transferred me here. I've recently rented an apartment and have been looking at some properties in the area."

She tried to concentrate on his words - a difficult task, because they were moving again, faster this time, and her head was spinning.

"You can hold my hand if it'll make you feel better."

"What?"

"It's just that you look a little... You're not going to be ill, are you?"

"No," she whispered, but she didn't object when he took her hand and gently held it. When they came down over the top and she stifled a scream, he maneuvered until they were arm in arm. She leaned into him all the way down and up again.

"When I was young, my dad built me a tree house. The first time I climbed up, I was afraid to come back down. I thought I was going to have to stay up there forever. I was so terrified that I couldn't stop shaking."

"How did you get over it?" She realized she was shaking. A tree house sounded like heaven about now. Tree houses didn't move. "How did you get back down?"

"Eventually, I had no choice but to climb down." He shrugged. "I had to go to the bathroom."

She managed a quick bark of laughter between shallow breaths.

Despite so much of her energy going toward keeping herself from hyperventilating, her brain did register his efforts, and those efforts quickly endeared him to her. In fact, she was so grateful that she had to remind herself he was not someone she actually knew, and therefore she should not simply throw herself into his arms and bury her face in his chest until this nightmare was over.

They carried on a desultory conversation, but whether speaking or silent, the fingers of her left hand remained interlaced in his secure, comforting grip.

George had been right about one thing, Liz decided: you really could see the world from where she sat, certainly much of the world she lived in while home for the summer. The sunset was beautiful from so high up. The breeze provided welcome relief from the August heat. These would make pleasant memories to take with her to grad school in a few weeks.

Her companion seemed to be enjoying himself, too. She was glad it appeared she hadn't ruined the experience for him. This ride hasn't been completely horrible, she thought, looking at their linked hands.

Just when Liz was getting somewhat accustomed to the feeling of being way too many feet out of her vertical comfort zone, the wheel slowed. She felt Mr. Good-Looking-and-Compassionate-and-Terribly-Sweet ease his hold on her and finally let go.

She fidgeted, not knowing what to do with her newly freed limb. Looking over at the picnic tables, she perked up. "There's Jane."

"Who?"

"My older sister. Looks like she's eating ice cream with this guy she met at the gym last week. That's my gorgeous sister for you. Wherever we go, Jane is sure to meet all the handsome men first." She glanced at him and quickly amended her statement. "Well, maybe not all the handsome men."

He smiled immediately, a brilliant smile that lit up his face and made her wonder why she had ever looked twice at George.

"Are you coming?"

His voice really was very nice, but it was his questioning stare that broke through her reverie. She realized then that the ride had stopped. They had reached the platform. He had already stepped out, and others were waiting to get on.

Liz actually felt disappointed.

"Shall we catch up with Jane? I think that's my friend Charles Bingley she's talking to. He works with me."

"Sure."

Like the gentleman he was, he reached in to assist her. "Glad to be on solid ground again?"

I'm not so sure I am, she thought as she nodded in answer.

"I'm William Darcy, by the way."

"Liz Bennet."

She didn't offer to shake his hand. As William was already holding hers, there was little point.

All of a sudden Liz decided she loved everything about the state fair, not even excepting George's desertion and the Ferris wheel. She waved to her sister and William's friend. Her steps were quick and light, as if she were walking on air.

It was a great feeling.

~The End~

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