I wrote this for Valentines Day, 2008, a.k.a. Singles Awareness Day.
Of Pirates and Bunnies
The plan was so amazingly simple it just might actually work, and therein lay the problem. For all intents and purposes, it should work.
For not the first time, William Darcy was tempted to turn around and return home. Charlie’s idea sounded perfect when he suggested it. Unfortunately, it was because Charlie suggested it that William was close to panic. First, since when did Charlie ever come up with a simple plan, and second, when did Charlie’s plans ever work?
They had met in China over a year ago. William was on assignment for his company to negotiate a trade partnership with a Chinese firm which had a patent on a manufacturing process that Pemberley Industries needed to make their newest proposed product. Being the kind of boss that understood that sometimes being boss meant doing the hard things, Will had appointed himself to head the project of securing the deal. He’d spent nearly all of the past six months in China, when he met Charlie Bingley at the American Club. Surprisingly, the two struck up a fast friendship, both in rapidity and in regard.
Will let Charlie talk him into several escapades, and it was a miracle that neither man was asked to leave the country. They seemed to have uncommonly good luck at avoiding trouble when it was at their doorstep. There was the nearly disastrous trip to visit the Great Wall. William thought Charlie had made all the necessary arrangements. He would never make that mistake again. They did eventually get to walk on the wall, but Will chalked it up to an act of Divine Providence.
When Will was back home in the States, he was happy to discover Charlie was moving to the same city where Will lived. Charlie, ever the outgoing type, convinced Will that they should go explore about town, since Will admitted to being a homebody and had not sampled all that the city had to offer culturally. How they ended up in a gentleman’s club during a police raid was beyond Will’s ability to comprehend.
Seeing that his friend was painfully single, Charlie had appointed himself as Will’s personal matchmaker. After a particularly embarrassing blind date, William put his foot down. He wanted no more help from his friend. Charlie seemed sympathetic to his buddy’s shy demeanor and let the subject rest. He let it rest until he got the simply ingenious plan William was now regretting. They were spending a Sunday afternoon watching an NFL playoff game when Charlie turned to his friend.
“Look, my sister is coming into town, and she’d love to meet you.”
“Charlie, I thought I told you I wasn’t interested in any more of your blind dates. Besides, what if I don’t hit it off with her? It could be … awkward.”
“Yeah, I see your point.” Charlie took another swig of beer, apparently engrossed in the football game. At least, that’s what Will thought was happening.
“I’ve heard of this Valentines Day party for singletons.”
“Oh great, a pickup line orgy!”
“I don’t know about pickup lines, but it’s for people without a significant other who are looking to unwind.”
“With other pathetic people.”
“Will! I’m not done.”
“Okay, I’m listening.”
“It’s a costume party. You can dress up as someone else and enjoy the anonymity of it all. Look, why don’t I get my sister to agree to go? I’ll tell her I’m meeting a friend there that I want her to meet. I’ll find out what she’s wearing beforehand, and you can find her without her knowing who you are. Chat her up, see if you like her. If you do, I’ll introduce you when I get there, if you don’t, I’ll tell her you had to cancel last minute.”
“So your sister…”
“Your sister, Caroline, goes to the party, I meet her, and if I don’t like her, I can drop her without any fallout?”
“That’s the general idea.”
“That just might work.”
And so on this Valentine’s day, William Jamison Darcy III was dressed as a pirate and on his way to a party where he knew absolutely no one, looking for a woman in a Playboy Bunny costume, cursing himself for letting Charlie Bingley talk him into such a harebrained scheme. All he could think of was, “This had better work, or I swear I’ll kill him.”
“Charlotte!” Elizabeth hissed.
“Yes?” Charlotte replied with a perfected tone of innocence.
“This is a gay bar!”
“Really? Wow, that should make your task all the more interesting.”
“We’re going someplace where there are straight men.” Elizabeth made to leave, but Charlotte grabbed her arm to stop her.
“Ah, have you already forgotten our conversation? When I offered to drive and asked where we were going, you said, and I quote, ‘Oh, you pick.’ I pick here.”
“But this is a gay bar!” Elizabeth muttered.
“Sorry, sweetheart.” And in a purely traitorous act, Charlotte caressed Elizabeth’s arm with the propriety of a lover. Elizabeth glared at her engaged friend.
“I’ll never forgive you.” The voice was as menacing as Elizabeth could muster.
Charlotte smirked. “And I will never let you live this down. Remember the rules, flirt but nothing about the bet. Maybe you’ll get lucky and find a guy who bats for both teams.”
“After tonight, you’re being erased from my phone book.”
Charlotte just laughed, knowing her best friend would look back on the night and laugh along with everyone else.
Elizabeth went to work inside the bar. She somehow managed two numbers, but one of them was for the man’s hair salon. It was time to make good on the bet.
Elizabeth had to submit to going out for the evening with a date of Charlotte’s choosing. Charlotte’s interpretation of this varied greatly, so on Valentines Day, Elizabeth found herself dressed up and being driven by Charlotte to the local charity costume party. Elizabeth had to mingle for two hours and then Charlotte and her fiancé would pick her up and take her home.
“I can’t believe I’m dressed up like a refugee from Hugh Heffner’s mansion,” Elizabeth said as they arrived.
“Personally, I think you look really sexy,” Charlotte said to placate her petulant passenger.
“Personally, I think I look like a slut.”
“Come on. Loosen up, Liz. Have some fun being a bimbo for one night. It’s not like you are going to meet the man of your dreams or something.”
Charlotte pulled up in front of the hotel lobby. Elizabeth took a deep breath before straightening her bunny ears and getting out of the car. She pulled the belt of her overcoat tight and then stepped out of the vehicle.
“No trying to look like a flasher!” Charlotte called out, already ten minutes late for her own date. “The coat comes off inside the ballroom.” The doorman got out of the way as Elizabeth stomped inside, her friend’s laughter trailing behind.
It suddenly dawned on him that the woman must be Charlie’s sister, and he had come there to meet her. Okay, Charlie can live now.
As she walked into the room, she turned and glanced in his general direction. He could see by the anger flashing in her eyes that she was NOT in a good mood. Heaven help him, it made her even more attractive! Charlie’s plan was brilliant. He took three quick strides forward.
Slow down man. Dressed like that, she’ll garner the attention of every man in the room, straight or not. Take your time, plan your approach and see what happens. Worse comes to worst, Charlie can make the introductions.
William watched for about a half-hour as men came up and tried to strike up a conversation with the stunning stranger. She gave them all a quick brush off. Finally, he had an idea and grabbed a couple of glasses of ice water.
Another man came and was sent away before he reached her.
“Pardon me, I noticed you standing here and thought you might like a glass of water.”
She hesitantly reached for the glass.
“I promise, it’s just plain, old ice water.”
The woman sniffed at it and then took a sip to taste it. Now convinced it held nothing but what he had said, she took a drink.
“You looked like you could use something to help cool down your foul mood.” She glared at him, and he stuck his hand up before she could launch into her attack. “Not that I blame you. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of coming here tonight myself. It was a friend’s idea – a friend who is characteristically late.”
His speech seemed to calm her.
“Tonight was not my idea, either. And neither was this accursed costume.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but you look great.”
She laughed. “I’m not sure whether I should be pleased or insulted by your compliment.”
“At least you aren’t wearing a wig.”
“Let me guess, Jack Sparrow?”
“Captain Jack Sparrow.” Will took her hand and made a gallant bow. “I’d take off my hat, but the dreadlocks are attached, and well, you know.”
“My pleasure to meet you, Captain.”
“Mine as well, Miss…”
“Fair enough, Miss Bunny. Would you like me to stand guard, scowling at every man who approaches, or perhaps I might tempt you to dance. I promise not to touch your tail.”
“Why not? Lead on, or perhaps you have a compass that points the way to your heart’s desire?”
“If I did, it would be telling me to ‘get thee to the dancing.’”
It didn’t take long for Elizabeth to warm up to her “Jack.” He, too, seemed ambivalent about the evening. She shared his desire to be anywhere else, and his efforts to cheer her were endearing in their own way.
When he asked her to dance, she was more than willing to oblige him. Elizabeth did love to dance and thought it was a great way to pass the time until Charlotte arrived to rescue her. She figured a little more conversation was in order.
“You dance well, Jack.”
“Thanks. My mom insisted I learn how to maneuver around a ballroom floor. She said it was an indispensable skill.”
“I’m grateful to her. You have no idea how many men think they can dance but have no clue how to lead a partner.”
“And you have no idea how many women think the sole purpose of dancing is to hang all over a guy.”
“Guys do the same.”
He chuckled. “Yeah, sometimes we do.” They spent some time just dancing. Liz hadn’t been partnered with someone who danced as well in a while.
“Have you lived in town long?” he asked.
“Yes, though I’ve recently returned from out of state. My company sent me to do some training in the new computer system we are implementing.”
“I’m glad you got back in time to come tonight, even though you don’t want to be here.”
“I’ll admit it’s not such a bad party after all. What kind of work do you do, Jack?”
“I’m currently involved in a start-up project for a new product for my firm. We’re due to introduce it soon.”
He didn’t go into specifics, but Elizabeth figured it was proprietary knowledge that caused him to be vague.
When Caroline had heard who it was that her brother had befriended in China, she had immediately recognized the name. Pemberley Industries was just one of many holdings for the Darcy family. Caroline wondered if her brother knew how wealthy his friend was. She really didn’t care if he knew or not, just as long as he introduced them. She could take it from there. That’s why she had chosen her outfit. “Let him see the goods” was her motto. She knew she did a pretty good job of filling out the Playboy Bunny costume. The front had to be taken in a bit, but everything else was fine.
Caroline entered the ballroom and began scanning for her prey. She walked around in what she believed was a sultry manner and was gratified to see men notice her. Still, she didn’t recognize any of them as Darcy. She had studied his picture so she could recognize him. Then she spotted another woman wearing the same outfit as she.
The tart! She’s practically falling out of that costume, Caroline noted in disgust. The man she was dancing with didn’t look like her William, but she had to admit the man was a dashing pirate.
Unable to find who she was looking for, Caroline called her brother on her cell.
“Where are you, Charlie? William’s not here, and I’m getting bored.”
“Really? He’s not there? I’m surprised.”
“I looked him up on the Internet, and I know what I’m looking for. He’s not at the party. Do you happen to know what he’s wearing?”
“Nope, he wouldn’t tell me. I’m almost at the hotel. Hang tight.”
“Hurry up.” Caroline snapped the phone closed and wondered if this would end up a total waste of an evening.
“It took you long enough!”
“Love you, too, sis.” Charlie kissed his sister on the cheek, hoping to help calm her down. “Let’s stroll around the room, and I’ll see if I can spot Will.”
They didn’t have to wait long before Charlie spotted his friend getting a couple of drinks at the bar.
Will turned to see who was calling him. He nodded his head and then stared at Caroline, who was standing next to her brother. He then took a panicked glance behind him, and Charlie followed his line of sight to see a woman dressed just like his sister. William turned around to see Charlie and his companion moving towards him. He motioned to his dancing partner to join him. The three met William at the same time.
“Liz!” said a surprised Charlie.
“You know each other?” Caroline said in chorus with William’s, “Liz?”
“Hello, Charlie!” Elizabeth gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“I guess I’m the only one who knows everyone. Let me make the introductions. William, Liz, this is my sister, Caroline. William is my friend, and Liz is the sister of my girlfriend, Jane Bennet.”
“Small world,” Elizabeth quipped.
“It’s good to finally meet you, William.” Caroline slinked beside him and drew her hand through his arm, clamping on for dear life and throwing a dirty look at Elizabeth. She had seen them dancing together. “My brother has told me so much about you.”
Charlie was oblivious.
“Wow, Liz, you look great. Wait until I tell Jane I saw you tonight.”
“Thanks. I thought you two had a date.”
“We have reservations for later. I agreed to meet Caroline and Will here beforehand.”
“Umm, ladies, would you excuse Charlie and me for a minute?”
Will extracted Caroline’s arm from his and hustled Charlie away.
“I feel like an ass,” William confessed when they were far enough away.
“I’ve been with the wrong woman all evening!”
“An honest mistake. Besides, Caroline only arrived a short time ago.”
“Listen, Elizabeth’s a great gal. Not my type, but I think you would like her.”
“What about Caroline?”
“What about her? My purpose in introducing the two of you was to see if you would hit it off. If you hadn’t, I’d eventually have introduced you to Liz. You know I don’t like to see you all alone. Be honest, which bunny would you rather pet?”
“You’re a perv.” Charlie just laughed and waited for Will to answer him. “Okay, I was enjoying talking to Bunny – I mean, Elizabeth – while I thought she was Caroline.” Then he added, “And you have to admit she pulls off that outfit better than your sister.”
Charlie slapped him on the back. “Caroline will get over the disappointment. She’s figured out who you are, by the way.” William winced. “You should tell Liz, before you get too far. It won’t matter to her how filthy rich you are, but she’d be pissed if you held back that little bit of information.”
Meanwhile, Caroline was staring down her nose at the competition. “He must have thought you were me,” she finally said.
“Do you think he will ever recover from the shock?” Liz answered sarcastically.
“Oh, I intend to see that he finds out what he was missing. You can leave now. William won’t mind.”
“Why don’t we let him decide that? Hmm?”
The gentlemen returned, and William held out his hand to Elizabeth. “Caroline, it was nice meeting you. Miss Bunny, I believe you promised me this dance?”
“Lead on, Captain.”
Caroline’s gaped at the couple as they walked away.
“Would you like to dance?” Charlie asked.
Caroline turned on her heel and stormed out of the room. Her brother shrugged and then followed her out to make sure she got home safely.
“I thought you were Caroline,” he confessed. “Charlie set it up so we could meet without her knowing who I was. I’m not… I’m not ordinarily very good at meeting women.”
“You did just fine with me.”
“Because I thought you were someone else.”
“Are you disappointed?” William could hear the uncertainty in her voice.
“Not at all, I’m relieved.”
Elizabeth beamed. “She did seem the hanging on type. It didn’t take her long to attach herself to you.”
The song ended, and a slower song began. William looked at the woman in front of him and saw her blush. He stepped closer to her and pulled her to him in a very intimate dance. As she looked up, he was looking down at her.
“Neither, it seems, did you.”
She flashed a coy smile and put her head against his chest.
They were the last ones to leave the party.